Taste the delicious soul of Italian cuisine at an affordable price...
Yesterday I decided to pass by this place called Basillio in the middle of the nightlife district of Gemmayze. You ask yourself many questions before going there: What would this place be like? What will the quality of food be in a nightlife district? Will I eat decent Italian food?
I can honestly say that Basillio, is one of my favorite Italian places in Lebanon to date. I was incredibly amazed. I entered Basillio and felt the spirit of little Italy - looks like a piazza with cute outside lamps placed indoors, to make one feel like they are actually outdoors in a beautiful Italian setting.
I had the chance during my lunch to meet their Italian chef Mr. Roberto Bulian who came and offered us a glass of wine from a selection that he had hand-picked himself from the South of Italy The Rose, Branciforti, Sicilia, Feudi Bordonaro, Annata 2010. He was amazing to talk to... I bombarded him with so many questions about food, travel, wine and more. Roberto is originally from Venice but has toured the world after the best cuisines, wanting to learn what the world has to offer. He has cooked for many famous celebrities and political figures in Australia, San Franciso, Japan, Italy, Germany, France to name a few.
It was obvious that we share the same passions from wine to painting and art. We talked about some restaurants I have tried in Florence and Venice which he knows: (Garga, Do Forni, Fuor D'aqua and others). Roberto started his life in the art business restoring and designing furniture. I was astonished by his impressive memory. He knows thousands of recipes all by heart, none written, all memorized. That guy is full of life and stories and a passionate connoisseur. After lunch he gave me the privilege of going into what he calls his laboratory. The lab is actually a small kitchen where he produces Basillio's fresh pasta and designs his signature dishes with paints made from food ingredients. Paint brushes and small colored bottles are placed neatly. It's really an artist's lab. He uses these brushes to create signature pieces of art on each dessert plates - each is unique, enjoyed once - for one dish. I was overwhelmed. I didn't know where to start, what pictures to take. Should I focus on learning how he does it, or take pictures for my food collection?
What is nice at Basillio, is that you are eating at the chef's place. A restaurant he calls home and really hosts his guests like they are at home... feeling welcome and comfortable. The whole place feels personal. He has personally written recipes on all the duct pipes and some walls... But all are written in a code where some focusing and intelligence are needed to decipher.
To understand and appreciate Basillio you have to order a plate from each of the sections of the menu. Antipasti, Primi Piatti, Insalate, Secondi Piatti, Pizze and desserts.
- Carpaccio di Polpo (Octopus Carpaccio)
- Tortelli Ricotta e Spinaci (Tortelli filled with ricotta and spinach)
- Agnolotti ai Porcini (Agnolotti with cepes)
- Proscuitto e funghi Pizze (Tomato sauce, mozarella, zucchini, eggplant, fresh mushroom, basil)
- Fondente al Cioccolato con Sorbetto di Zibibbo (Chocolate fondant)
- Tiramissu Classico (Classic Tiramisu)
- Sapore d'Arancio (Orange soufle)
A trip to Mars, that's what I felt. The Octopus salad portion is big and rich feeling the fresh taste of the Octopus slices marinated in Lemon. The Tortelli's decoration is mouthwatering, comes in six distinctive fresh pasta pieces aligned on a large round plate, Al Dente and perfectly cooked and served at an adequate temperature. Very rich in taste. The Agnolotti is a one of those dishes you will eat your fingers after. The Pizza we ordered on a multicereal dough is just awesome. Perfect. Crispy on the sides, cooked in a wood furnace (au feu de bois), rich and generous ingredients, all fresh and tasty with a dough that stays soft without it being too watery. The Tiramissu is classical but very tasty without too much cream. The fondant is delicious, especially since they use dark chocolate and finally the signature dessert, Sapore that the chef keeps as a secret with a recipe he shares with know one, and I can understand why.
As much as I write, I won't be able to describe the experience enough. Every detail is mastered to perfection: The decoration, the taste, the ingredients, the cooking time and the artistic unique desserts creations. Every bite is a combination of ingredients melting below your pallet with a sensation of joy and creation that are a treat for your taste buds. As chef Roberto said: "To cook Italian, you need to think Italian."
What would I change to make the place a "No Mistake":
- The waiters lack enthusiasm and passion in what they do. They are somehow unprofessional and lack of know-how.
- The English trendy, heavy metal, commercial music in an Italian restaurant I felt was unacceptable.
- Basilio oil bottles are from Akkad (www.olivetrade.com) and specially bottled for the restaurant.
- The wood Pizza oven
- The food of course
- The view on the chef's lab create a kind of dramatic effect as only the chef is allowed in... and it's only lit when he walks in.
On the menu the chef left a small note: "Born in Venice, I left my hometown at the age of thirteen and found refuge in the hull of a boat. The captain of the ship offered me a job in the kitchen where I meant chef Basillio. Basillio treated me like the son he never had and shared his knowledge with no restraint. I worked with him and learned all his secrets in fresh pasta making. Carrying the knowledge of Basillio, I journeyed around the world training and consulting with renowned chefs honing my culinary skills and making food an edible form of art. Now in the heart of Gemmayxe, I invite you to witness pasta making and savor the flavors of my "Cucina emozionale" where heart and soul are essential ingredients. In memory of chef Basillio, for his inspiration and passion for Italian cuisine and fresh pasta..."
See you at Basillio very soon, where you can experience great food at reasonable rates.