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Basso wasn’t supposed to be the star of the restaurants at the renovated Cheshire hotel. That should have been the upscale Restaurant at the Cheshire — a fine establishment and a member of last year’s STL 100, but one that never generated the same energy that Basso does. Basso’s menu features many appealing small plates (my favorite: the very of-the-moment roasted carrots with sultanas, pistachios and harissa yogurt), but the menu’s heart is its selection of pastas and wood-fired pizzas. Among the pastas, the standout since Basso opened has been the mafalda, ribbon noodles with a beef-pork ragu, pecorino romano and breadcrumbs. Meanwhile, the Cheshire hotel’s management has reinvented the Restaurant at the Cheshire as Boundary, with a casual menu clearly meant to replicate Basso’s appeal.

Last year's ranking: New

Opened: 2012

Must order: Mafalda ($14)

From the owners

Welcome to Basso, an Italian-inspired gastro pub offering St. Louis food lovers a menu of rustic Italian favorites and authentic wood-fired pizzas. Basso’s dishes are created in a warm and active open kitchen overlooking the dining area where cozy booths and communal tables offer space for parties of two or twenty. Entrees at Basso are crafted with local ingredients and include house-made pastas, roasted meats and vegetables and delectable desserts. Signature cocktails complement the menu and the wine list at Basso highlights Italian varieties and the best of vintages from across the nation and around the world. More than 30 beers are always on tap. Enjoy them with dinner, around the beautiful stone fireplace or in the semi-private lounge. Al fresco dining on the patio is a must-do from spring through fall. Located in The Cheshire complex near the intersection of Clayton Road and Skinker, Basso is a convenient stop after a visit to Forest Park or before and after the theater.

Happy hour drink specials and wood-fired pizzas rule the inviting dining room at Basso in the afternoons from 4 to 6 p.m. Try one of the creative pizza combinations or create your own from a list of inspired ingredients. Grab a space around the 40-seat bar to enjoy Basso’s Italian-leaning wine list, one of more than 30 draft beer options or a roster of creative cocktails. Basso is open late daily with pizzas and drinks ruling the menu for patrons heading home from the theater or sporting events. The Italian-style gastro pub offers dinner each evening with a list of rustic pastas, roasted meats and vegetables, sharable items and desserts.