If you're a fan of Kelly Whitaker's wood-fired cookery at Boulder's Basta, take note: The restaurant will be closed for minor improvements from Sunday, May 31, through Wednesday, June 3. Whitaker says Basta will reopen on June 4 with a few changes to the bar and chef's counter as well as some menu updates.
"We started Basta with very little," Whitaker explains, noting that he's made regular tweaks to the space over the five years since the Italian kitchen and pizzeria opened. Over the winter, Basta added awnings outside and removed a window to create outdoor bar seating, so part of the upgrades next week will include adding new display areas around that addition to better feature the beverage program from Basta beverage director and partner Alan Henkin. The new bar program will include barrel-aged and batched cocktails as well as a new list of beers intended to match with the flavors from the wood-burning oven.
The chef's counter has also been expanded with seating for four customers, since Whitaker says guests love seeing the creative process in action. To go along with that, Basta will add a tasting menu made up of a selection of small plates that will be offered to those seated — by reservation only — at the counter.
Whitaker is also making the pre-order program an official part of the menu once the restaurant re-opens. Since the wood-burning oven is the only cooking source at Basta, pizzas share space with other roasted dishes, which must be prepared in larger serving sizes to conserve space (as opposed to offering standard-sized entrees that would overcrowd the oven). "We're not on the large-format trend," he notes. "We have to do it."
Customers could order certain dishes — lasagna or short ribs, for example — for groups of three or four people several days in advance. "It's been this underground handshake thing," Whitaker explains. Those short ribs were a regular on the menu, but Whitaker took them off earlier this year for the first time in five years when the price of beef skyrocketed. The chef didn't feel comfortable selling a family-style order of short ribs for more than $90, he says, and so the dish was removed.
Now customers will have a regular selection of big plates to choose from, ranging from $22 to $36 per person for a minimum of four people who order five days in advance. One of those dishes could be a slow-roasted pork shoulder. "We use very little pork," Whitaker says. "Not that we're against it, though. We love grains, vegetables and fish."
The list of small plates is expanding, too, from three to nine dishes that will rotate seasonally. "There's not much turnover here; it's the same four guys," Whitaker says of his crew, adding that since they have all worked together for so long, he feels confident that adding more menu items won't throw off the timing in the tiny space.
"These are small, cosmetic changes," Whitaker concludes, reassuring loyal customers that "we love Basta and we love how it is now."
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