I really wanted to like Sassi but it just wasn't to be. Our first take on the whole place was positive - terrific-looking, albeit Disneyesque building and grounds, made to look like an upscale Tuscan estate, complete with bubbling courtyard fountain. We arrived half an hour before our reservation so we could have a cocktail first. The greeting was warm and friendly but, as we wandered from reception area to bar, we started to get a slightly negative feeling: the place was huge! Many rooms, large and larger, many moods - it began to reek of catering hall. But we had our drink at the bar, accompanied by an order of tasty roasted olives that would have served 6, but we were only 2, so we didn't finish them.
When our table was ready, we were ushered from the bar to one of the many dining rooms - rather intimate, maybe 9 tables - and seated in front of an open window that looked out over a dining terrace and, in the distance, the lights of the city. Quite lovely.
The menu looked really interesting and we decided to get two appetizers and two pastas so we could share everything. Some of the meats seemed really appealing, too, but we kept it to just those items. For our appetizers, we ordered a grilled calamari dish and a roasted beet dish. The calamari was sliced into the thinnest rings I've ever seen and tossed in a chili-oil dressing with lots of garlic and some frisee. Nice, but way too hot for my taste. Jimmy didn't like it much at first, but it grew on him and he ended up finishing the dish. The beets were cut into bite-size pieces and tossed with a chiffonade of fresh mint and a dressing that had grated orange rind in it. Again, nice but not great. We didn't finish that one.
For our pastas, we ordered one from the menu - the linguine carbonara - and one from the evening's specials - pappardelle with lamb ragu. Portions were really geared to the plan that the pasta dish was just a prelude to a meat or fish dish, but that was okay, since we really didn't want to overeat. We agreed that we found both dishes highly oversalted but still edible. Of the two, the carbonara was the better.
Neither of us really wanted a dessert, but there was a dish on the menu that I found intriguing, so I ordered it: a peach baked into a vanilla poundcake, with roasted peach sauce. I guess I expected it to be warm, with maybe a crisp edge to the cake, and I was sure the roasted peach sauce would be warm. But it was just room temp (at least not cold, straight out of the fridge) and kind of bland. I ate two bites and decided against finishing it. As the waiter was bringing our coffee, he asked how I liked it and I said it was probably fine, but just not to my taste. He asked if I wanted anything else, but we declined. He said he'd take it off the bill, which we certainly didn't expect. A few minutes later, a captain came by and said to Jimmy, "You were disappointed with your dessert?" We explained and he was quite solicitous. "Are you sure I can't bring you something else?" We declined again.
Service throughout the meal was lovely and the meal, including our two cocktails , the olives, and two glasses of red wine with dinner, ended up costing about $118 which, if the food had been even a little better than it was, would have made it seem like a bargain (at least by NYC standards). But lovely service and a pretty room and view can't make mediocre food taste better.
We were really glad that we decided to try Sassi out ourselves before bringing our guests for a birthday celebration. They would have been gracious about it, I'm sure, but food trumps views in my book any day. I see no reason to return to this one.