Assaggetti – ‘Not all Italian restaurants are just Pasta or Pizza’

Assaggetti 71 Haymarket London SW1Y 4RW Italian Restaurant in London

Located just around the corner from Piccadilly Circus, Assaggetti is right in the heart of the West End’s Theatre circuit and directly opposite the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Whilst I do not want to pigeon-hole it as Theatre going restaurant, it certainly does lend itself well to being the perfect pre-Theatre destination for nibbles and nourishment.

Set over two floors comprising a mixture of seating, from high-rise bars and stools to grand tables for larger parties, Assaggeti is an Italian-American style restaurant, blending the old with the new. Upon first stepping foot in to the door, one cannot help but be dazzled by the splendor of the lavish chandelier and wide spiral staircase winding its path from the middle of the restaurant down to the lower-ground floor. However, although prime fixtures amidst the bright contemporary interior, it is the more rustic feel of vintage Italian deli tins and olive oil bottles residing on the shelves, coupled with tomato tin cutlery holders on each table, (not to dissimilar from ‘Jamie’s Italian’ restaurants), that give it a more lived-in and comfortable aura. Whilst, clearly not trying to compete with the height of the City’s Michelin-star gastronomic affairs, it is certainly not a young trendy hangout, but instead strikes a harmonious balance, with its perhaps more reserved elegance and stylish décor attracting a mixed audience. The Italian staff were smartly dressed in black and white, incredibly knowledgeable on the menu and highly attentive.

wideangle shot of Assaggetti restaurant
brushchetta and mussels dishes at Assaggetti restaurant
carpaccio dish at Assaggetti restaurant

The Food itself veered away from the stereo-typical stone-baked pizza or pasta themes of many of its local (chain-restaurant) contemporaries, instead offering an enticing Italian tapas menu (also known as cicchetti), which consists of a creative assortment of snack plates or miniaturisations of larger dishes (larger dishes also an option). Prices are all very reasonable considering the exquisite quality of the food and range from exceptional Italian breads, aged balsamic and olive oil (on the side) to incredibly fresh seafood including Mussels, Calamari, King Prawns and a delicious Black Risotto with Cuttlefish. Traditional Pasta dishes included handmade Spaghetti and Duck Ragu plus Gnocchi and Gorgonzola and all of which were a clear case of ‘undersold and over-delivered’. Do not expect overtly flamboyant (hard to pronounce) Italian names that bare more resemblance to those of Renaissance paintings by the old masters, just plain simple summaries that give away nothing in terms of the sheer brilliance offered by each and every portion.

“Rather than the typically ‘not so necessary’ deserts, the miniature offerings certainly round things off on a high note, with tantalizingly delicious tastings not resulting in any bloating. Expect Tiramisu, Cheesecake or Banana Custard (amongst others) all served in a small glass and a definite must for any diners.”

Onto drinks, Assaggetti is not for the serious wine buffs, but rather a shortlist of affordable Italian sourced wines from all regions. The prosecco and cocktail list on the other hand is with out doubt more of a focal point here, with seven bottles of prosecco available and many great Aperol based cocktails including The Negroni, my personal favourite ‘The Dolce Amaro’ with aperol, pink grapefruit liqueur and grapefruit juice, and even an Assagetti bloody Mary with gin, martini, Aperol and tomato. Although if you have not yet tried one, I would have to recommend the Espresso Martini that was quite possibly the perfect finale to what has been one of the best restaurants I have had the pleasure to visit so far this year.

Reviewed by Sam Bryan-Merrett