Ah, the exhilaration and bliss of patio season! Don't you just love dining outside this time of year?
No, I haven't been double dipping into rummed-up eggnog or smoking Christmas tree tinsel, because I actually did just have an outrageously delicious dinner at the wonderful Basi Italia while sitting, yup, outside.
See, for the second year running, the brave and bold Basi has chosen to keep the dream of al fresco dining alive even during the cold and cruel season of frost and snow. It's a brilliant idea.
So Basi has enclosed all of its outdoor bar and some of its fetching, much-beloved patio in plastic-window-equipped heavy duty canvas. It's also installed lots of outdoor heaters to keep your tootsies from freezing over.
To dine out there among a fun-loving crew of in-the-know gourmands is a singular and terrific experience. Call it exploring a pioneering and exciting frontier of year-round outdoor partying.
And believe me, you will be eating and drinking in high old style. So cop a cocktail and/or bottle of super-affordable vino from Basi's super-alluring wine list and check out its menu and chalkboard specials.
One absolute must on the current food document is the stunning appetizer called Parmesan Creme Brulee ($9). A witty and savory take on the dessert favorite, its balsamic-drizzled, brittle and caramelized crust gave way to a lush, velvety and dense cheesy custard.
Contrast arrived via good salty olives with sun-dried tomatoes and crackery, ultra crisp toasty bread strips for dipping. My only "qualm" with this incredible dish is that its mildly sweet aspect and intense richness might make it better-suited to a meal finisher rather than beginner.
A recent nightly special of zesty Zuppa di Pesce ($12) could do double duty as either a shared starter or small entree. Either way, the slightly spicy tomato broth-y bowl of seafood soup would be a beautiful choice on a chilly winter's evening.
I loved how its vibrant broth suffused with the flavors of its oceanic treasures (salmon, clams, mussels and scallops) would occasionally pop with capers or fennel. Providing ballast was a bit of risotto-y rice.
Another knockout chalkboard special was the Vitello Brassato ($24 - I'm actually craving it now!). Both elegant yet like real-deal Italian grandma cooking, it was an amazing amount (you'll have leftovers) of crazy-tender veal shoulder slightly crusted and slowly braised with root vegetables in a dynamite and dark tomato-based liquid that was complex, tangy, herby and rich.
A side of comforting soft polenta and potatoes graced with melted funky tallegio cheese didn't so much complement the meat as it aggressively elbowed its way into your mouth's charmed attention. Loved it!
Another plus of wintry sipping and supping at Basi is that you can conveniently purchase a Christmas tree while there. Yes, outside the shelter of the canvas tenting near the patio's wacky mascot - Trixie, an undressed and headless mannequin currently clad in Xmas booties - are rows of ready-to-go tannenbaums.
I recommend you decorate your pretty pine with a pair of bright booties in honor of chilly old Trixie.
For more local food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog at blog.columbusalive.com/underthetable