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Restaurant review: Basilico Italian Market
OK, so why are we reviewing Basilico Italian Market and deli again? After all, it’s been little more than three years since we last critiqued them, soon after they opened in 2010.
Well, for one thing, they’ve doubled in size, adding an adjoining storefront to their original location, which gives them more space for seating, not to mention for their ginormous dessert and gelato bar. And for another, they’ve climbed in the local online restaurant rankings, where they now consistently hover around the No. 1 slot out of more than 340 eateries in the Fredericksburg area on TripAdvisor.
How were they able to pull that off? By doing a lot of things right, like having a great fast-casual concept featuring fresh, well-prepared Italian food at reasonable prices served by attentive staff in a space with nice décor and ambience. And their location doesn’t hurt, either—being smack dab in the middle of UMW, Central Park and Mary Washington Hospital, where, at least for now, there isn’t a whole lot of competition. That’s right! They’ve got the whole enchilada, or should I say the whole stromboli!
My wife and I headed to Basilico for lunch around 1 p.m. the day after Election Day. It remained fairly crowded even after the traditional lunch hour, peopled with everyone from hospital employees to office workers to retirees. With its high ceilings, exposed ductwork, Southwestern color scheme, outdoor café, large menu and friendly, upbeat help, the restaurant feels as welcoming as a great, big abbraccio. Patrons order at the counter and their food is promptly delivered to the table when it’s ready.
My partner selected a 12-inch Fontina, Arugula and Prosciutto Pizza. And for me? After indulging in a bit too much coffee, pizza, sugary drinks and starchy desserts while editing late election returns the night before, I settled on a light lunch: the Orange Citrus Salad, along with a cup of the soup special of the day, corn chowder.
The chowder tasted fresh, creamy and homemade with lots of chopped vegetables—a real pleaser. And the salad? Fresh orange segments, shaved fennel and toasted almonds over a bed of romaine, tossed with a lemon and olive oil dressing. Perfectly simple, and simply perfect. The cashier had talked me into adding grilled shrimp to the mix, and I was glad she did. This might have been the best salad I’ve ever ordered out. Hey, it’s not easy to carve nice segments from an orange! And the almond slivers tasted as if they’d just been warmed in the oven. The greens were nice and crisp, and the dressing was light and bright and complemented the salad perfectly. The flavors worked beautifully together.
My partner’s pizza was equally satisfying, though it held no trace of sauce or melted cheese—nothing topped its crust but shredded fontina cheese, sheer slices of dry-cured ham and green, leafy arugula, with its distinctive, pleasingly pungent taste.
Our helpful cashier was all smiles and was possessed of a great sense of humor, as well as a sense of urgency, this being the tail end of the restaurant’s lunch rush, after all. She would later come by to check on us more than once to see how we were doing. The staff was dressed nicely and neatly and was very service-oriented. At times you could hear some of them conversing in Italian, which lent an authentic feel to things.
It took a while to narrow our choices for dessert, but we finally decided on a mini cannoli and a sweet ravioli filled with ricotta cheese. The manager asked if we’d be eating them American-style (with a fork) or like his countrymen, while making his preference clear.
One thing’s for sure: Thanks to Basilico, I foresee a lot of Italian-style lunches—as well as dinners—in our future.
Address: 2577 Cowan Blvd., Fredericksburg
Info: 540/370-0355; basilicodeli.com
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday–Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Prices: Salads and wraps: $5.99–$10.45; soups and stews: $2.50–$6.95; sandwiches and panini: $6.99–$8.49; kids menu: $3.99–$4.99
The Scoop: Online reviews of this fun, fast-casual restaurant in a medical-office strip center are off the charts, and with good reason.
Kurt Rabin: 540/374-5000 | firstname.lastname@example.org