Tucked into the Orleans Building in the recently named Entertainment District of Levis Commons is a new restaurant, Basil Pizza and Wine Bar. The decor, appointed in black, grey and green tones, includes a basil plant adorning each table.
The nightly specials included (perhaps hidden, we thought) inside the wine list highlight an enticing menu with appetizers and small plates, pasta, pizzas, as well as some surprisingly inventive entrees. Mike Gregg (he referred to himself as the beverage director, which we thought rather officious for such a friendly place and dubbed him ‘the wine dude’) visited our table to offer insight on the lengthy list of wine selections—a variety of domestic vintages from California and Washington as well as selections from the continent and overseas including France, Spain, Argentina, Chile, and others. We chose a Yakima Valley Cabernet from Owen Roe which was velvety smooth, full of fruit, and enticing.
Sampling a variety of items, the clam appetizer presented a healthy serving of cherrystone clams bathed in garlic butter, white wine and leeks, accompanied by slices of a toasted baguette. The roasted grapes, dusted with sea salt and accompanied by burrata cheese, was refreshing and, along with the clams, a nice start to a comfortable evening.
Our group was instructed “photos first” as we sampled the pancetta and peas pasta fresca with Gemelli pasta, caramelized onions, peas, bits of salty pancetta and shrimp in a light cream sauce. The Gemelli was al dente, which drew a questioning comment from a member of our party, but was welcomed by others. We sampled the Mama Lou Pizza, a white sauce variety with asparagus, leeks, roasted tomatoes onion, and eggplant. There was some question about the quantity of eggplant, but the thin slices of the vegetable blanketed by the mozzarella blend provided an essence that was actually very tasty. Pizzas come in over a dozen varieties with add-ons to make some customization possible.
The jalapeno black bean ravioli, an interesting combination of jalapeno slices, dusted in cornmeal and lightly fried, paired with the house-made ravioli, perched in a cream sauce and garnished with roasted tomatoes, accommodated the vegetarians among us.
A comfortable place
The restaurant offers a comfortable place for conversation, an open kitchen providing a view of the food preparation and the workings of a serious pizza oven. Our group was impressed with the fine dining aspect of the menu—Wester Ross Salmon, a short rib with risotto, and chicken piccata—coupled with the lighter and more casual fare offerings.
This restaurant is a venture undertaken by the same group that operates Nagoya in Levis Commons as well as Ciao Bella and a smaller Basil Restaurant in the Port Clinton area. Chef and operations manager Paul Matthews created this menu, a playful endeavor with a wide variety of opportunities for all palates to enjoy. The restaurant manager, Marlene Lederman, grew up in the restaurant business in Toledo working with her father at Haddad’s Bungalow as well as her brother Kamil Ansara at the Boardroom, Ansara’s on Laskey and then Adam’s Rib. Her welcoming smile and the information she shared regarding the development of the restaurant concept were helpful in navigating the menu and enhanced our meal.
The dessert offerings led us to the fruit cobbler, a mixture of apples pears and berries under a cobbler crust garnished by a dollop of whipped ricotta with mint. The winner was a gelato, from Brown Dog Gelato Co. in Port Clinton, which was amazingly smooth with a distinct and pronounced pistachio flavor.
Overall the restaurant was a real treat and provides a getaway for diners, a real change from the chain or themed restaurants that dot our culinary landscape. Basil, as an influence and a seasoning, will surely grow in this hospitable location and we’ll be back to visit.
Levis Commons | 3145 Hollister Lane, Perrysburg
419-873-6218 | basilpizzaandwinebar.com
11am-10pm | Sunday-Thursday
11am-11pm | Friday-Saturday