It is not every day that a man survives to become sixty years old in these days and times. Ok, maybe it is “everyday”, but not for me. It is once in a lifetime and I never thought I’d be this age! lol
In-fact, one could argue that it is increasingly rare for we, the single Baby Boomers to do so. So, as part of my “big six-oh”  birthday “me time” hideaway, I wanted to do something significant since my fiancée`, Inna and I are still financially separated by the Atlantic ocean and part of this mission was to distract myself from that briefly and satisfy a “pasta attack” (craving/yearning) that I’d endured for a couple of months.
I went online and searched the neighborhood where my “secret” weekend room was located and I found Saggio Restaurant, 829 W 181st Street, New York, NY 10033 (212) 795-3080. From the “Google maps” analysis, it looked to be an about five to seven block walk away and so I decided to find it the next day, a Sunday, January 20th. Isn’t the internet “wonderful” for making us even lazier about finding places?! In this case, it was a laptop convenience!
It was a sunny and blustery day as I struck out on foot with Saggio in my sights. I walked north on St. Nicholas Avenue until 181st Street, where I turned left to walk west, up growing hills. New York City is amazing because of how the complexion of the neighborhoods can change almost block-by-block. I walked from a mostly Dominican hood into a new Russian and then Italian area by the time I found Saggio and heard all of the languages along the way (which is my “deal” these days – linguistics).
The adventure was in the discovery in an area that I’d never hunted in by foot before! When I finally found the numerical address of Saggio, I was pleasantly satisfied that I found a place that not “everybody” would know about; truly in-keeping with my sixtieth “hideaway” theme.
Saggio has an outer door shield against the cold this season. I can only imagine that they probably have outdoor “café” tables with umbrellas during the warmer months. Once inside, the bar is on the right as I was greeted by the seating femme maitre d’. I declined her choice of table, preferring the “window seat” near the 181st Street entrance I had walked to and from which I could see the majestic Manhattan stanchion of the George Washington bridge that I saw from the street.
It was only moments until I was greeted by “Emily” my smiling and attentive authentic Italian waitress, who even brought me the lunch specials on the big black chalkboard as well as the regular table menu for dinner! She really fit the mold for this setting and in-fact she suggested that I do this review when I mentioned my past experience as a food critic!
I was torn between the steamed Mussels and a Pasta dish called “Rigatoni grandma’s recipe of slow cooked ragu with meatballs and Italian sausage”. I chose the latter with a side of sautéed spinach (“yum in garlic, olive oil and butter!) and a glass of their house red vino, but let Emily know that when we return, she’ll already know I am having the Mussels next time! The sauce was not as “Marinara” as I would make, but authentic; the meatballs and sausage just what I craved that early afternoon and I savored every bit amongst private thoughts and plans I have for the rest of my days and to incorporate my lady who has awaited [my] kiss for longer than many would overseas I think. “Yes, we will dine here…” I thought with confidence.
No overpowering music, just enough din and friendly patrons and service made my Saggio choice an excellent one that will make this anniversary all the more memorable.
I used to review restaurants and produce them in audio as part of my chores manning the “Awl Nyte Flyte” radio show on WFTQ AM, Worcester, MA thirty years ago. If I were still in that capacity, I would give Saggio four out of five stars only because I had to ask for bread to mop-up the great pasta sauce left after all the pasta, sausage and meatballs were gone.
Check out Saggio Italian restaurant, between Lafayette and Cabrini Boulevard. Please note that they have an extra-tasty and unique brunch menu! I made a mental note to definitely return here – it is that intimate…and special a place.