Grab an Ama Italian beer at Asellina’s back bar during happy hour but don’t worry about the slice of lemon on the glass. Those citrus slices that accompany our drinks were originally used to keep away the bugs. The only place you might encounter one is if you are dining in the back garden.
Ristorante Asellina, located at Park Avenue South and 29th St, is huge. Entrance puts you onto the front bar and side lounge area with cushy seats. Into the main dining room with comfortable space between you and the next table. Continue walking toward the back and down the stairs to another dining room with a bar. More casual looking and leading to a garden with seating as well.
Chef Marco Porceddu hails from Sardinia, Italy, with a menu that is quite savory. Genova immigrant Massimo Schiavon was our waiter as I was interested in a tasting of the fare beggining with a specialty of Stuffed Cerignola Olives. Stuffed with a mousse of roasted veal, mortadella, carrots, celery, truffle and onions the olives are then rolled in semolina and quickly deep fried.
Antipasti of various Italian cured meats (including Speck) and a few cheeses. Last appetizer of a chilled Seafood Salad with shrimp, scallops, calamari, octopus, lemon and vinegar. Salad is marinated overnight and served on a plate with cantaloupe and frisee.
A list of fresh pastas included two dishes that I absolutely loved. Pistachio Garangelli (the pasta) contained hand made sausage and wild mushrooms. A little rosemary and thyme, a taste of garlic and leeks, chicken stock and some white wine with a hint of parm cheese. Out came a sundried tomato infuse spaghetti served in a sea urchin with Italian fennel sausage and shrimp in a light brandy sauce.
An entrée of Lamb Burger appeared. Ground and seasoned lamb served atop Carasau bread. Pickled green tomatillos are made into a compote and served aside and atop the burger that is sprinkled with Pecorino Sardo. A side of freshly made house fries seemed to have a familiar taste…truffle oil!
I saved room for dessert as I had to sample the gelatos and sorbets as well as the chocolate cake, cannolis (with and orange liquor) and specialty of Fresh Basil Panna Cotta served with candied pine nuts and a tomato sorbet. Certainly a savory dessert.
Meal ended with a glass of Limoncello imported from Sorrento.Not only was the food great but the service here is impeccable. Plates and silverware changed for each course. Now that’s fine dining.
In case you want a picnic basket to take to a park, they have one that serves four people to include: Dry-aged Cacciatorini wild boar salami, wheel of Tomino cheese from Torino, roasted red and yellow pepper and mixed Italian olives, ciabatta bread, grapes on the wine, handmade pasta salad with veggies, Sicilian tuna salad, lemon pound cake and two liquids – bottled water and a bottle of wine. Plastic ware, cups and napkin included. You have to leave a deposit of $50 for the basket. For reservations call 212-317-2908.