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.