Tuesday, November 27, 2012 / 2:50 PM
Patrick Connolly had the same reaction to Basso as we did.
The St. Louis native and James Beard Award-winning chef happened to be staying at the recently refurbished (and renamed) The Cheshire about the time when the complex’s flagship restaurant (called The Restaurant) was close to opening. The restaurants at The Cheshire (as well as a market, called The Market) are being designed by Atlanta’s acclaimed Concentrics Restaurants (the same company that designed Three Sixty downtown), and one of its partners, Todd Rushing, was in town monitoring the progress.
Rushing gave Connolly the grand tour, which ended with the duo descending the winding staircase to Basso, the yet-to-open restaurant in the rathskellar of the complex.
Connolly tells us he was “blown away” by the design and the feel of Basso, a more casual younger brother to The Restaurant upstairs, where old wood gets stitched with black steel and gas-fired coachlamps line the walls. The bartop is a highly polished zinc that looks just like chrome, a finish so perfect it reminded us of Cloud Gate (aka "The Bean”) in Chicago. Suffice to say, it’s an unexpectedly spectacular space, as or more dramatic than any of the several different looks upstairs.
Connolly said he felt the uniqueness and the dynamism of the project immediately-- just as we did--and told us that although he “wasn’t considering a move to St. Louis, I couldn’t help myself.“ He was smitten with Bob O’Laughlin (whose company, Lodging Hospitality Management, owns the complex), with Rushing, with Concentrics' designs, “with the whole group,” as he put it, as was his wife. The Exec Chef deal was cut in a few days, he said.
Let us set the table here: along with the well–respected husband and wife team of Wil and Lisa Fernandez-Cruz, who were also recruited from New York to run The Restaurant, Connolly carries enough talent and credentials to make The Cheshire a culinary game-changer, as in a national-attention-grabber.
Connolly, who grew up in Richmond Heights, left St. Louis (and his job at Dressel’s Pub) in 2002 to attend Johnson & Wales and has been a rising star chef ever since—literally. After working his way up to Exec Chef at Radius in Boston, he was nominated for a James Beard Rising Chef award and then won the James Beard Best Chef Northeast award in 2008. He then moved to NYC, assuming the reins at BOBO, promptly receiving a 2009 Rising Star Chefs award. In 2012, Connolly became the Exec Chef of The Kitchen NYC, a private studio and event space in Manhattan.
Yet he was back in St. Louis after Thanksgiving balancing his vision with the vision already in place, i.e., fresh pastas and wood-oven based small plates "with an Italian accent." Look for pizzas that are “close to Neapolitan-style,” according to Connolly, 10-12” pies with a “maximum of 2 minutes” cooking time in the Basso’s cherry, apple and hickory-stoked oven.
Basso is a large, open space that seats 160, plus 8 seats at the open kitchen counter. In front of the counter are several communal tables, where chefs can easily serve and interact with customers, according to Connolly.
The concept leans toward gastropub, so there's more of an emphasis on beer than wine: 40 beers on draft, a few dozen more in bottles, and 20 wines by the glass (and possibly a wine on tap as well).
Basso’s menu will be compact, i.e., 6 pizzas and 6 pastas, plus burgers pulled from a wood-burning open grill, and specials that will focus on the flavors of the season. Connolly anticipates that “between the smoker, grill, and rotisserie upstairs and all the wood-fired equipment downstairs, that entire corner will smell like delicious charred meat and smoke.”
Start your sniffing about December 17, Basso’s expected opening date.
7036 Clayton Ave
Dinner daily (lunch service following in approx 30 days)
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