Review: Basil and Roma's Cafe
Type of Food: Modern International Healthy Cuisine
Vegetarian Friendly?: Yes
Location: Auburn Rd., in a strip mall on the south side of the road, just west of the Auburn and Rochester Rd. intersection
If Basil & Roma’s Café existed as an artistic metaphor, it would be a cross between J.M.W. Turner and Pablo Picasso: the classic and the modern coexisting peacefully amidst vintage Coca-cola signage and chrome lighting.
At first glance, the exterior gave little hint of the charm held inside. With the exception of one or two neon signs and a park bench, Basil & Roma’s blended with the rest of the strip mall storefront. However, once inside, the restaurant’s interior created a hip, but comfortable atmosphere with two “basics” of playfully kitsch decorating- bright colors and quirky taste. Walls the colors of eggplants and pistachios hosted a green chalkboard slated with the day’s specials. Statues with an antique feel (including a free-standing chicken) lined the counter and shelving behind the cash register. And hung directly opposite the register, an abstract painting swirled in bold colors, accentuating the room. Completing the look were silver place settings mounted firmly above the doorway.
Described perhaps as “country mod,” the restaurant felt part diner, part barista. Within the first five minutes of sitting down, the sight of spotless tables, fast service, and the staff’s overall efficiency impressed me. My dining companions and I languished over the menus, scanning the specials and the soups, the burgers and the salads. Entrées ranged from $5-$10 generally, with the house specialties being slightly more expensive. My only disappointment came when the waitress informed me that breakfast was only served until early afternoon.
I had a difficult time deciding between the salads and burgers, the two largest sections on the menu. The option to create your own salad intrigued me, especially given the 17 toppings to choose from. Also intriguing was the preformulated “Dude salad,” which was comprised of mixed greens, cashews, almonds, dried cherries, red onions, cucumber, and tomato pieces. The choices given in the burger section were equally impressive. Nowhere else have I seen burger selections like “The Greek” (patty topped with cucumber sauce and feta cheese) or “The Italian” (patty smothered in sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, marinara sauce, and provolone cheese).
We each settled on something relatively different, ensuring a broad appreciation of Basil & Roma’s offerings. I chose “The Cowboy,” a beef patty covered with BBQ sauce and bacon. We also ordered the crab cakes, served with a pesto sauce, grilled vegetables, and rice pilaf, and a penne dish complete with bacon, ham, onions, and a thin red sauce. The waitress took our orders with accuracy while the kitchen accommodated us, omitting cheese from two of the entrées. Within 15 minutes our orders had arrived.
After the opportunity to try each of the selections, I can honestly say that Basil & Roma’s serves fresh, innovative entrées, whether inventing entirely new items or creating new takes on classic choices. The crab cakes tasted light and airy; the rice, fluffy and buttery. The penne dish popped with robust flavor, the light combination of basil and parsley offsetting the full flavor of the meats. And my burger tasted like an upgraded American classic, the BBQ sauce adding a tangy flavor.
As a both a critic and consumer, I whole-heartedly recommend Basil & Roma’s Café to the eating masses, giving it four out of five stars. While I was disappointed with the their lack of wi-fi access (something important for lunch breaks and impromptu business meetings), the quirky décor, friendly wait-staff, quick service, and delicious food culminated in an enjoyable dining experience.