Basil Leaf Ristorante

Categories: Casual, Eat-in, Italian
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Published on: April 2, 2014

Basil Leaf moved last year. It was this tiny hole-in-the-wall place in North Syracuse. Last fall, they moved down the road to the corner of Rt 11 and Taft Rd, into the old Fresno’s building. I was afraid it wasn’t going to be the same.

Basil Leaf used to be a very romantic place.  A grotto, if you will, where parties of two could talk in low tones, music in the background.  Sure, you’d get larger parties, but the small, intimate space and dark interior was custom made for dates.  The food and service were spectacular.  Attentive but not intrusive staff.  Delicious entrees seasoned just right.  Even the bread was delicious!

But I feared that had all changed.  The wife and I stopped in without a reservation Friday night to find out how right I was – and just how wrong!

We dropped by at 7:50.  The lot in back was packed – only two spaces left.  We parked against the flood light in the back and went it.  No surprise, we had to wait.  They had guests at most of the tables and booths we could see.  The couple in front of us was seated at a table only steps from the front door.  I feared the worst.  We waited maybe 10 minutes, and no-one left.  The restaurant was loud, busy.

When we were seated, I expected to be crammed in elbow to elbow with the folks by the door.  Not so.  We were taken to a booth by the front windows about halfway back, near the end of the long bar.

The bar at the old location was tiny.  I remember seeing four people crammed in there enjoying their drinks, and they had almost no room to move.  The new bar (“lounge”) is long, easily seating 30 people or more.  It’s a lot of beautiful wood.  The back is well-stocked, and functional, but still very attractive.  There were a number of guests seated there, but it wasn’t packed.  I’d be very happy to spend some time hanging out there, if I imbibed.

Now we were closer to the noise, and it was LOUD.  The waitress came over and told us that “a couple large parties” were seated in the back, and that our meals might be a little slow in coming out.  I appreciated the warning.  I took a peek and man, they’ve got some space in there!  I’m not sure exactly how big the parties were, but I’d guess they had 40 people at least between them.

I ordered a bowl of soup, and again the waitress offered a warning, but I’ve had soup there before.  The bowl has a shallow area that holds the soup – not too big, but the rim on these things!  It’s like eating out of a Mexican sombrero that will barely sit on your head.  The pastina is delicious.  A little pasta, but lots of flavorful broth, veggies, and chicken.  This is not a soup where they open the can and microwave it before bringing it out.  Large, but I still had room for dinner.  My wife had a salad, but it was gone before I could ask her how it was.  I guess it was okay.

The waitress came back a while later, saying that the large parties in the back would be getting their dinner, then ours would be coming out – sorry for the delay.  Honestly, there really wasn’t a big problem.  It’s not fast food, and we had a little time to talk over events of the day.  There was really not any more delay than at any other busy restaurant.  I’ve waited longer at chains.

I ordered chicken Piedmontese, and my wife got linguine with clams & scallops fra diavolo.  The plates were large (still smaller than the edge of my soup bowl) and filled with food.  My chicken was 3 breasts pounded flat, dipped in egg batter and fried, served in broth with prosciutto ham – a lot of it.  My wife got a small mound of pasta, topped with a lot of clams and three butterflied shrimp.  It was a lot of food.

My dinner was a tad salty, but I think that was from the ham.  Not excessively so, though.  The chicken was cooked nicely, but not overcooked.  It was – and I know I’m overusing the word – delicious.  I chose steamed broccoli florettes as my side.  They tasted a bit garlicky at first, but I found it was just the garlic from my dish.  I should have saved some butter from the bread for them.

My wife was delighted with her dish.  She likes spicy food, and says the fra diavolo sauce at most other restaurants is too mild.  I tried a clam and a bite of shrimp, and I have to say the sauce had a kick, but not so much that it drowned out the other flavors.  I didn’t try the pasta, but she said it was al dente.  We elected not to have dessert.

When the larger parties got their meals, they quieted right down.  I’m not sure what they were doing, but by the time we left around 9:20, they had eaten and gone – the parking lot was empty.  By that time, the old romantic atmosphere was just about back.  Sure, the lights are a little brighter, but the service was still impeccable and the food has not become mass-heated globs of whatever.

Dinner for the two of us, no alcohol (although they seem to have a nice selection), plus tip was just over $50.  I had asked for a bowl of soup, instead of a cup, but we were never charged for that.  Not sure if it was because of the perceived delay, or they simply forgot.

If you’re going on a weekend night, make a reservation.  But go.  You’ll be treated to one of the finest meals, along with attentive but not intrusive service, in all of Central New York.  My feeling is that, if you’re from outside the immediate area, it’s worth the drive.

Ratings
Foodwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Servicewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Ambiancewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

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