UPDATE: As of September 2019, Assaggia is sadly no more. It has been replaced by EMME, a new contemporary Italian restaurant from chef Giovanni Moncada. As soon as I get the chance to review it, I’ll let you know! In the meantime, for contemporary dining downtown, try Valentyne.
Assaggia restaurant in Rome represents a gourmet journey through Roman cuisine in tasting portions. The name, Assaggia, in fact, means ‘a taste’, and the restaurant, in one of the Eternal City’s prettiest streets, focuses on bite-sized perfection.
It’s been dubbed the perfect restaurant for ladies that lunch, but that’s a bit reductive: Assaggia is ideal for sampling a number of dishes from the Roman repertoire without feeling weighed down by what can be a heavier style of cooking.
Of course, you don’t have to focus on Roman heritage when dining at Assaggia, either: there are some great raw fish and vegetarian options, as well as sumptuous desserts prepared with precision by a talented pastry chef.
Even arriving at the location is part of the magic. Assaggia is located on the ground floor of luxury five star hotel Margutta 19 on via Margutta, an old Roman street whose name is linked to the history of the city’s art.
It was in via Margutta that many artists set up shop once upon a time, and the street is still home to bottegas and art dealers, although gentrification has revolutionised many of the old workshops. It’s not surprising: situated just five minutes from the Spanish Steps, it’s hard to find a much more central location.
That aside, there’s an old Roman magic in the air along via Margutta and the doll’s house perfection of the hotel entrance, the neat mosaic floor and the taupe curtain leading to Assaggia lifts you out of the chaos of modern Rome.
Once inside, the serene, minimalist dining room is a safe space for an intimate dinner, a relaxing lunch with friends, or a wow-experience with the in-laws. Executive chef Angelo Troiani lends his expertise to a kitchen run by up-and-coming star chef Daniele Ciaccio.
Assaggia says it uses only ingredients sourced exclusively from selected producers able to guarantee absolute quality and farm-to-table provenance. Special attention is given to organic products and to natural, sustainable farming and animal-raising methods. This is also the case with freshly caught fresh, sourced strictly from Italian waters.
Assaggia is open all day, every day, so it’s also a lovely spot for a quick drink before dinner. The cocktail list has been designed by star barman Tony Rosetti and includes classics as well as seasonal specials.
Dining at Assaggia is structured in tasting menus: a six course tasting menu, such as the below, which costs €27 per person, excluding wine and dessert: or a nine portion meal costing €37 per person. Considering the quality, the design and the experience, I think this is very good value.
The portions are brought to the table in two or more tranches, grouping antipasti, first courses and second courses. We selected a lovely Northern Italian wine with fresh, green edges, a Trentino Sauvignon from Mach.
First to the table were the antipasti dishes I had ordered. While the menus suggest the dishes you take, you can order additional small plates, so I took the opportunity to order from the excellent raw fish menu as well (the complete raw fish degustation usually includes four dishes at €27).
You can also add a selection of vegetarian dishes, priced at €6 each, to make the most of the particular vegetables of the season. The dishes that arrived were extremely fresh and well put together. I tried bread with anchovies and butter, a fennel salad, beans and pork rind, a deep fried rice ball and raw red prawn carpaccio. Simply delicious.
The starters were followed with a tasting portion of carbonara, which was excellent, plus a tasting portion of coda alla vaccinara, Roman-style ox-tail in tomato sauce. I really enjoyed these dishes although I could perhaps have eaten a little more.
The dessert menu is a separate affair: for €9, order a tris of sweets including vin santo and cantucci, a Roman-style cream doughnut, and and a pastry tartlet with ricotta, hazelnuts and a wine-based conserve. These were great fun and rounded off the dinner well.
In warmer weather, get ready to take advantage of this extraordinary outdoor terrace, which makes the most of the extraordinary location. For the winter season, this has been successfully covered with a partial gazebo roof and gas-burners to keep things cosy. Ideal for drinks or a winter lunch.
I was very impressed with the overall Assaggia experience. The restaurant has an exclusive and luxury vibe without ever feeling inaccessible or snobbish. The tasting portions are great fun and ideal for dates when you don’t want to overeat, but still want to have a gourmet experience. It is also a superb introduction to some of the flavours and ideas behind Roman cuisine, perfect for your first trip to Rome.
Assaggia Roma | Via Margutta 19 | Rome, Italy | Tel 0039 06 9779 7980
Testaccina was a guest of Assaggia Roma