Basso’s Rustic Italian Food Comforts Everyone—Including the Chef
During the past few months of confinement and uncertainty, we’ve all gravitated toward people and places that warm our hearts. For Blaise Pastoret, that’s meant spending time at Basso, the restaurant he helped open seven years ago in The Cheshire hotel complex.
Pastoret oversees all of the restaurants operated by the local company Lodging Hospitality Management—including Westport Social, The Train Shed, Union Station Soda Fountain, Boundary and Three Sixty—but the cozy Italian-themed gastropub tucked away down an elegantly curved staircase is special. “I’ve put a lot of blood and sweat into that place,” Pastoret says.
Back in 2013, helped launch the restaurant’s rustic Italian menu of housemade pastas and wood-fired pizzas. He left for a while and spent some time in Milwaukee, then returned to LHM as its director of restaurants, a job that didn’t allow Pastoret much time for hands-on work in the kitchen—until COVID-19 turned everything upside down in March.
Suddenly Pastoret found himself keeping Basso’s kitchen open for curbside pickup and carry-out dining with the help of a skeleton crew. As he cooked day in and day out, he found himself going back to Basso’s roots with subtle, incremental changes to the menu.
Now Basso and most of the other restaurants the group operates have reopened, but Pastoret still stops in at Basso six or seven days a week, working closely with sous chef Stephen Wayant.
Favorites for fall
As fall approaches, Pastoret looks forward to the seasonal influx of cool-weather customers—especially those who choose The Cheshire’s central location in DeMun at the edge of Forest Park for an in-town getaway.
Although he anticipates that some diners will continue to opt for curbside pickup or carry-out, the restaurant has also made changes for those who crave Basso’s coziness. Its booths happen to already be perfectly proportioned for keeping parties separated from one another, and the huge central bar has plenty of space for social distancing while still feeling like you’re part of the scene.
The heartier dishes on the menu are a natural fit for fall, winter and early spring. Pastoret points to the pizza—which he demonstrated for CurbsideSTL recently in an Instagram Live conversation with originator Attilio D’Agostino—as well as the braised lamb with pappardelle, dark chocolate and orange zest and the burrata accompanied by freshly made focaccia, shaved cranberries, honey and coriander.
And, he adds, putting on his sommelier hat for a moment, “You can get an amazing bottle of wine for $38.”
Pastoret takes pride in offering a good value at Basso. “I come from fine dining,” he explains, “and that got me completely in love with restaurants. But if you only have one date night and your budget is limited, we want you to have that same food and wine experience at Basso.”
The Italian-style cocktails are likewise reasonably priced, at $8 to $10 for drinks like a traditional Bellini, Negroni or a wonderfully refreshing Sgroppino (lemon sorbet, prosecco, mint and vodka).
Being at Basso has helped Pastoret weather the pandemic, and he’s optimistic that the restaurant can fill that same need for connection and community among its staff and customers. “A lot of restaurants are building back up after being closed for a couple of months,” Pastoret says. “We have already gotten into a more consistent place and gone back to our roots.”
Images courtesy of Lodging Hospitality Management.