Talking SCHOP! What is in a name?
Kysha Harris | 2/1/2013, 3:23 p.m.
What IS in a name? Expecting parents spend months--if not years--debating and deciding with what name to goo-goo and ga-ga over after the first swaddle. Entrepreneurs, inventors and creatives labor over their monikers, making sure their names communicate exactly what their brains have given birth to. A restaurant should be no different.
Last week, in celebration of my grandmother's 93rd birthday, family and friends gathered for a meal at one of my aunt's favorite restaurants. She has great taste so I knew we were all in for a treat. However, when my cousin texted me the restaurant location and the name, I began to think we were going for an early-bird, two-for-one special. Something was amiss ...
We arrived at Basta Pasta (37 W. 17th St., 212-366-0888, www.bastapastanyc.com) promptly at 6:30 p.m. Yes, that is the name. The literal translation is "just pasta," however "basta" alone means "enough," which we would see if I had.
My expectations were low, but as we walked into this minimal, front-loaded restaurant where the bar hits you immediately, if not too soon, followed by the exposed yet orderly and pristine kitchen, I began to come around. Perhaps this could be a unique dining experience.
Once we all sat and began perusing the menu, my eye immediately stumbled on pumpkin gnocchi with sage cream sauce. My gorgeous foodie cousin quickly affirmed my starter and interjected about her favorites on the menu. While she went on, I had to take a moment and look at where I was again. Italian on the menu and plates, but the entire staff was Asian--Japanese to be specific. My cousin confirmed it, Basta Pasta is Italian-
Japanese fusion?! Let's go!
My gnocchi was light, and though swathed in cream sauce, it was delicately perfumed with sage. My cousin sang the dish's praises to me so she could dive-bomb her fork a couple of times. No matter. I saw some crudo (raw fish carpaccio) on the table and we shared their tasty Caesar salad and the divinely simple fresh vegetables with warm anchovy cream dip. I wouldn't let the latter leave the table.
Most of the table went with some sort of fish or seafood, including my gorgeous deconstructed cioppino dish, Cacciucco (Chilean sea bass, octopus, sea scallops, shrimp with shaved asparagus, fingerling potatoes and a spicy ocean tomato sauce). It was so beautifully presented and tasted even better. My cousin, the rebel, got seared duck breast with root vegetables and porcini truffle sauce. One good fork dive-bomb deserves another, my love. The perfectly cooked pink duck tasted like it was bathed in that sauce. Heaven.
Dessert had to be Parmigiano-Reggiano cheesecake. I've had the ricotta version, but this one, with a grated dusting of its namesake at the table, was light and not too sweet, bordering on savory. It was a good substitute for missing the half wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano floating around the restaurant on a cart, which was used as a vessel to submerge hot pasta and let glistening ribbons of goodness emerge.
To end the meal, the sgroppino was telling us to have a round. Lemon sobetto with vodka and prosecco. Brava! Light, refreshing, sweet and tart. It will be the new summer cocktail. My cousin has already started planning the bar.
Does this great meal change my thoughts on Basta Pasta's name? No. In fact, in a very informal survey (two people), 100 percent of respondents said it sounded like one step up from Olive Garden. Oh, how wrong we all were.
Happy birthday, Nana/Rie! Thank you for being the light in our lives and the consummate advocate for education and equality. We all love you so much!
Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter @SCHOPgirl or Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc or chat with her on Instant Messenger at AskSCHOP, Monday-Friday, 6-8 p.m. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.