Chef John Dornback, co-owner of Basi Italia, honed his skills at Cleveland landmarks such as Ristorante Giovanni in Beachwood, Hecks Cuisine in Rocky River, and Parkers in Ohio City. In 1987 Johnny decided to pursue formal training and was off to NYC to study at The French Culinary Institute. His original plan to return to Ohio was traded for a life in Manhattan where he spent the next 15 years immersed in the city’s food culture, working with such noted chefs as David Burke at The River Café, Jonathan Waxman at Jams, and Larry Forgione at An American Place. In ’95 he took the position of Executive Chef of The Bryant Park Grill. This 1000 seat indoor/outdoor restaurant, located at 42nd street and Fifth Avenue, is the Ark Restaurant Group’s flagship restaurant location. He remained at the helm for 3 years before becoming Corporate Chef and went on to open several new properties for Ark Restaurants, including Red on the South Street Seaport and The Grill Room in the World Trade Center. In ’96 he was the recipient of the American Academy of Restaurant and Hospitality Sciences’ Five Diamond Chef Award; Johnny is very proud to point out the award was signed by the late great Frank Sinatra, who served as the President Emeritus for the Academy.
In 2000 it was time to return to Ohio and settle into Columbus with his wife and business partner, Trish Gentile. Drawing upon two decades of experience in the restaurant business, he realized his dream of creating a unique restaurant. Trish and Johnny have owned and operated Basi Italia in Columbus, Ohio for over 7 years. The name “Basi Italia,” is based loosely on Johnny’s interpretation of the Italian word basilare. Basil are refers to the sense of base or foundation and simplicity of approach or understanding. That is the basis for his style of cooking, running his business and being part of the community… a sense of simple, honest tradition to the core principles of “Basi Italia”.