Basta 8½/10

Sunday Herald Life - - REVIEW -

MEET An­gela, a new­comer to Partick’s thriv­ing, in­de­pen­dent-minded com­mu­nity. It’s the moniker for the sour­dough starter at Basta, a bright lit­tle pizza joint and the lat­est ad­di­tion to Dum­bar­ton Road’s culi­nary scene. It’s named in hon­our of the in­spi­ra­tional civil rights ac­tivist and fem­i­nist, pro­fes­sor An­gela Davis, and will hope­fully prove to be ev­ery bit as re­silient and en­dur­ing as that liv­ing leg­end.

Ev­ery­thing that Basta does is thought­ful, aware. Goes with­out say­ing that the es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ents im­ported from Italy – Polselli flour, Stri­anese toma­toes, proper ex­tra vir­gin olive oil – are what’s req­ui­site for any con­vinc­ing at­tempt at an au­then­tic pizza. But it’s not a given that Basta’s fresh pro­duce is other­wise sourced as close to home as pos­si­ble, from the Sandy Road Com­mu­nity Gar­den, and from Eleanor’s al­lot­ment. (When she’s not gar­den­ing, Eleanor runs a busi­ness along the road.) Ev­ery­one around here seems to be on first-name terms. BYOB for the minute, you’re urged to buy your al­co­hol from the Day To­day store across the road. “Unity in the com­mu­nity,” as Basta puts it.

Ethics are em­bed­ded at Basta. It pays a Glas­gow Liv­ing Wage and gives hard-pressed NHS work­ers a 10 per cent day­time dis­count. Ev­ery­thing about this place puts us in a great mood. Quite small, it’s been clev­erly and in­ex­pen­sively done up us­ing mir­rors and enough plants to fill a small green­house. The play list is a joy: funk, Mo­town, reg­gae, Afrobeat.

I had won­dered if the name was ironic: basta, Ital­ian for enough. I mean with Pae­sano not far off, does the west end need any more pizza par­lours? But tear­ing into our piz­zas here – they crack as loudly and dra­mat­i­cally as an ice­berg – I’d find it hard to pass by with­out drop­ping in for one of these. They smell amaz­ing; the sour­dough bring­ing to the wheat a mouth­wa­ter­ing lac­tic acid whiff. The cor­ni­cione (raised crust) is just doughy enough with­out be­ing re­dun­dantly starchy, the main body is ul­tra-thin, spot­ted with dark blis­ters top and bot­tom, so no saggy droop at the mid­dle, nor un­in­tended fu­sion of top­ping and base. The ba­sic pizza at Basta is bet­ter than any I ever found in Naples. Our tomato, an­chovy, olive, ca­per, sun-dried tomato, chilli and basil top­ping would dou­ble up as a rich pasta sauce, with its lus­cious vi­o­let­grey olives, am­ple mashed an­chovies, an odd patch of moz­zarella melt that knows bet­ter than to ob­scure the in­tense tomato sauce. To­day’s spe­cial is a pizza topped with ham that’s been cooked for hours in Irn Bru among other things, and fresh pineap­ple – blow­torched. “We aren’t Ital­ian,” the co-owner ex­plains. I’m du­bi­ous; but as an Irn Bru re­fusenik I have to ad­mit that Basta may have found some­thing worth­while to do with my least favourite drink: vel­vety strands of sweet meat with just enough hot pineap­ple to bal­ance the salti­ness. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

Soup with bread and but­ter costs £3.50 and makes a nice lit­tle week­day lunch in its own right, a thick, sub­stan­tial lentil and tomato emul­sion spiked with chilli, and served with two squidgy slices of warm, home-made bread, slip­per-shaped in the style of a cia­batta, but denser and lip-lick­ingly sourer, thanks once again to An­gela’s divine in­ter­ven­tion.

Basta also does cute lit­tle spinach and goat’s cheese cro­que­tas, the cheese and greens sus­pended in what seems to be a thick béchamel, in­side a del­i­cate bread­crumbed crust that’s mirac­u­lously free from oil. Talk­ing of oil, the ex­tra vir­gin is fresh and grassy. Two bot­tles – one in­fused with chilli, the other with whole gar­lic cloves – sit on the ta­ble. We splash them on lib­er­ally; it’s hard to stop.

Who re­ally needs desserts? But we have to try the brownie with its milky ice cream. It’s a tad over-baked but agree­ably re­strained in the sugar de­part­ment. Mousse-like cheesecake, deep and am­ple in its di­men­sions, napped in tart cherry com­pote, tastes newly made.

Basta’s web­site quotes Prince And The Revo­lu­tion: “Dearly beloved, We are gath­ered here to­day to get through this thing called life.” It can cer­tainly be a trial, but any con­vo­ca­tion at Basta is likely to im­prove it.

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