Bolognese. I dream of Sweet Basil's Bolognese. It's hands down the best I've ever had. I've tried to replicate it with limited success, but it is never as good. They make it with small chucks of beef, sausage, mushrooms and carrots and serve it over a homemade paparadelle. It's hearty, thick, and meaty, with a touch of sweetness from the carrots. I like to imagine that if I had an Italian Nonna, she would spend all day on Sunday, making this sauce for supper.
We went to Sweet Basil for dinner with Allison and Gary on Friday night. When they wanted to eat somewhere in their neck of the woods, Sweet Basil immediately came to mind. I've had a lot of difficulty dining at Sweet Basil in the past; once we were told it was a 2 hour wait, but got lucky, as a table opened up and the other party wasn't completely there yet. Another time, it was an hour and a half wait, so Bri and I ended up getting take out. I attempted to go to lunch once and it randomly closed. So, although the Bolognese is phenomenal, it's hard to justify an hour plus wait, so I don't have it that often. But the pasta Gods heard my pleas, and Sweet Basil expanded and doubled their space over the summer! Dare I hope that we could get in under an hour? Yes, yes we did. Only a 35 minute wait at 7:30 on a Friday night. Awesome.
They start you off with focaccia and Italian bread, served with a dry pesto. There is EVOO (I hate feeling like Rachael Ray, but it's not worth typing out) on the table, so you can choose how much oil to add. You must beware of the bread basket, because the pesto is tasty and it's easy to consume the whole thing without noticing. Entrees are large, so each of us ordered an appetizer and the couples each shared an entree. I had the fried calamari to start. I think this is one of my favorite calamaris out there. It's a plentiful serving, with lots of tentacles (my favorite part). The calamari are tender with a light breading and it is served with a spicy tomato sauce. R got a baked Gouda wrapped in fillo dough with pistachios and strawberries, served over mesclun. It was the sleeper hit of the night for me; it was really very good. The strawberries were a nice counterpoint to the cheese. Gary got a Caesar salad (boooring) and Allison got steamed mussels in garlic and white wine. They were tender, sweet and the wine broth excellent for sopping up with bread.
For entrees, R and I got the Bolognese (was there ever any doubt?!?) and they got the sirloin steak. Our pasta lived up to my memory. We were so full from the bread and appetizers that we didn't actually eat all the much of it, so I'm looking forward to the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Allison said their steak was good, but a little tough. What can I say? I've already expounded copiously on my feelings about ordering steak in a non-steakhouse. All in all, it was a very enjoyable dinner.
So, go to Sweet Basil, order the Bolognese and pretend you have a Nonna. It's worth the drive to Needham.