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Sweet Basil in Needham- awful

Finally tried sweet Basil in Needham last night. Very noisy, very small, very crowded. Had to wait 1 hour although they said 20 minutes. A pleasant wait in comfortable chairs outside and the owner came out to chat with us. He was very nice.
The salads and appetizers were good. The main courses were terrible. Inedible.
We (2 couples) had ceasar salad, arugala with beets and goat cheese and fried calamari. These were all good as was the bread with pesto. however, the main courses were so bad they were almost inedible. My husband and another diner had the chicken cacciatore. My husband could not eat his at all and the other diner ate a few bites. I had the chicken marsala which was two thin very tough veal cutlets floating in a thick gross gravy tasting ever so slightly of marsala wine but mostly of gravy/ flour. A few measly portobello mushrooms on the plate. Really awful. Fourth diner said hers we "ok"- the evening special of monkfish. The presentation was terrible- big bowls of slop. Too bad- the salads and fried calamari were quite good.
Also, they charge $5 per bottle as a corkage fee- a silly charge in a cheap place, and do not take credit cards.All four of us agreed that we would not go back.
Goodbye Sweet Basil.

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  1. What was wrong with the chicken cacciatore that made it inedible, and also, are you saying you ordered chicken marsala, and got veal cutlet marsala? Did you bring any of this up with the nice owner?
    I'm asking because my sister wants to meet here when I visit her later this week.

    1. Correct me if I am wrong, but charging a corkage fee in Massachusetts is currently illegal.

      1. Their website does not list prices so I don't know what you mean by "a silly charge in a cheap place" but their website clearly states a $5 corkage will apply. I don't think $5 is unreasonable or that unusual - few enough places are allowed to BYOB.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Dax

          I think $5.00 corkage is very reasonable.

        2. Ooops sorry I did order veal marsala not chicken- the veal was tough.two cutlets- in a gloppy gravy. I didn;t try the chicken cacciatore because my husband said it was inedible and the other diner who had it said it was not good. I have never ever seen my husband not eat an entree. One bite and he stopped eating. My veal was not good but edible so since I ate it I said nothing. My husband never complains (passive agressive???).
          Re the corkage fee- there are many restaurants in Needham-Wellesley area (e/g/ Eurotaste, Jimmy's Yama) that are byob and do not charge a corkage fee.

          3 Replies
          1. re: emilief

            I'd send an email to the owner. The chicken cacciatore is my favorite dish. My sister orders trays of it to serve at parties. We both have the recipe and make it all the time. It must have been an off night.

            As for the corkage fee, Sweet Basil is one of the last around that is still BYOB since the law changed in Needham. I recall paying one in Rockport. And the cash only is a bummer, but there are ATMS right nearby.

            Send the owner an email outlining what made the dish inedible. There must have been something off and I'm sure they'll remedy the situation.

            1. re: emilief

              Your husband and the other diner ate only a few bites of the cacciatore and the waitstaff didn't notice/comment? That's pretty poor service on their part - they should at least ask if there is a problem when somebody obviously isn't eating any of his/her meal.

              1. re: Dax

                I find the service at Sweet Basil not to be at that level (I find one of the regular servers to be particularly easily frazzled). Plus, the portions are huge, so I imagine it's not all that unusual for large quantities to go uneaten.

            2. I thought it odd that they just picked up all that left over food off of the table and packed it up. I have the chicken cacciatore in a take out box in the fridge. if I get brave I will try it today and report to you all if I agree with the two diners who ordered it!!!