We have been long time fans of Basta Pasta in Cambridge. In fact, when they first opened in our neighborhood (circa 2007), we used to eat there every week. The place provided tremendous value, both in terms of quality and quantity.
After going weekly, we got to know the owners, brothers Reno and Altin Hoxallari. They are good, honest hard workers, and have really become successful through their dedication and hard work.
A tiny bit of background . . . Reno spent about 10 years working in some of Boston's well known high end restaurants before finally deciding to branch out on his own. Though the original Cambridge restaurant looks like a casual pizza joint, just take one bite of one of Reno's specials and you'll know that this is not a random pizza joint.
Imagine our excitement when we found out that the Hoxallaris were opening their second Basta Pasta! This new one, in Quincy, has a full bar, full service, and also offers a wider menu selection that includes several seafood dishes, dessert, and coffee.
They finally opened in October, and we FINALLY had a chance to visit last week.
We had a fabulous time.
Antipasto with Grilled Fennel, Roasted Red Peppers, and Italian Cured Meat. The vegetables tasted great and the cured meat was fine. I'm not a big cured meat fan, so I only thought it was OK. Bryan said "the salami is pretty good!" I actually do not know if this is on the menu, but Reno treated us to this starter to welcome us to his new restaurant.
We tried four appetizers. Upper left: Sauteed calamari with garlic, capers, olives, and tomato sauce ($6.95) Upper Right: Sauteed Shrimp and Clams [this was a special because they had run out of PEI mussels, which are usually on the menu] Lower Left: grilled shrimp and arugula salad [this was the special of the day], and the Mini Arancinis ($5.50) - deep fried rice balls stuffed with Fontina cheese.
We have had the Sauteed calamari and Mini Arancinis many many times in Cambridge, and they both tasted the same here. The calamari has great flavor, and tastes especially good with the grilled flat bread that comes with the dish. The Mini Arancinis are really good too. Eat it quickly though! I waited too long to eat mine and it had turned cold and soggy. It's delicious when it's fresh! We thought the shrimp was just slightly overcooked in the Shrimp and Arugula salad, although it was perfectly cooked in the Sauteed Shrimp and Clams, which we all agreed was the best appetizer. The flavors in this dish were beautifully fragrant, with that aromatic broth you can only get from seafood. Long after the shellfish was eaten, we continued to dip bread into the broth because it was THAT good!
They make their own homemade fusilli, which has an incredibly delicious chewy texture. It's totally worth the extra $1.95 to get fusilli as your pasta option.
I ordered the special of the day: Butternut Squash ravioli in a Brown butter Sage sauce ($18). These were clearly homemade, and the texture was incredible. I couldn't stop chewing it! The mushrooms were also very flavorful, having absorbed much flavors from the sauce. The arugula added a nice peppery balance to the dish. I really loved it. Yum. Reno is an excellent cook and I have always loved his specials at the Cambridge location.
One person ordered the Frutti di Mare with Linguini ($18.95), one of the several dishes that is unique to this location. The seafood was fresh, and the flavors were delicious. Furthermore, the portions are large and generous - we both took a significant amount of pasta home with us.
Another person ordered the Orrechiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage [this was another special of the day]. I've had this at the other Basta Pasta before, and it's pretty good. The pasta was cooked to a good al dente texture and the ingredients were fresh.
Bryan ordered the Frutti di Mare with Fusilli (same as above but with fusilli) - $18.95 (plus $1.95 for the fusilli).. This dish was an excellent value. The portion size was generous and there was a lot of seafood.
As we were enjoying our meal, Reno stopped by and excitedly told us about the new brick oven they had at this place. Check it out! We tried a simple Marguerita Pizza ($11.95). It was fantastic. The brick oven really makes a difference, and this pizza is actually BETTER than the ones made in the commercial ovens at the Cambridge location. The pizzas range between $12 and $13 and are personal sized.
This location also has dessert, so we had to try all of them. We tried the Homemade Cannoli ($4) and the Homemade Tiramisu ($5). Both are solid, though not as good at the ones you can find in the North End. The cannoli has a pretty good shell - solid with a hefty crunch. The filling was pretty good and not too sweet. Each order comes with 2 cannolis, so I shared an order with Bryan.
We also tried the Homemade Tiramisu, which definitely had a strong rum flavor (maybe just a tad too strong). I thought it was OK - there are lots of tiramisus that I like better than this one. It could be a matter of personal preference, I'm no sure. This tiramisu is still not bad, just nothing special.
We enjoyed a few espressos with the desserts.
Over all, we think this place is a great addition to the Quincy dining scene, and personally I'm more than just a little jealous of people who live in Quincy. I would love to have a restaurant like this near me. We have always wished that the Basta Pasta in Cambridge sold alcohol and seafood. Furthermore, Reno's an amazing cook, and he's cooking full time in Quincy now.
We're going back next week!
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