Sasse's -- Ft. Myers Favorite
Sasse's was my far-and-away favorite find last season's Ft. Myers visit, so I was looking forward to trying them again this trip. Our party of seven, including two preteens, went for dinner last Wednesday. The restaurant was almost full when we arrived for our 7:30 reservation, but our table was waiting. Two kinds of bread, a foccachia and a white wedge, were served on a cutting board with saucers of flavored oils. We ordered a Ceasar Salad to share -- it came in a huge bowl filled with romaine nicely coated with a creamy dressing and lots of grated cheese, crisp and cold, and topped with several pieces of garlic bread in lieu of croutons. The salad ($12) was enough so each adult filled a small salad plate, and even the veggie-averse girls ventured a taste so they could enjoy the cheese.
The girls ordered a chicken parm to share. We split a huge bowl of mussels as an entree, a platter of eggplant parmagiana, an herbed pork tenderloin, and an off-menu veal marsala. The pork may have been the best-executed dish, the medallions moist and tender, very flavorful and delicious. But everything was good, all was shared, and despite the generous portions almost all was consumed. There had been a delay in firing our mains, as the medical meeting in the adjacent semi-hidden meeting room was running late and almost forty patrons needed to be served, so we had been offered drinks and when those were unclaimed we were comped our desserts. We sampled a cannoli drizzled with chocolate, a rich wedge of flourless chocolate cake, and an apple crumble baked in the oven then topped with vanilla bean ice cream. All were strong, appreciated, and made many turns around the table.
There have been some changes at Sasse's since my last visit: They now open for lunch, Tuesday thru Friday, where they do offer a couple of small pizzas. They are more crowded than they used to be, but service is still amazingly warm, friendly, and attentive. They have instituted an "early-bird" special from 5-6 on weeknights with a starter, entree, dessert and coffee for $19.95. And a most crucial blow to my gluttony, they have jettisoned their former policy of charging $6 for shared entrees (when two people only order one) which I thought was totally reasonable considering their immense portions. (Actually, their servings may be more reasonable -- the chicken parm came with a huge mound of spaghetti, but the veal and pork were pretty normal for their low-$20s prices.) Anyway, we did not leave with boxes for everyone like last year, but the bill was about $20 per person, including tax and tip (no alcohol consumed) and not counting the three comped desserts.
My review last year: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/378890.
Look, I gotta admit I'm not an objective source when it comes to Sasse's. I really like the place -- I'm a fan and supporter. I love their attitude, from the proprietors to our energetic server, Shannon, to the Johnson & Wales degreed and country club trained chef who is 26 and looks a decade younger. One of our meals this trip was at the Prawnbroker -- I thought the food was good, I liked my crispy grouper and butterflied shrimp. But I felt like a prawn in a net, hustled to the table, through the meal. Sasse's is a place where I feel appreciated, cared for, and well-treated. The local newspaper printed a review the morning we were there, citing the huge differences between the fine current ownership and the moody, eccentric former czar. Sasse's has earned the recognition and praise.
the "moody, eccentric former csar" was the original owner. he is the one who hired my brother in law to build the authentic italian tiled fire oven. he is the one who had wild art on the walls. he is the one who made generous, delicious portions the norm. he is the one who made sasse's a fine dining destination. i'm just sayin'!
was it the inimitable "jean le bouef" reviewer? it is indeed a quite strange characterization of the original owner and creator of what is "sasse's".
I never had the experience of dining at Sasse's under the original owner. But I do know that the current proprietors have had to fight long and hard to dispel memories of his reign. Yes, the now take and honor reservations. Yes, they now accept credit cards. And most important, they treat everyone with warmth and respect -- they don't let potential patrons wait unseated at the front if they don't like their looks until they finally give up and leave. Part of Le Bouef's mention was to correct misimpressions about the current policies at Sasse's, as well as to publicize their new lunch service.