An Italian hybrid

BY BEN VERHILLE | APRIL 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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That’s A’Basta.

The Italian word “basta” is used when a chef has prepared food just right — that’s Basta Pizzeria Ristorante.

Originally serving pure and authentic Italian dishes, some time in Iowa City has transformed this restaurant into a hybrid that uses local ingredients in its plates. The result has turned into one of the most specialized Italian restaurants found in Iowa City’s Downtown District.

Located at 121 Iowa Ave., Basta has been in the area for a while.

As a part of the Eat and Drink Local initiative this week, this popular venue was recommended to me and has yet to be uncovered in one of my columns.

Sharing an owner with Atlas, which is strangely enough nearly next door, the quality of the food is almost guaranteed.

Basta is known for its happy hour wine specials and pizza. The atmosphere here feels open if you’re looking up because of the mirrors near the ceiling, but it can also make you feel secluded with the dimly lit lights and heavy wooden tables.

Specializing in pizza, one jumped off the menu at me immediately.

The Lobster Pizza boldly stated Maine Lobster as its main ingredient, followed meekly by fire roasted leeks, sweet corn, pancetta, mozzarella, and ricotta.

The main difference with clawed lobster versus spiny lobster can generally be determined by the tenderness of the meat. Spiny lobster is mostly meat from the tail, while the Maine lobster has the tender claw meat.

Leeks and sweet corn are easily understood and provide subtle hints of flavor. The leeks offer a smoky taste, distinct but weak. The corn sweetens the cheese with each bite, and although the texture isn’t ideal on a pizza, the flavor comes out more.

Pancetta is an Italian bacon, and to me, anything with bacon is a good idea. Lobster and bacon make an odd duo, but the crisp bites of the pizza make it work.

The ricotta and mozzarella cheese provide a topping on the fire-singed crust. This makes the pizza more of a cheesy bread with toppings, but traditional Italian preparation doesn’t have to conform to the American idea of a pizza.

The crust was cooked in a wood-fired oven, turning the dough moderately dry and very crispy. The golden crust had marks from the fire’s singe, but that didn’t interfere with the grains.

The lobster itself was lacking, not in flavor, but in presence. I found few pieces of it in my pizza, which made me very sad. The bites with it were absolutely delectable, making me eager for my next little piece. Sadly, only two or three bites per slice were found.

The pancetta had a stronger presence than the lobster, so advertising it as a bacon and lobster pizza may be a little more accurate.

The constant preaching of moderation from my family wouldn’t normally apply here, but maybe too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

All in all the experience was pleasant, but if you want to dine on a hearty portion of lobster, choosing it for a pizza topping might not be the way to go.

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