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Assaggi Mozzarella Bar, Bethesda - Chef Domenico Cornacchia in the Former Centro Space - Closed


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4838 Bethesda Ave - I think this is where Centro is/was?? Anyone have the scoop?

Actually, I was just there last night for a quick dinner w/my mom. You are right on the location- it is in the old Centro spot and it looks fairly similar inside. I am remiss to say that we didn't do the mozzerella tasting. They serve their bread w/fresh whipped ricotta, which I thought was a great touch. There was a decent sized menu with a lot of pasta and seafood options- they also had a couple of great looking salads. We ended up both opting for fish- I went for a grilled whole boneless dorade (very good if a tiny bit overcooked) that was served with grilled veggies and my mom had a grilled chilean seabass that was a special. While I didn't get to try her fish, she seemed happy w/it and it looked like it was cooked well. The only real miss of the night was dessert- some sort of chocolate custard which tasted good but was very off in texture. All in all, it was a perfect and light Italian meal and I would def. go back- and try the cheese!!

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Tonight I thought I might further the Bethesda dining discussion and after trying Assagi for the first time, I was left with several positive and encouraging impressions. First off, the rustic bread is wonderful, so much so I asked for a couple pieces to take with my leftovers (too bad though that the 13 or so colors in the accompanying butter didn't equate to even one discernable flavor). For a starter, I chose the three mozzarella and four condiment plate ($18). The cheese was very good, but not roll-your-eyes-back-in-your-head good that I've had at places like 2 Amy's. The condiments, however, were the highlight: a slice of a wonderfully ripe tomato with a basil leaf, a tomato marmalade (my personal favorite even if it could be improved by dropping the sweetness a notch), (grilled?) eggplant, and roasted peppers. I did not try the fifth condiment option--a marinated zucchini--but for me the condiments outshone the cheeses. For my entree I had the perfectly al dente pappardelle ($15) covered in a fine meat sauce with an assertive but not overpowering rosemary flavor. This dish really beckons winter instead of face-melting heat and oppressive humidity, but I enjoyed it within the comfort of air conditioning anyway. All in all, I'm very intrigued by this place. The pasta dish didn't have the depth of David Craig's, but it's a better value considering the bigger size for a comparable price. Considering all their pasta is homemade, there isn't another place in Bethesda I'd go to if I'm craving pasta. I'm really intrigued to hear what others think though because the rest of the menu is rather expensive. Every entree is $24 and up with most in the upper 20's, lower 30's. Before I start paying those prices, I'd prefer others do the recognizance first. Especially in a glorified strip mall location that I never once considered frequenting when it was Centro. But that's my own prejudices and hangups, unfair as they may be.

Pax,

Brian

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Tonight I thought I might further the Bethesda dining discussion and after trying Assagi for the first time, I was left with several positive and encouraging impressions. First off, the rustic bread is wonderful, so much so I asked for a couple pieces to take with my leftovers (too bad though that the 13 or so colors in the accompanying butter didn't equate to even one discernable flavor). For a starter, I chose the three mozzarella and four condiment plate ($18). The cheese was very good, but not roll-your-eyes-back-in-your-head good that I've had at places like 2 Amy's. The condiments, however, were the highlight: a slice of a wonderfully ripe tomato with a basil leaf, a tomato marmalade (my personal favorite even if it could be improved by dropping the sweetness a notch), (grilled?) eggplant, and roasted peppers. I did not try the fifth condiment option--a marinated zucchini--but for me the condiments outshone the cheeses. For my entree I had the perfectly al dente pappardelle ($15) covered in a fine meat sauce with an assertive but not overpowering rosemary flavor. This dish really beckons winter instead of face-melting heat and oppressive humidity, but I enjoyed it within the comfort of air conditioning anyway. All in all, I'm very intrigued by this place. The pasta dish didn't have the depth of David Craig's, but it's a better value considering the bigger size for a comparable price. Considering all their pasta is homemade, there isn't another place in Bethesda I'd go to if I'm craving pasta. I'm really intrigued to hear what others think though because the rest of the menu is rather expensive. Every entree is $24 and up with most in the upper 20's, lower 30's. Before I start paying those prices, I'd prefer others do the recognizance first. Especially in a glorified strip mall location that I never once considered frequenting when it was Centro. But that's my own prejudices and hangups, unfair as they may be.

