If you go to Il Basilico Trattoria Italiana in Timonium, bring two things: a group and an appetite. You’ll need both to make a dent in this casual eatery’s carbo-concentrated plates of Italian staples and inventive originals.
Founded as Pasta Blitz in 2006 by Boot Country ex-pats Anna and Sal Di Pierno, it was rebranded Il Basilico in 2013, after both the space and the menu received enough updates to warrant a name change.
The offerings are mostly classic Italian red-sauce fare: parmigianas (chicken, veal, or eggplant); lasagnas (meat or eggplant); stuffed shells; plus pizzas (New York- and Sicilian-style) with a constellation of toppings. But over time, more innovative dishes have appeared that exhibit the Di Piernos’ commitment to fresh ingredients and unusual preparations.
On a recent outing, we tried a bit of both the old and the new and found the results uneven, but never less than satisfying in the way that Italian fare—even when imperfect—rarely disappoints. A hot antipasto of jumbo shrimp, broccoli and mushrooms sautéed in olive oil and garlic, and a ricotta-stuffed eggplant sounded like an interesting departure from the norm but was marred by overly sauced veggies and rubbery shrimp. That being said, the salty-savory eggplant folded over pillowy ricotta was a blissful beginning bite.
For entrees, we stuck with the pasta plates. A special of pasta twists with calamari, little neck clams, and jumbo gulf shrimp in a white-wine-and-cherry-tomato sauce ($25) was a bit bland, but a tri-color cheese tortellini with ham and mushrooms in a white cream sauce ($15) was precisely as our server described it—a decadent, grown-up version of mac and cheese.
The real star, however, was the gnocchi Toscana ($18): tiny potato morsels polished to pearly smoothness and served in a rich pesto-cream sauce dotted with dollops of piquant Gorgonzola and strands of spinach.
The desserts also hit the spot. We highly recommend the tart lemon sorbet ($7.95), served in a hollowed-out lemon rind, or the chocolate tartufo ($6.95), a large bonbon-shaped confection that’s like a cross between a Ferrero Rocher and an ice-cream cake.
After a couple of visits, everyone in your party is sure to have a go-to favorite.
›› Il Basilico Trattoria Italiana: 49 W. Aylesbury Rd., Timonium, 410-453-6603. Hours: Mon.-Thurs.: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat.: 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun.: 12 p.m.-10 p.m. Prices: $2-35.