BY BRADLEY HAWKS
“The pizza was invented in Naples, and then we developed it in the north,” grins Daniele Barbos, executive chef and pizza maker at Basil Brick Oven Pizza, who first began cooking in 1986 for the Alpini, Italy’s elite brigade of mountain soldiers.
The wood-fired oven is kept blazing between 850 and 900?F, the ingredients are imported from Italy and the mozzarella is made fresh daily (60 pounds of it a day, made each morning by Barbos himself).
“Neapolitan pies cook in 90 seconds,” explains the chef, “and can get really soggy.” Using a special recipe that yields a stronger, less doughy crust over two days of preparation, and by baking each pie for four minutes, his Northern Italian pies are able to properly hold a variety of gourmet ingredients while still boasting a crisp, thin crust. Basil offers a mind-blowing selection of over 60 varieties, including speck & brie, gorgonzola and pear, or asparagus and egg. One of the most popular—the pizzucca— is topped with a baked pumpkin- walnut puree with salty pancetta and creamy fior di latte.
A recent expansion of the dining room naturally led to a menu expansion, which now boasts several full entrees inspired by Barbos’s home region of Piemonte. A radicchio and speck risotto in parmesan crisped bowl is velvety, bold, and uniquely delicious. Green lasagna frequents as a special, layered with spinach noodles, basil pesto, sliced potatoes and blankets of golden-crisped melted cheeses. Salmon is crowned with eggplant, pancetta, and breadcrumbs. Calamari rings arrive laced with ribbons of fried zucchini and carrots with a side of piquant fra diavolo dipping sauce.
The pana cotta, polka-dotted with vanilla bean specks, is exceptional, skirted in juicy fresh sliced pear with dollops of whipped cream and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Barbos handdips each ladyfinger in espresso and whips the sweet mascarpone filling just before lunch service each day, resulting in a rather addictive, gargantuan slice of tiramisu.
When Basil held its grand reopening last fall, patrons enjoyed a newlyexpanded dining room that nearly quadrupled the original seating capacity, along with a front cafe featuring a gelato counter. But that was merely a small taste of what the team at Basil Brick Oven aspired to offer.
As the summer months approach, a glimpse out the back window reveals a rapidly developing three-tiered outdoor dining area, complete with fire pit, scheduled to open later this summer. The new dining room is an immaculate parlor of dark wood and hanging lanterns, ideal for a rustic pie or a full Italian meal, complete with wine and espresso.
Basil Brick Oven Pizza
28-17 Astoria Boulevard, Astoria
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday
Closed 4-5 p.m. daily
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