By SUSAN ERICSON
The Old World charm of Basil T’s Brew Pub is gone, along with its popular mug club, where members had personalized mugs hanging at the bar. Remodeled and repositioned as Birravino, however, the Red Bank trattoria is just as welcoming, warm and suds-friendly as its predecessor.
Nursing a broken leg from a running accident, Victor Rallo showed up earlier this week to make sure everything was running smoothly after a makoever that included completely restructuring and redecorating his Riverside Avenue institution in about a month. Before some customers even realized the restaurant was temporarily off-line, a new name was on the building and the changes were well underway, he said.
The result? “I wanted an industrial, rustic look like you see in the trattorias or osterias of Italy,” he told PieHole, amid the exposed brick walls, honed wooden tabletops, galvanized metal seats and an open kitchen. “Definitely something more casual” than Basil’s, he said.
Other than a remarkably comfortable vibe, abetted by an artful installation of bicycles overhead, what is different?
The menu got a makeover, too.
“We did smaller portions, so you can eat an entire Mediterranean meal,” Rallo said. “With that said, people have a wine budget, and can come here and order the wine that goes with the meal on the table.” Every bottle of wine is now $50 or less, and can be ordered by the glass; previously, some bottles cost hundreds.
The pasta is all “house-made, light and fresh, prepared with vegetables, meats and cheeses that make the perfect pasta experience,” Rallo said. “Big Vic’s” meatballs still show up on the menu, named for the originator of this recipe, Victor’s late father. The popular Bolognese sauce can also still be had under the guise of Strozzapreti.
And the beer? Previously, Basil’s brewed just one beer, “and couldn’t keep up with production,” Rallo said. Now, there are three house-brewed ales and beers offered up in 14- and 24-ounce mugs. Named for the volcanoes of Italy, Vuture is the lightest beer, Etna medium bodied, and Vesuvio, the traditional golden IPA. Two guest beers will be on tap, changing seasonally, and about 30 imported bottled beers will be served as well.
The long high-top or regular-height communal tables can be reserved in advance for larger groups. A feste or party menu that includes house beer and wine is available.