234 West 56th Street
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 265-2610
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Chef: Paolo Marco Catini
Area: West 50s
When heading for a performance at Carnegie Hall or simply in the 'hood, Basso 56 is a good spot to stop for a meal. Not fancy or intimidating, this is a comfortable place that can get mobbed before curtain time but is far less crowded at other periods. The food is typical Italian, no surprises but perfectly fine.
Once seated and water poured, our table was graced with a plate of mixed olives, bread and bruscetta that everyone scarfed down.
Chef Paolo Marco Catini presides over a menu that's large but not overwhelmingly so and there are always daily specials that the waiter reels off. Numerous salads including one with artichokes, shaved Parmesan cheese and a delicious dressing that includes truffle oil makes a good starter as does a green salad that includes walnuts and dried cranberries. For a hot antipasto, try eggplant rollatini filled with goat cheese and napped in a tomato sauce over arugula; crisply fried calamari with a well-spiced sauce on the side, or grilled shrimp atop white beans, a perennial fave.
One of my dinner companions opted for the ravioli special in which the large pasta squares were stuffed with cheese in a sage and brown butter sauce. Another raved about her crepes filled with sort of a lobster stew and served with the tomato-ish sauce on the side as requested. I ate the striped bass, a rather small portion of filleted fish with a scoop of mashed potatoes. Fish gotta' swim but this was in a little too much buttery sauce sitting on halved cherry tomatoes with spinach and some--but not quite enough-- fennel.
The wine list, like the food, is large enough to please pretty much anyone unless you're an oenophile seeking the highly unusual.
Dessert offerings, which our entire table passed on, are panna cotta, gelato and sorbets, nothing that tempted anyone sufficiently but we went for perfectly decent coffee including decaf espressos. Basso 65 serves well-priced two or three course prix fixe lunch menus that include a soft drink, tea or coffee as well as lunch a la carte.
The space is on the tight side with tables tightly jammed in so don't pick this restaurant for a ultra-private discussion. Among my dining companions a couple who eat here frequently and have nothing but praise for the place. Prices are fairly reasonable --not cheap but not absurd--which is part of why the spot attracts such heavy traffic and you'd best reserve for pre-theater seating. Service is efficient and overall, Basso 56 is a pleasant setting for a decent meal.
Review By: Mari Gold