I met an old favorite on 17th street last night. That dish was glad to see me and I just smiled…Around twenty years ago Japanese-Italian fusion hit the city making quite a splash. People shook their heads at Basta Pasta, they were curious, sometimes gun shy, yet they came out and have really never left. The menu remains Italian centric but the ingredients and ideas are half Iron Chef and half Tokyo.
What might sound odd is that it’s fairly bright with colorful art for sale on the white walls and at the same time – cozy. There’s always a gracious welcoming touch on the table or the plate.
You enter through the bar, it’s upbeat and actually inviting for single dining. Follow the ‘yellow brick road’ through the white open kitchen, an all Japanese staff meticulously grilling, assembling, moving fast. Slip right past the beehive into a high ceilinged dining room and relax. It’s going to be fun.
Pastas with things like shiso and uni. Always perfectly dense, toothsome plus lightly sauced. Everything is fresh and made with a delicate hand. They succeed at the unique and the comfortably edgy. Italian classics like cacio et pepe don’t fare as well. A bit lackluster and maybe lacking a sense of terroir. Other mains sing out with flavorfull combinations of citrus, porcinis, beautifully charred seafood and meats…I went back for a simple lunch and to revisit an old friend – Spaghetti al Ricci di Mare.
The uni sits atop pasta accented by chopped tomato and jalapeno. A quick toss with your fork and that succulent, briny uni melts into the strands, the heat of the pepper, the acid of the tomato forming an aromatic delightful union.
We shared a vibrant grilled calamari salad to start, with leeks, endive & arugula accompanied by a bottle of Falanghina. Tho you could have sake. Crazy. Ha.
My dining companion had the grilled tuna with wasabi tartar sauce, cauliflower, fingerling potatoes, croutons and tomatoes…perfect spring afternoon delight.
It’s always a surprise here, clean food, accommodating and pleasing. An international edge complete with an oft seen patron, Yoko Ono who happened to be dining at the next table. Basta Pasta is lively, fits most any occasion and is reliably great.
Sometimes seeking out past favorites surprisingly keeps you on your toes while delivering on the original promise it first made. How often can you say that?
37 West 17th Street between Fifth/Sixth Av