I had a chance to go to Asellina again, so I went with fresh eyes and an open mind. Walking to the restaurant was like retracing my steps, like déjà vu, vague but palpable, but I was oddly excited.
The moment I stepped in the door, I remembered how much I liked the vibe of the eatery: the dance music remixed and familiar, the minimalist lines and sexy feel, classy but updated. It all came back to me, but I refused to hang on to past impressions.
This time, the tempo of dinner felt to be more on my own terms. We were promptly seated, and again, we sat with our menus at our table for a while, though not out of neglect, but out of luxury. We took our time to acclimate and take it all in.
Before we knew it, our server had checked in multiple times and we had already chatted with the manager. Our server made us feel at home, creating the kind of atmosphere I longed for the last time. And the manager spoke with a sincerity that made us feel at ease and ready to take on the menu with his recommendations. We clung to his favorites, hoping his guidance would pay off.
We started with cocktails. The Squillo was really refreshing, sweet from mango vodka with floral notes from muddled cucumber. The Civetta too felt like summer, though stronger with rich bourbon.
Moments later, little arancini arrived as an amuse-bouche. A fried crunchy layer encased the cheesy hot middle, evoking classic Italian, refined with a truffled fava bean puree underneath.
The colors of the beet and burrata starter were ravishing, like precious stones. Sweet beets, roasted and multi colored, met perfectly with the creamy innards of the burrata. Tanginess was brought on by a delicate raspberry puree, a garnet color and of spring-like freshness.
The lamb shank entrée was sizeable and satiating. The meat rested on a thin smear of Gorgonzola laced polenta. It was braised lamb, fragrant with rosemary and herbs, the epitome of savory and hearty. While the squid ink pasta dish had a similar aromatic element, strong of garlic and butter, it was both lighter and more decadent. The perfect al dente black linguine lapped up the salt and sauce and the acidity of the grape tomatoes burst the richness of the dense seafood like the meaty shrimp and lobster.We finished with tiramisu, the only ending to an Italian meal. The dessert emanated comfort with just enough sweetness to hold us over.
I felt like I was at a completely different restaurant than the last time I visited. I found myself more immersed in the ambiance and the food than the frustration and waiting. The evening was pleasant and delicious, this time, leaving only good tastes in my mouth.