Pax,

Brian

It is pretty good bread, although when I asked the server where it came from (thinking maybe Marvelous Market next door), she went back to check, and then returned awhile later and read something off a sheet of paper that sounded like "International Government" Something-Or-Other - I can't remember what, exactly. The whipped brown butter contains cocoa, some spices, and indeed tastes like nothing. And I'm also with you on the three-cheese plate ($18) which is very good and worth ordering, but not earth-shattering. A huge bowl of Gnocchi ($17) was cannonball-heavy, and an enormous special of Grilled "Wild Alaskan Ivory King Salmon" ($30) was murdered by overcooking and underseasoning. Like the condiments in the cheese course, it desperately needed flavor: Tonight was the first time I've asked for a salt shaker in months.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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4838 Bethesda Ave - I think this is where Centro is/was?? Anyone have the scoop?

I've now eaten at Assaggi twice, once on Sunday mid-afternoon and the other time for lunch today with a friend. Both times I had excellent experiences, both due to the food and the attentive and welcoming staff. On Sunday, the only chef on duty there was Giovanni Carlo, who formerly was with Roberto Donna in Galileo Laboratorio. He is a young chef and thus far has not been noted in any of the reviews. He has, however, great imagination and skill in the kitchen. On my second visit, I met Domenico Cornacchia, the chef/owner, formerly of Cafe Milano. He was very warm and welcoming. Golnaz Feiz, the Maître de, is kind and attentive. You feel that you have entered the home of a friend. Although the restaurant is largely unchanged from Centro, the staff has added some softening touches which has made the restaurant quieter, with a more relaxed feeling.

On Sunday, we started with a delicious Bellini which was accompanied by a selection of cheeses from the Mozzarella Bar and the marinated condiments. The cheeses were delicious and were drizzled with some fruity olive oil which enhanced their flavor. The burrata was made with cow's milk and was from California. You could tell how fresh it was. The rustic bread, was also excellent. My husband had their lunch special plate which consists of a small pasta portion, a small salad and a protein. In this case, the protein was skewers of fish, monkfish and salmon, and they were cooked perfectly. The pasta was a penne (done al dente) with peas and proscuitto. I enjoyed the veal ragu which was served over a hand made gamelli pasta which was made with flour and wine. It too was al dente and served in a generous portion. The ragu was a proper ragu, and even though the weather was hot, I found it totally delicious. We tried two desserts, the ricotta cheese cake and the hazelnut chocolate cake. Both were absolutely fantastic. They were served warm and had both a light and tender textures with deep flavors, served with delicious sauces and a scoop of ice cream.

Today for lunch, I started with a mixed green salad which was dressed perfectly with a balsamic vineragrette. There were crisp tender vegetables with the greens, such as baby zucchini, radishes and green beans. My friend had the gazpacho soup and declared it to be delicious. This was followed by a small appetizer of a grilled fish (which we split) with thyme and a dab of an olive tapenade. Sitting on top of the fish were fried tomato skins. I had never seen this either as a decoration or an accent, but added a lovely element to the dish. My friend had the lunch plate of salmon with a serving of salad. Her salmon appeared to be properly cooked, not overdone. I tried the lunch special which was a linguine with seafood in a white wine sauce and some fresh tomatoes. The seafood was perfectly done. It's easy to overcook calamari, but this calamari was tender and delicious. I'll confess that I sopped up each last bit of the sauce with the delicious rustic bread. The bread, by the way, was accompanied by a compound butter which was delicious.

Although we were sated, we couldn't resist a delicious dessert of a multi-layered "cookie" (I'm not sure what to call it) which had cream in between the layers. There was some semi-freddo on the plate as well as a wonderful rum ice cream with cracked caramel throughout. Just to end it with perfection, we shared a tasting of three types of chocolate, each with a different level of cocoa.

