by Eric Ginsburg
It’s just an hour after most offices closed for the weekend, and the rain has settled into a steady rhythm, gently coaxing people to stay indoors and cast their eyes down from the gloomy sky. But even though it is too early for dinner, at least by common standards, Quanto Basta is already brimming with people. Before 7 p.m., a few people are even milling about in front of a stonewall at the restaurant’s entrance, waiting for a table to open up.
Only two weeks have passed since the Italian eatery and wine bar opened towards the outer rim of downtown Winston-Salem, just a short ways farther down Fourth Street than Foothills and a block before West End Coffeehouse.
There’s no question that chef Tim Grandinetti, the maestro at the esteemed Spring House restaurant around the corner, has a strong enough reputation to lure people through the oversized, great wooden doors. But the successful execution of his vision is why they’ll tell their friends about it, and return before too long.
Grandinetti — who is greeting a couple he knows eating at one of the nine tables in a side room this Friday evening — envisioned a somewhat boisterous venue, a restaurant that would evoke the vivacious Italian spirit and do justice to the nation’s cuisine. It is not surprising that Quanto Basta, thanks to his very capable hands, a beautiful remodeling job and a reasonably priced and curated wine menu, achieves that mission.
And it’s all that local foodies can seem to talk about.
The best approach to most of the food, from the gorgeously presented fire-roasted chicken to the reasonably priced arancini di riso (breaded and fried mozzarella and risotto balls with a little prosciutto inside) that a few tables are enjoying, is to dine family style. That may be the ticket for the wine as well.
Quanto Basta is young enough that the beer list isn’t written down yet, though our server is happy to rattle off a list of options. There’s just one specialty cocktail, too — the Rossini, with fresh strawberry, prosecco and fresh lime. That’s because the focus here is intentionally on the wine; it’s an earnest Italian restaurant, after all.
At every table I can see, people are drinking wine, most of them a glass at a time and a pretty even mix of reds and whites. They could order by the bottle of course — and likely would on a Monday when they’re half off — but Quanto Basta’s wine menu is set up for more experimentation.
There are six wine flight options here to allow for easier comparisons, including some that match specific wines from different countries together, like the Australia versus South Africa shiraz comparison for $8. But I want, at least initially, to stay on theme, and decide to start with three Italian reds.
The menu says the dolcetto, barbera and valpolicella would each appear in 2-ounce pours, but I could swear the three glasses in front of me look more full than that. The trio makes sense together, as none are particularly tannic, but the smooth valpolicella outshines the drier dolcetto and more seemingly more acidic barbera.
A taste of my friend’s La Cana albarino, a fantastic white from the Galacia region in the northwest corner of Spain, draws out a little jealously though, but at $6 a glass and with our server’s endorsement, it would only make sense to follow suit.
But my eyes wander across the wine list, which is dominated by French and Italian choices but also includes selections from several other countries such as Austria and Argentina. The split between reds and whites is approximately even, with one rosé and several sparkling options, and all except the flights are accompanied by short descriptions.
The most expensive glass is just $11, though most are $6-8. The weirdest: A 2013 Ch. de Pizay from Beaujolais in France that supposedly tastes like “melted black cherry Jell-O.” At $3 a half glass — anything can come in a half glass, most for the same price or a dollar more — I ditch the Cana Albarino and make the jump.
Throw in a half of the Trignon, another red from the Cotes du Rhone in France described as possessing rustic and earthy characteristics and one of two half glasses priced at $2, I tell the server.
I’m not sure exactly what melted black cherry Jell-O would taste like, but I’m glad this isn’t it. All I can really say is that it had a body to it, and easily walked all over the Trignon.
And that’s one of the beauties of Quanto Basta; it’s set up to encourage exploration, to invite sharing plates and trading sips. Try five wines, and some of your friends’ —be it in the more intimate side room or at the large bar where you can peer out the grand front windows — and your wallet might not really notice.
Visit Quanto Basta at 680 West Fourth Street (W-S) or find it on Facebook.