The Takeaway: Basta is a carb-lovers paradise, but don’t sleep on their salad

Sid Peterson/Little Village

Restaurant food is a great way to get your recommended daily intake of cheese, bread, deep-fried things and cured meat. And after weeks of moving, late hours and takeout meals, many of them chosen exclusively because the restaurant in question delivered after 9 p.m., my body had not seen a vegetable in sometime. It was time for a reset, some fiber. It was time for a salad.

But not just any salad. Salads can run the gamut from sad sidekick to a satisfying meal in its own right. A salad that constitutes a proper meal contains at least five components: greens that are not strictly iceberg or romaine lettuce, tomatoes that are not watery or diced too small, a protein, something that adds crunch and another vegetable of some kind. And the dressing should be applied with a light touch, more of a garnish than a main ingredient. This isn’t always the easiest thing to find in a restaurant where salads are often just piles of chopped lettuce drenched in ranch and shredded cheese, but I knew exactly where to find what I was looking for.

Basta is a favorite of my son and me. We’ve had countless meals there and even during COVID, we’ve spent many evenings on their patio. They have magnificent-sounding salmon salad on their menu that I’ve nearly ordered countless times, only to forego it in favor of pasta or pizza or pasta and pizza because one does not go to an Italian restaurant for a salad, right? Well, with a digestive system that could not abide anymore cheese or refined flour, it was finally time to order that salad.

I ordered for pickup via the Toasttab app on their website. The in-app menu didn’t feature a description of the dish, so while I knew I wanted to order it based on pining for it in the past, I didn’t know exactly what would be on it. I picked it up from the restaurant.

When I arrived home, it was finally time to unpackage the salad and see if it lived up to my anticipation. It actually exceeded it. It checked all the boxes in my formula: the greens included a bed of arugula, there were halved grape tomatoes, the salmon was the protein, the crunch was provided by shaved asparagus and diced red pepper and the third vegetable was thinly sliced red onion. The salad was perfectly packaged for travel with the greens on one side of the box and the salmon and what I initially thought were croutons wrapped separately in foil. To my great delight, when fully unwrapped the croutons turned out to be roasted potatoes. There were two dressings on the side, a red wine vinaigrette and a honey mustard that I mixed together for the perfect combination of acid, sweetness and tang.

Once composed, the salad was one of the largest and heartiest I’ve ever seen, the salmon and potatoes could have been a meal unto themselves. The salmon was perfectly cooked as were the potatoes and all of the elements combined for a meal that was filling but not heavy and was refreshing after too many heavy meals in a row. Half was enough for dinner and the leftovers were still crisp and the flavors were more heightened at lunchtime the next day.

After literally years of putting off ordering this dish, it completely exceeded my expectations when I finally did. I imagine it’ll be even better in the spring, on Basta’s patio with a glass of rosé and my son on the other side of the table.

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