Have you ever heard of the Italian word, trattoria? I know I hadn't but if you don't know what it is, you will feel what it is after visiting Basta Trattoria in downtown, New Haven. The word, trattore, means host or keeper of an eating house and trattorias have come to be known as cozy, intimate, Italian restaurants serving simple, quality dishes. The French may call it a bistro or brasserie, the Mexicans may call it a taqueria but in English we don't even bother to translate it or maybe there is no word for it. Basta may be a bit more elegant than a regular trattoria you would find in the countryside in Italia but the warm, intimate feel and quality dishes keep its title true.
Basta has an ideal location on Chapel St right next to Yale and the historic green in downtown New Haven. Parking can be a task but usually there is room at the Crown Street Garage.
I am welcomed with a smile and a kiss as soon as I walk into the dining room. Nino Ribeiro (co-owner/manager) ushers me to a table and insists on offering me a martini and calamari fritti. Don't mind if I do! There is soft music playing, twinkly lights and an overall romantic ambiance. By this point I have already tried most things on this menu so today is about observing. The tasty pane cotto, a nonna's meatballs and zuppa de pesce will distract me from my task at hand—answering the question what makes Basta tick?
I ask Nino to tell me a bit about himself and when his passion for the culinary industry began.
Nino smiles and says that he grew up in Brazil with five sisters and a mother that used food as a cure for everything. Celebrating? Food. Just broke up? We must have a meal. Dog died? You need food.
"So I grew up surrounded by food and gatherings for food. And there is power in this. There is power in food. It brings people together." I couldn't agree more.
I ask, "Did you know you would be a business owner someday? What keeps you motivated and what makes Basta stand out from the rest?"
He laughs and tells me that he had just retired from a 30 year career as a stylist when his close friends told him, "You just have to take over Basta. You are perfect for it!" And he is. If you ever get the chance to meet him, he just has that je ne sais quoi attribute that makes people want to be around him.
So what makes Basta stand out? He explains, "It is not about just one thing. It is the whole picture. You need an excellent chef, you need the ambiance, you need the people. One thing does not work without the other. People do not just come for the food, they come for the whole experience. I am so lucky to have Eduardo Pena, (co-owner/chef) that creates this amazing food, but we have to deliver the rest of the expectation. We would be doing the food a disservice if we did not keep the bar high on all fronts." As for what keeps Nino motivated? People. It is all about the magic of sharing and the friendships that come out of gathering together, in one place, to enjoy food.
Stay tuned for more local spotlights on our blog.
Until next time, your humble insurance agent,