Frankly, Domenico Cornacchia, Giovanni Carlo and Golnaz Feiz are adding something quite wonderful to the Bethesda dining scene. I can't wait to go back and continue to explore their most interesting menu. There is a chef's table (for 6) which can be reserved for a tasting menu. It shouldn't be hard to find 5 friends to share what I would expect would be a wonderful meal!

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I've now eaten at Assaggi twice, once on Sunday mid-afternoon and the other time for lunch today with a friend. Both times I had excellent experiences, both due to the food and the attentive and welcoming staff. On Sunday, the only chef on duty there was Giovanni Carlo, who formerly was with Roberto Donna in Galileo Laboratorio. He is a young chef and thus far has not been noted in any of the reviews. He has, however, great imagination and skill in the kitchen. On my second visit, I met Domenico Cornacchia, the chef/owner, formerly of Cafe Milano. He was very warm and welcoming. Golnaz Feiz, the Maître de, is kind and attentive. You feel that you have entered the home of a friend. Although the restaurant is largely unchanged from Centro, the staff has added some softening touches which has made the restaurant quieter, with a more relaxed feeling.

On Sunday, we started with a delicious Bellini which was accompanied by a selection of cheeses from the Mozzarella Bar and the marinated condiments. The cheeses were delicious and were drizzled with some fruity olive oil which enhanced their flavor. The burrata was made with cow's milk and was from California. You could tell how fresh it was. The rustic bread, was also excellent. My husband had their lunch special plate which consists of a small pasta portion, a small salad and a protein. In this case, the protein was skewers of fish, monkfish and salmon, and they were cooked perfectly. The pasta was a penne (done al dente) with peas and proscuitto. I enjoyed the veal ragu which was served over a hand made gamelli pasta which was made with flour and wine. It too was al dente and served in a generous portion. The ragu was a proper ragu, and even though the weather was hot, I found it totally delicious. We tried two desserts, the ricotta cheese cake and the hazelnut chocolate cake. Both were absolutely fantastic. They were served warm and had both a light and tender textures with deep flavors, served with delicious sauces and a scoop of ice cream.

Today for lunch, I started with a mixed green salad which was dressed perfectly with a balsamic vineragrette. There were crisp tender vegetables with the greens, such as baby zucchini, radishes and green beans. My friend had the gazpacho soup and declared it to be delicious. This was followed by a small appetizer of a grilled fish (which we split) with thyme and a dab of an olive tapenade. Sitting on top of the fish were fried tomato skins. I had never seen this either as a decoration or an accent, but added a lovely element to the dish. My friend had the lunch plate of salmon with a serving of salad. Her salmon appeared to be properly cooked, not overdone. I tried the lunch special which was a linguine with seafood in a white wine sauce and some fresh tomatoes. The seafood was perfectly done. It's easy to overcook calamari, but this calamari was tender and delicious. I'll confess that I sopped up each last bit of the sauce with the delicious rustic bread. The bread, by the way, was accompanied by a compound butter which was delicious.

Although we were sated, we couldn't resist a delicious dessert of a multi-layered "cookie" (I'm not sure what to call it) which had cream in between the layers. There was some semi-freddo on the plate as well as a wonderful rum ice cream with cracked caramel throughout. Just to end it with perfection, we shared a tasting of three types of chocolate, each with a different level of cocoa.

Frankly, Domenico Cornacchia, Giovanni Carlo and Golnaz Feiz are adding something quite wonderful to the Bethesda dining scene. I can't wait to go back and continue to explore their most interesting menu. There is a chef's table (for 6) which can be reserved for a tasting menu. It shouldn't be hard to find 5 friends to share what I would expect would be a wonderful meal!

I noticed your same remarkably positive and detailed review on chowhound. You sound very familiar with the restaurant and staff. Must be quite the place.

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I noticed your same remarkably positive and detailed review on chowhound. You sound very familiar with the restaurant and staff. Must be quite the place.

I had such good and friendly experiences there, I thought it was worth the mention. So often people are overly critical that positive experiences get overlooked.

By the way, I had the name of the Maitre de wrong...his first name is Carmen. I'm not sure of his last name. Sorry for that error....I try to make it a point to find out the names of the people who are cooking for me and often ask to meet them. Being a chef is a very hard job...physically taxing and with very long hours. When a chef and his/her staff are doing things right, I like to let it be known. Good work deserves praise.

