Monday, December 17, 2012

First Look: Basso, the Lower-Level Gastropub at the Cheshire

Posted By on Mon, Dec 17, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Calamari fritto with stewed tomato and pickled pepper (left) and kale and arugula Caesar with tonnato, caraway and pecorino (right) at Basso. - LIZ MILLER
  • Liz Miller
  • Calamari fritto with stewed tomato and pickled pepper (left) and kale and arugula Caesar with tonnato, caraway and pecorino (right) at Basso.

Last month we featured a first look of the Restaurant at the Cheshire (7036 Clayton Avenue; 314-647-7300) on the heels of its November 5 opening. Its sister restaurant, the lower-level gastropub Basso (7036 Clayton Avenue; 314-932-7820), opens today.

Basso's robust Italian menu features sharable plates, pastas, pizzas and more, curated by executive chef -- and St. Louis native -- Patrick Connolly.

Born-and-raised in St. Louis (he's a St. Louis University High School alum), Connolly got his start cooking at Tucker's Place (14282 Manchester Road, Ballwin; 636-227-8062) in west county and Dressel's (419 North Euclid Avenue; 314-361-1060) while studying at Lindenwood University and Forest Park Community College. One day while browsing in the Central West End location of Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-6731) he picked up a copy of Thomas Keller's acclaimed The French Laundry Cookbook, which he describes as a turning point in his career.

"Honestly I opened that book up, saw what being a chef could be and decided that's what I had to do," Connolly says.

The exterior of Basso (left) and the sweeping staircase leading to the lower-level restaurant (right). - LIZ MILLER
  • Liz Miller
  • The exterior of Basso (left) and the sweeping staircase leading to the lower-level restaurant (right).

He then moved to Providence, Rhode Island, to attend Johnson & Wales University. Within a year he began commuting to Boston to work at Radius, which Connolly says "...was arguably the best restaurant in Boston at the time." He worked his way up the ranks at Radius and was eventually named executive chef. In 2008 he won the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef Northeast award, and by July of that year he had moved to New York City to helm the kitchen at Bobo in the West Village.

"It was kind of a townhouse setting, we did American farm-to-table," Connolly says. "I was there for three years and then I left last September, took some time off, traveled, went to Europe and then I went to Kitchen NYC, which is kind of a media studio and test kitchen for a lot of private events. While I was there I was just kind of plotting my next step."

A trip home to St. Louis this October cemented that next step for Connolly when he dropped in the then unopened Restaurant at the Cheshire. "I flew down just for the day to check it out," he says. "The next weekend I came back with my wife, did a tasting, she checked it out. That was two 24-hour trips within a week. Took a couple of weeks to come to a decision and we decided to do it. Drove down just over two weeks ago on [November] 26 from New York, and that's it. We're opening a restaurant."

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