The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

September 8, 2013

Harbor landmark has a new team at the helm of reborn Basil’s Cafe

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Staff Writer

CONNEAUT — A Conneaut Harbor landmark is back in business, filling stomachs while fulfilling a couple’s career dreams.

Basil’s Cafe, 182 Park Ave., is again serving breakfast and lunch at its lakefront location, but this time under new management. Owner Trisha Cusano-Hall and her fiancé, Justin Fox, re-opened the eatery about five weeks ago. Response has been very encouraging.

“We’ve got a lot of regulars already,” Cusano-Hall said. “It’s crazy. We’ve picked up business a lot quicker than we expected.”

Preparing meals for the public has long been the couple’s ambition, she said. Previously, both held “high-stress” jobs that weren’t particularly satisfying, said Cusano-Hall, a former elementary school teacher who has also worked as a waitress.

“We would have this fantasy talk about owning our own restaurant,” she said. “One day we were out driving and discussing our restaurant fantasy, and then we said, ‘Well, why don’t we?’”

Cusano-Hall contacted members of the NEO Fund, which encourages and funds worthwhile business initiatives in Ashtabula County. “I wrote, then re-wrote a business plan,” she said.

The NEO board loved the concept and the menu, but felt the couple’s original location near the downtown district wouldn’t work. “I was crushed,” Cusano-Hall said.

A few weeks later, board members called to ask if she had ever considered the Park Avenue spot.

“They thought Basil’s would fit our plan,” she said.

Cusano-Hall and Fox spent much of the summer redecorating the restaurant and fine-tuning their menu of “American classics and comfort food,” she said.

“We use no frozen or processed food,” Cusano-Hall said. “Everything’s fresh.”

The operators were happy to keep the business’ original name.

“Basil’s was already known for breakfast and lunch,” Cusano-Hall said. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Some people are calling us the new Basil’s.”

The team’s early success already has them thinking of expansion. “Maybe a dinner operation at a different location,” Cusano-Hall said.

Basil’s Cafe is open 6 a.m.-2 p.m. daily