May 2009 Issue
Basilico Organic, Cincinnati
Every good restaurant puts a lot of time and energy into its kitchen prep. But two and a half years?
Antonella and Silvio Miranda devoted 30 months to preparing Ohio’s first 100 percent USDA-certified organic restaurant. In Jan-uary, they opened Basilico Organic in Mason with their son Carmine.
To earn their seals of approval, the Mirandas had to prove to the USDA and the California Certified Organic Farmers that every element of operation — not to mention every ingredient — was free of growth hormones, pesticides and preservatives. That’s a clean sweep, from wheat for the bread to olive oil for the salads and sugar for the brownies.
“The USDA inspector stayed for a day and enjoyed the food,” Antonella recalls in melodically accented English. “He said ‘It’s unbelievable the flavor in the ravioli.’ ”
A third-generation restaurateur, Antonella is passionate about organic food, prepared fresh every day. When she first moved to Miami from her native Venezuela, Antonella prepared organic meals for a friend suffering from stomach cancer.
She’s dedicated to saving her diners one healthful sushi roll or Asado beef slice at a time, and will swing by your table again and again to see how you’re enjoying her food.
Although she brings fried churros and chichi, a cooling rice drink, from Venezuela, Basilico’s menu leans toward Italy. “My mother was Sicilian and my father was from Rome. My culture is Sicilian — you know, the mommy is teaching [the family].”
The Tuscan turkey panini is lush with garlic and olive oil that she discovered while visiting Sicily. The Parmigiano Reggiano and the organic wines, free of sulfites, hail from the Old Country, too.
Carmine, a cello student at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, throws a mean pizza crust, thin and chewy. Antonella folds a flaky croissant for the breakfast trade, which is fueled by coffee from strong, organic beans the Mirandas roast themselves. Silvio manages the operation.
Service is casual, in a bright room softened by pale, earth-tone walls and pendant lights. Order at the counter, take your number to the table and relax over a Wolaver’s organic pale ale or a Sicilian espresso frappe with cream. You can watch your pizza bake in the wood oven tucked into the wall.
The staff scurries around the open kitchen, popping out to see how your meal’s progressing. You can spot them by the kerchiefs on their heads and the aprons around their waists — all in organic green, of course.