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Assaggio Ristorante On The Harbor - Stratford, CT (203) 381-9200

So, I saw in the Local -Eyez on Milford an ad for this restaurant, located in the former location of Margarita Grille and before that Red Fin. At The Dock Shopping Plaza across from BJ's, 955 Ferry Boulevard. Nothing good ever seems to go in there, and it is such a nice location on the river (albeit under the Moses Wheeler highway overpass). Ad says "Serving contemporary italian cuisine for lunch and dinner" and "Under New Ownership." No website I could find other than some ads for servers. Let's hope they hire some trained professionals, not the local pretty big-breasted HS girls and their boyfriends like the Red Fin. Servers can make quite the difference, so I hope they don't make that mistake again. I called the Assagio in Branford, and the host said they are unrelated, but he found it funny how similar the name and even the way the A looks in the title. They could only be so lucky to be as good as Assaggio in Branford. Anyway, if you are brave enough to try it, let us know how it is.

Red Fin was trying to be upscale, then Margarita Grille went casual hoping to get all the Stratford 20-year-olds since Harborside was having some issues with their patrons. How will this fare; should be interesting.

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  1. When I saw this restaurant open a short while back, I wasn't impressed with the idea of having another "Italian" restaurant in an area with so many restaurants in that category. Tonight, we tried it out and I was pleasently surprised. The menu is extensive and take a while to read. Wine drinkers will find that there is not a lot they can't get there. The food and service was outstanding. It's definate that we will return there in the future and will recommend it to people.

      1. re: rbailin

        Seems the chef is from Finalmente - - - a little place in Westport that I visited last year. Since it is the same chef now presiding over Assaggio, I figure my revew is still appropriate. Here is what I wrote about his work at Finalmente last year:

        It’s hard for me to grade a place with just 1 visit, but I would put them in the A- to B range; a 2nd visit will help me come to a final decision if they are closer to an “A-” than a “B”.
        Some of the Pros & Cons:
        Menu had a lot of interesting selections on it – I had a lamb scaloppini with prosciutto and goat cheese (which was a great, very well prepared dish).
        They make homemade pasta’s, but not for all dishes. We wanted to split a pasta dish for an appetizer; it was wild boar ragu over fresh made linguine. However, we were told that the fresh pasta’s are pre-proportioned, so they couldn’t split them. The server did come back to us and let us know we could get the ragu over a non-fresh pasta (which we did – over a basic spaghetti. The sauce was the drawing point and it was very good). I will have to go back and see how their fresh pastas are.
        Liz’s gnocchi was a bit over-sauced. However, on the plus side, the sauce was very good and fresh, and the fresh mozzarella and basil that topped it off were of quality ingredients, so overall it was still a winner.
        Their tartufo dessert was really good and made onsite; If you are familiar with tartufo, many places purchase it and don’t attempt to make it. instead of being covered in a hard chocolate shell, the ice cream was rolled in cocoa.
        The place was busy all night. We got there for our 8 pm reservation on Saturday and it was full - - - and it was still full when we left at 10 pm.
        The wine list was on the small size and the lower priced bottles were really marked up (I spotted some $12 retail bottles that were on the wine list for $30+). Also, the red wine was served say too warm - - - mostly due to the fact that they have display racks all around their bar which is right next to the (hot) kitchen.

        Here's hoping that the chef carried his performance to Stratford.

      2. Good looking menu. It'll be interesting to see how they fare with the currently under way construction of the new bridge...which appears as if it's going to be directly OVER the existing location.

        2 Replies
        1. re: LorenV

          The replacement for the Moses Wheeler bridge was originally (1996) planned to be south of the existing bridge, but due to local opposition is now being routed north of the Metro-North railroad bridge. Pictures at http://www.stvinc.com/project.aspx?id...

          No longer near Assaggio's.

          1. re: rbailin

            Not true. The new bridge is going exactly where the current one is.

            http://www.connpost.com/ci_13985928

            And will be 40 feet wider to boot. Construction is already under way for the foundation right near the restaurant. We're going to check it out soon though...as the menu looks great. But that location is doomed I fear. Hope I'm wrong as we could an excellent restaurant in the area.

