By JOHN T. WARD
Basil’s owner Vic Rallo Jr. tells redbankgreen he’s repurposing his Riverview Avenue eatery he founded in 1987 with his brother and late father to mirror a dining style he’s come to appreciate on repeated trips to his ancestral home for his television show, “Eat, Drink, Italy.”
Overhauling a successful restaurant, and taking a flyer on a concept that affects everything from the menu to the awnings? Is Rallo nuts? Apparently, we’re not the first to ask.
“I’ve heard it all,” Rallo said. “My friends are saying, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ Or ‘did you go bankrupt?’ ‘Are you a heroin addict? Getting a divorce?'”
But Rallo says both American dining styles and the economy have changed in recent years, as more diners seek out a healthier approach to eating. He says he’s found that approach in Italy, where there’s a bottle of wine – and increasingly, beer – on the dinner table, and the emphasis is on smaller portions of fresh food.
So where Basil’s has boasted an extensive wine list of bottles priced from $30 to $500, Birravino will carry a 125 wines, none priced higher than $50, Rallo said. And instead of featuring just three of its in-house beers, the new concept will add two “guest taps” and 50 craft brews.
The food menu will replicate the typical Mediterranean offerings at portion sizes that enable diners to sample three or more courses without busting a belt or a wallet, Rallo said. No entree will be priced above $24, he said.
While Basil’s is doing well, Rallo said, sticking with the status quo could lead to the economic equivalent of the La Brea Tar Pits, “and I don’t want to be a dinosaur,” he said.
Birravino – the name is a portmonteau of the Italian words for beer and wine – is scheduled to open September 1.