Many diners have raved to us about Fallston’s Basta Pasta, which specializes in Italian fare and seafood—even Mickey Cucchiella of 98 Rock, a man about town who enjoys a good meal out.
But before we could make it to the Harford County outpost to see what all the fuss was about, Basta Pasta owners Mike Sakellis and Yianni Livaditis opened a branch in Timonium. Since the new place was closer, we headed there.
We remember the chalet-like building when it was a former Steak and Ale. The Basta Pasta inhabitants have brightened up the interior with saffron-colored paint, new flooring, a more modern bar, and paintings of the wine country. A warren of seven dining rooms creates a cozy ambiance, but the stucco walls and wood timbers still remind us of an English pub.
Not that the décor really matters. People are here for the bounteous main meals that include a big bowl of salad for the table and lots of garlic bread. (Yes, Olive Garden comes to mind.)
But the food here has a more personal touch. The Basta Caprese is a find. Several slices of prosciutto are layered with fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and capers, and drizzled with balsamic and olive oil. It’s a beautiful dish. The calamari appetizer is more ordinary, featuring lightly breaded fat orbs and tentacles—some tender, others more chewy—with an average marinara sauce.
Our waiter, who is probably moonlighting during his college days, was pleasant and efficient. He dressed our bowl of crisp salad (a mix including iceberg, black olives, onions, green peppers, and cherry tomatoes) with an excellent vinaigrette, asking us whether we wanted fresh Parmesan. Affirmative! He then doled out the greens on individual plates. (We could have easily skipped the glistening bread sticks, which tasted like hot-dog rolls brushed with liquid garlic butter.)
But our entrees were deliciously laden with food. The chicken piccata, served with a side of pasta, was a great rendition of the traditional Italian entree. A plate-sized, succulent, flattened breast was brimming with plump mushroom slices, capers, and napped with a lovely white-wine-and-lemon-butter sauce. The shrimp fra diavolo delivered, too, with six jumbo crustaceans strewn amid hearty strands of linguine and laced with a tongue-tingling spicy marinara. Both were huge portions.
Our waiter politely packed our leftovers, not even raising an eyebrow when we announced we were forging ahead with dessert. (Sometimes, we get a barely disguised incredulous look when we opt for sweets after our intake!) We settled on miniature house-made cannolis—two stuffed pastry shells the size of our thumbs—drizzled with chocolate sauce and dusted with cinnamon. The tiny morsels were just the right end note.
Basta Pasta also has an assortment of pizzas and items like crab cakes and filet mignon on its large menu and special deals like half-priced bottles of wine on Mondays and Wednesdays. This neighborhood restaurant offers straightforward, mostly Italian comfort food in a casual atmosphere—whether you’re feeding the kids after soccer, celebrating a birthday, or grabbing a bite with friends.