            Cheers!

        2. We're set for a meal at 'Assaggio Ristorante On The Harbor' at the end of December so it's good to already see a couple of positive posts and some encouraging feedback for this newly opened interest. Not sure I can wait that long but here are a couple of links in case you haven't seen them.

          Some great pics from Frank Cohen at RestaurantsCT.com("food porn" as he often jokes!). Be sure to click on each one for a nice close-up/enhanced shot as you scroll down.."Bow Chika Bow Bow".. :)
          http://www.restaurantsct.com/blog/ass...

          An article with a bit of owner and chef history from Todd Lyon at the New Haven Register:
          http://nhregister.com/articles/2009/1...

          4 Replies
          1. re: noreservations

            Great links. I'll go just for the large caper berries alone! I love those things!

            1. re: noreservations

              Nice background info--thanks for posting. Can't wait to hear your take on it. I'm salivating over some of those shots Frank Cohen took. Mmmmmmmmm! And speaking of December, I hope you have made your Sharpe Hill reservation. Hint, hint!

              1. re: noreservations

                Well here's a couple of friendly faces from the NE board..Hello, hello :) Just back from time-out to say I almost wish I could get to Assaggio's earlier because I saw another link for half-price certificates to share(remember 'geminigirl' pointing out the deal for duGlace?..Same deal). They're going quick:

                http://wfsb.incentrev.com/index.cfm?a...

                Saw some of those large caper berries yesterday at Bishop's Orchard Market and thought of the pics as well. Yum. Bought some Egg Nog from the Mountain Dairy of Storrs there(I'm such a sucker for the glass-bottled beauties)....I got so emotional I forgot to to get the caper berries off the shelf!

                Funny you mention Sharpe Hill. On the last tasting visit in early November we tried to get in before Thanksgiving but no dice..as they were booking a firm few weeks ahead. Will plan for January when they'll start having Saturday night dinners in addition to Friday. The Chow-mobile will be ready!

                1. re: noreservations

                  Very cool! I love the half-price deal and may have to do that for Assaggio's, too. THANKS! Please hit me offline (kattychow@gmail.com) if you have a sec. I have a question for you and don't want us to get dinged for going off-topic. ;) From what I can determine from the site and my paper gift certificate, seems you have to kill the whole certificate in one visit...no change back, do you read it that way, too?

                  Oooooh, and please tell us more about the glass-bottled nog (do you know there's an eggnog thread?!--I'll point you in that direction).
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/665692

              2. I'm such a schemer(albeit a Chow-happy one) as I figured I'd somehow end up checking out 'Assaggio On The Harbor' myself before our upcoming scheduled meal as a couple. "Hey, it was pre-meal quality control just for you" I'll tell my dining companion. I was headed out that way to check out the Whole Foods/Milford and pick up a few items at Trader Joe's/Orange so after all...I DID have some sort of excuse to be in the area. Subconsciously I knew something was cooking when I left Whole Foods with only non-perishables. Hum, little hungry and a tad thirsty in between stops here...I can't continue shopping in this condition so off I went and turned in the opposite direction in the name of Chow. ;)

                As you can see from the 'RestaurantsCT' link above, 'AOTH' did quite a nice job with their new space. The menu is deserving of attention as it is creative, considerably sized, and obliging in choices. Most menus of this size arrive at this number of offerings by tending to have many of the same old tired "usual suspects" to be found almost anywhere and then only distinguish themselves by putting their own personal touch with the remaining selections. This is NOT the case at 'AOTH' so do be sure to see the dinner menu on their site. One of my selections this night wasn't listed online so they offer even more(the staff also described a couple of the prior weekend's additions). I also peeked at a lunch menu(although they clearly welcome ordering from the dinner should you choose to do so) and even some "small plates" of selections for those seeking to taste. Couple the above with continuous meal service from open to close and a recently launched Sunday Brunch and it's easy to see they're striving to provide more options than most restaurants care to.

