I finally made it to Saggio for dinner on January 10; I am generally very impressed. It reminds me of Paprika in the East Village, a similarly inexpensive modern Italian bistro with super-fresh ingredients and a constant buzz.
The decor at Saggio is sparse and sensible, with solid woods, marble countertops, butternut-colored walls and antique mirrors. The acoustics are pretty good too and you can, thankfully, hear your dinner companion speak. The bar area is just big enough to sit and enjoy a drink or bite to eat without being in the way of restaurant traffic. There is plenty of seating in the small dining room (in fact, there might be too much). Hopefully the place will feel more spacious in the spring when the garden opens.
The owners and chef have sensibly kept the wine, dinner and dessert menus to a minimum. I sampled a glass of the sangiovese and a glass of the chianti. Both were very good. For appetizers I ordered the White Bean Crostini and the Saggio Ceasar, followed by the Papardelle with Veal Ragu as my entree. All were excellent. The Saggio Ceaser was particularly good since the chef has substituted a "black" kale in place of romaine lettuce, which keeps the salad crispy. The Veal Ragu was excellent, although perhaps a little light on the veal. For dessert I chose the Chocolate Souffle Cake with vanilla gelato and fresh berries, which was a superb dish.
My sister started with the Polenta with spinach and gorgonzola cheese and finished with the handmade gnocchi with red sauce--also excellent. For dessert she chose the house-made Panacotta, which she claimed was excellent but was far too rich for me to try.
Despite the super-reasonable prices, the chef at Saggio does not scrimp on food portions. So don't over-order like I tend to do. This is rich, modern Italian cuisine and you'll want to save room for dessert.
My critiques are not serious, but here they are. The servers were extraordinarily nice although it's clear that they are still figuring out how to organize themselves. However, I suppose this is to be expected in any new dining establishment. It takes a while to work out the kinks. My server, Richard, was a champ. The restaurant should probably print the wine list, even if it is short. And please, please, keep those low prices and fresh ingredients. It distinguishes this place from so many others in this town.
By Chris Rizzo