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Had lunch there yesterday with a friend. We sat at the bar. The bread was rustic and the butter was sweet and tasty. We ordered the mozz app. 3 types of mozz with 4 condiments. to my surprise, it was the tastiest tomato i have had in the wash area in a long time (i tend to feel that all the taste has been bred out of tomatoes in the us). my friend had the chicken milanese and i had bolognese with penne (instead of the flat pasta). both were tasty. we both took food home. like a previous reviewer, i had to salt my dishes.

i did notice that several diners were taking advantage of the $15 lunch special (entree and dessert). i met the gm whose name has been previously mentioned (she seemed gracious). i will come again for dinner.

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to my surprise, it was the tastiest tomato i have had in the wash area in a long time (i tend to feel that all the taste has been bred out of tomatoes in the us).

You might want to buy some heirlooms in season from a farmers market, it might change your mind on American grown tomatoes. Byt the way, how was the cheese?

And welcome to the board.

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Went early so the noise level was fine. The burrata was good, but not the best I have hate. The condiments that went along with it were great though. We avoided the entrees and decided to graze on the pastas and other items. Had a good salumi plate, split a salad with artichokes (good, but not as artichoke-y as I had hoped) and delicious pastas (the bigoli and the torrtelli di zuca). The wine list is overpriced, but that's the norm for most restaurants. The bread is *delicious*. Still, had a good experience there. It satisfied my curiosity for now and I wouldn't mind going back....

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Popped in for an impromptu lunch yesterday. Gubeen had some temporary dietary restrictions, but the chef was kind enough to prepare her a bowl of wonderfully flavorful broth. In deference to her restrictions, I resisted the urge to order the burrata/mozzarella di bufala/ricotta assortment, as well as the salumi this time.

The side plate of bread is served with a fresh and very fruity olive oil, slightly peppery and not at all astringent. I don't know where the bread is from, but the crumb was soft, elastic, and delicious.

My ribollita was clearly made with care, but was perhaps a bit too refined a take on what is normally a stick-to-your-ribs soup, and could have been more boldly seasoned. It was beautiful and clear and fresh, but not the bread-thickened stew that I would have expected. On the other hand, I couldn't have been happier with the bowl of scialatielli pasta, mixed with a generous heap of Manila clams that contributed their flavor to a broth that was worth sopping up with the side plate of bread. Particularly for a fresh house-made pasta, they managed to achieve a nice level of chew, and the light sauce clung to it well.

The dessert special was a chocolate soufflé, unfortunately prepared in advance, and ultimately more a lava cake than an airy-textured puff. The flavor was actually nicely bittersweet, but the interior didn't entirely melt through in the final heating, leaving a slightly chewy center.

I have to mention the great light that comes into the paneled dining room from the enormous skylights, although they're almost entirely deflected by huge fabric diffusers. Despite some minor misses, on a sunny day it's a very pleasant space to take in a plate of very good pasta.

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We had dinner there tonight--last night of their Living Social deal. It was moderately busy by the time we left but pretty empty when we arrived at 5:30.

Now I've mentioned before that BLKindergartner is a foodie in training. When discussing our plans for the evening he turned up his nose at everything until I mentioned they had mussels on the menu. Then he was delighted to go.

Except until we got there, ordered and were informed 10 minutes later that there were no mussels in the house.

He burst in to tears.

He did eventually agree to order ravioli which he ate in record time. He wouldn't try the calamari and he didn't miss much--it was rubbery and lacked any flavor.

I has a pasta with meat sauce for my entree and it was quite good. The bread was great but is now served with olive oil instead of the whipped mozzarella mentioned earlier.

Service was slow and when the bill was presented it included the mussels that they didn't have in stock.

I don't see us returning any time soon.

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Last time I walked through there (maybe 4-5 weeks ago) was looking to see if anything new had popped up. There was a mention back in May/June on a Bethesda blog (and magazine I think) mentioning the restaurant was sold to another restauranteur, but that they had not opened yet and there was no info as to why/when/etc. Anyone hear/see anything there?

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