The closure of Sassetta in 2020 left a very chic, Italian hole to fill in the Dallas food scene. Whispers of its return after the pandemic turned into an announcement that the restaurant would open up in the former Americano space inside The Joule hotel downtown, with an interior renovation envisioned by A-list designer Jean Liu.
Opening day is here, and so Eater sat down with Sassetta’s executive chef Jason Zygmont to talk all things Sassetta 2.0.
Zygmont’s background includes working with big-time chefs like Hugh Acheson, Linton Hopkins, Kevin Gillespie, Victoria Blamey, and Thomas Keller before opening his own restaurant, Setsun, in Nashville (which also shuttered during the pandemic).
“I shopped around quite a bit looking for the right position in Dallas,” Zygmont says, and Headington Cos. “rolled out the red carpet” for the chef to put his spin on dishes like black pepper bucatini and burnt honey-topped pizzas.
Eater: Who’s working with you, in the kitchen and the restaurant?
Jason Zygmont: My sous chef is Nathan Goins. After a long stint in Germany at several restaurants, he moved back to DFW and worked for Tim Love, and with Casey La Rue at Carte Blanche. He is an essential asset to the work we are doing and brings a wealth of knowledge into the kitchen.
Haydee Hernandez is our general manager and has been with the Headington group for nearly a decade. She has put together a fantastic front of house team and has been a wonderful partner in the opening process.
What can guests expect at New Sassetta as opposed to the previous iteration?
Sassetta 2.0 is a spiritual successor to the original. There are a few carryovers from the original menu, but I’ve been given extensive discretion in creating the new food program.
We’ve used Italy as a jumping off point, extending our palate of flavor profiles to the wider Mediterranean: Spain, France, Northern African and the western edges of the Middle East. Everyone who loved Sassetta 1.0 will find a recognizable, yet distinct restaurant when they join us for dinner.
What’s your favorite dish on the menu and what inspired it?
That’s a tough question. It is difficult to not say the agnolotti; however, the tartare may be at the top of my list. Over the course of my career, I’ve developed a lot of tartare dishes, but this is the most simplified version that most celebrates the quality of the beef we are sourcing. The beautiful Wagyu is hand diced and flavored with lemon juice, a nice peppery olive oil, parmesan cheese, parsley and a touch of horseradish. The final ingredient may be considered odd for an Italian dish; however, horseradish is rather common in the Veneto region of northern Italy. Especially this time of year.
The tartare is being served with our pizza dough brushed with garlic oil and black pepper before being baked to perfection. It is a very clean, simple tartare that highlights the quality of the ingredients: a rather perfect example of what we are attempting to create with the menu.
There’s a lot of Italian in town these days. What sets Sassetta apart?
The fact that we aren’t simply an Italian restaurant. In my mind, Sassetta 1.0 lit the fuse of the current frenzy of Italian restaurants in Dallas. The goal going into the current iteration is to refine the original concept into something a little more polished and grander by expanding beyond the borders of Italy, but without losing the soul of the first incarnation of Sassetta. We realize that we are building on a strong foundation and couldn’t be happier for the opportunity.
Sassetta is located inside The Joule Hotel at 1530 Main Street in Dallas, Texas. Hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.