                There's certainly choices on the wine list and their offerings by the glass allow for a fair amount of experimenting. Not normally one just for chards I chose the Jordan(admittedly one of the higher priced glasses but their selections cover a range where anyone can find something of comfort). This went well with their 'Octopus Carpaccio' which was served under thinly-sliced radicchio and endive. Each component had an appropriately balanced and sparingly applied fresh note of olive oil and lemon. A nice start that was enjoyed with two different kinds of warm bread, Italian(good enough) and a sliced rosemary flat variety worth dipping in the olive oil brought to the table(both of these are among the three breads pictured in the basket in RestaurantCT's photo).

                Later moved to an Argiano "NC" Rosso Tuscan blend while selecting the 'Osso Bucco Piemontese' which was a nicely executed veal shank braised with celery, onions, carrot, herbs, tomato, and a Barolo wine sauce better than many that I've had. The accompanying asparagus risotto itself was nice enough(if not memorably spectacular) but I was certainly glad I ordered this comfort on a plate given our rough start in weather that day. I finished with a glass of Late Bottled Vintage Port for dessert.

                'Assaggio On The Harbor' is certainly on my radar and I'll be keeping an eye out as they're clearly worthy of attention as to be seen by their ambition in the short time they've been open. While I live a considerable distance away, I wouldn't hesitate to enjoy a meal here if in the area as I was this first time. I'll certainly look forward to joining them again before taking in a comedy show across the way and the gift certificate deal posted above is a definite no-brainer as a perfect opportunity to try them out. They clearly aim to please with both their offerings and service as I found owner, management, and staff to be quite friendly and accommodating.

                1 Reply
                1. re: noreservations

                  Only good things can be said for this Stratford CT newbie that takes over a great property on the water near the bridge to Milford in the BJ’s Plaza. Two other restaurants have failed there recently mostly because of terrible food and wait staff. Assagio has a great chance of breaking with tradition. Our party of 5 sampled some perfectly fried calamari with a zesty Marinara. The Tuna Carpaccio with very fresh wild arugula had a delicate but elegant dressing. Halibut pan seared with artichokes, capers and white wine was the best dish of the night. The only letdown was perhaps the veal chop in a Campari Wine sauce that was too bitter and over powered the quality veal chop. Service was attentive and the restaurant décor is tasteful. While a pleasant addition for Stratford I hope the restaurant can make it long term. With the veal chop at $29 and Halibut at $27 I can’t help but feel like every entrée on the menu was $5 too much for this town. Portions are adequate but not over generous. It’s well worth a try and I will be visiting for lunch soon. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

                2. Just wanted to give a good bit of info. Assagio's is open for lunch, and they have a separate lunch menu that currently is not listed on their website. They also serve a daily lunch buffet for $9.95 that changes every day also not listed on their website currently. My friend and I went yesterday and sat outside. The lunch menu was nice with a lot of reasonably priced panninis, etc. and lots of appetizers, but we opted for the lunch buffet. It was small but of good quality. Yesterday it was salad with balsamic, two types of soup--stracciatelli and a kind of minestrone with escarole and beans; two pasta dishes--one was a rigatoni with veggie and the other a red sauce; then chicken with brown sauce; tilapia dish; roasted potatoes; and a veg that I think was escarole or swiss chard. Overall, a terrific deal.

                  They informed us that they also serve a sunday brunch as well with a ton of items.

                  Desserts were also quite good but not prepared in-house as far as I can tell as they came with a little booklet with pictures of each dessert and a vendor name I forget on the back. I had the dark chocolate wrapped profiteroles that were good and my friend had the NY style cheesecake that was ultra creamy sour cream style. other selections were creme brule, grandmother cake, various gelatos, ricotta cheesecake, chocolate cake, etc.

                  I also had to comment that the servers were very professional, attentive and polite. Very impressed considering the poor service from the prior establishments.

                  Oh, and doesn't look like they upgraded the outdoor dining furniture when they bought the place. Same plastic tables, etc. But they did give us linen napkins for lunch!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cheereeo

                    Just an update to the above post from June. My friend went again for lunch on 8/9 and said they did away with the lunch buffet. Instead they spent $55 for lunch for three with no booze.