Happy Hour at Basso: A Basement Italian Gastropub Worth Retreating To


Beet fusilli with sliced steak and horseradish ricotta. | Photos by Mabel Suen
  • Beet fusilli with sliced steak and horseradish ricotta. | Photos by Mabel Suen

The Place: Basso (7036 Clayton Avenue; 314-932-7820)

The Hours: Happy hour is offered Monday through Saturday from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

The Deal: $7 build-your-own pizzas, two-for-one antipasti, $3 craft-beer pints, $6 half-pint beer flights, $5 Italian wine of the day and $6 specialty cocktails.

The open kitchen.
  • The open kitchen.

The Scene: Basso opened in December 2012 and occupies the lower level below the Restaurant at the Cheshire. Down a curved flight of green-hued steps, patrons will find themselves in a cozy basement lair that houses an open kitchen with a wood-burning pizza oven, a large glistening bar, and comfy booths and tables lit by flickering gas lamps.

Flat-screen TVs subtly broadcast the game over the several taps at the bar, and diners have several options for seating -- go it alone at a tall pub table, convene with a group in a communal-table setting or opt for a private booth for a quieter experience.

Pizza with calabrese, white sauce and banana peppers.
  • Pizza with calabrese, white sauce and banana peppers.

The Food: Chef Patrick Connolly heads the menu at this modern American-Italian gastropub, which received high marks from former RFT food critic Ian Froeb in 2013. The happy-hour menu features a nice introduction to the full menu, complete with customizable two-topping Neapolitan-style pizzas -- choose from red or white sauce and a dozen topping options including sausage, calabrese and shrimp sausage atop a delightfully crisp crust.

Two-for-one small-plate options include the following: curried orzo, beet fusilli, eggplant caponata, shishito peppers, marinated olives, tomato and citrus, and bruleed chicken liver. These dishes come perfectly proportioned for sharing -- if that's your style.

Did Basso make the grade? Find out on the next page.

The "Criminale."
  • The "Criminale."

The Verdict: The beet fusilli, a lovely shade of purple, arrives al dente, topped with a smattering of sliced steak, horseradish ricotta, fresh herbs and toasted grains for a surprising extra crunch. The interesting flavors work well together here and left us hungry for more. The eggplant caponata packed just the right punch to follow that up, a tangy, warm dish with just a bit of heat at the end served with fluffy slices of housemade bread.

Eggplant caponata.
  • Eggplant caponata.

To wash it all down, we chose from a list of eleven available cocktail options listed under the categories "Classico," "Originale" and "Dolce." The "Criminale" was poured with a heavy hand, a refreshing blend of bourbon, pistachio, lemon, pear and cinnamon served on the rocks.

Basso provides a quintessential warming environment to unwind in. Regardless of how the outside world's events played out during any given day, visitors need only descend down the rabbit hole for a relaxing respite complete with strong drinks and enchanting eats.

Booth with gas lamps on the walls.
  • Booth with gas lamps on the walls.

The Rating: On a scale of one to five...


Previously on Happy Hour Handbook: - Blue Ocean Sushi - Hwy 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen - Gringo - Jax Cafe - Mile 277 Tap & Grill - Sandrina's - Mangia Italiano - Kirkwood Station Brewing Company - Steve's Hot Dogs on the Hill

We're always looking for some more happy hour meal deals. E-mail the author at mabel.suen@riverfronttimes.com.