Recipe: Basil’s Peche Angelica

Make the storied Italian restaurant's seared wild redfish

Photo by John Anderson

This past year, Austin came close to having our own Chris Rock and Will Smith moment at the Basil's reunion. It was the first time owners Alan Lazarus and Marshall Slacter had been in the same room since their breakup decades ago. Rather than slapping each other, they were able to hug it out, much to the relief of the former Basil's staffers gathered in the room.

"Yep. We buried the hatchet ... just not in each other," joked Slacter. Considering some of the challenges the two shared during Basil's run, ending a 35-year feud should have been easy.

Basil's was almost the restaurant that wasn't thanks to the Memorial Day flood of 1981. Imagine spending months meticulously planning your opening on a shoestring budget, hitting auctions to find cheap equipment, hiring friends and family to help with the construction, and leveraging every relationship you have to open, only to receive a call in the middle of the night that your restaurant is gone.

Lazarus and Slacter went to bed that night with three buildings on their restaurant property and woke up with two. Unfortunately, the missing building housed the recently purchased kitchen equipment. This included a gigantic 10-burner double oven range and a three-door fridge, which apparently were floating south toward San Antonio. The main building survived because a dumpster had been pushed up against it, protecting it from the rushing waters.

The pair was able to secure an emergency Small Business Administration loan through a relief program, purchased the property from a retired judge, and bought replacement kitchen equipment from the Ogdens, who ran the apocalyptic-looking restaurant graveyard on Oltorf in South Austin.

Once opened, Basil's quickly established itself as the go-to place. There were regular celebrity sightings in the small house at West 10th and North Lamar. Kim Basinger dined almost nightly while shooting the 1987 romantic comedy Nadine, ordering her favorite pasta pomodoro. Ann Richards frequently showed up unannounced. Lazarus would put a tablecloth on a prep table back in the kitchen, where Richards wouldn't stop talking or smoking while she dined. These days, fancy restaurants harness cigar smoke in cognac snifters to provide a smoky essence to desserts and savory dishes. Back then, we could just use our governor's cigarette smoke.

Growing up in NYC, Lazarus' passion was Italian food. Being across the street from the original Whole Foods afforded him a vast ingredient selection. With a solid kitchen crew, including The Austin Chronicle's own Virginia B. Wood as his first pastry chef, Lazarus and his crew churned out great food and began to develop national notoriety. Bon Appétit magazine featured his popular Peche Angelica, a seared wild redfish topped with sautéed artichoke hearts, jumbo lump crabmeat, and a Dijon mustard cream sauce.

Though considered fancy, Basil's never felt stuffy or uppity. It was a great place to take a date or someone special as it offered a genuine, comfortable, and relaxed atmosphere with delicious food and professional yet friendly service. Or as Barbara Chisholm described it in the Chronicle in 2000, "The place screams – no, whispers – romance."


900 W. 10th (1982-2003)

Peche Angelica

Recipe serves 3-4 people.


four 5-ounce redfish fillets

4 teaspoons salt

seasoned flour for dredging

4 ounces butter

4 ounces olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 teaspoon shallot, minced

12 ounces artichoke

½ cup white wine

1½ cups heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

12 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat


Season each redfish fillet with a teaspoon of salt. Season both sides.

Dip each fillet flesh-side in flour. Shake off excess and place on plate, ready to be cooked.

Heat 2 ounces oil and butter in large sauté pan over medium-high heat until melted and butter foam has subsided.

Carefully place each fillet in pan skin-side down with tail folded under to make an even fillet.

Cook for about 2 minutes until bronzed on the side. Flip and cook other side approx. 2 minutes until fish is barely cooked through. Place on warmed plate.

Remove excess oil and butter. Add the second 2 ounces of oil and butter. Heat over medium-high heat until butter melted and foam subsided.

Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until fragrant and they start to soften.

Add artichokes and white wine. Reduce the white wine by half.

Add cream and Dijon mustard. Mix until well incorporated into cream. Reduce cream until thickened.

Stir in crabmeat.

Adjust seasonings as needed.

Spoon crab mixture equally over the redfish. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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