Sometimes you know what to expect when you go to a restaurant. Sometimes you have no clue what to expect. Sometimes you think you know what to expect and realize you were wrong. Sometimes getting there is not the issue you expect. Sometimes you are surprised by the unexpected. All of this was the experience last night on our journey to La Sassa in the rocky hillside town of Nonza in Northern Corsica.
“Incredible and amazing…maybe even a little edgy.” That’s what he said. Our bungalow host in the beachside area of Farinole, just east of a tourist hotspot, Saint Florent, recommended this spot, but his prior recommendation of the local L’Ambada led us to a quaint, local, beachside restaurant with a really sweet ambiance and an adorable server. The food is solid and interesting…pizzas and salads and pastas. As an extension of the beach it seems comfortable and homegrown. So we expected his recommendation La Sassa (while his adorable little dogs were yapping in the background) to be much of the same. Not.
We made a reservation for 8:00 p.m. and planned a 15-minute trip only to find ourselves winding up & up & up…tailgated and terrorized by winding, tight curves, narrow lanes and a steep hillside. Anxiety? Yes, but wait for the parking… None. We “Corsica-styled” it, as he said, parking oh-so-close to a rocky hillside partway on a curb leaving enough room between us and the opposing cliff for a car to pass, but this seems to be the norm here. And then we walked. And walked. And asked. We were directed to “Montez! Montez!” And we climbed. And climbed. And viewed the village from the steps that continued to lead us higher and higher.
And when we arrived? Quelle surprise! A restaurant literally built into the rocks above the Mediterranean with a view of the sea and the hills, replete with lights and fantastic music.
Step one: Apéritif. When invited to enjoy, we took champagne. These bubbles here are so smooth and in a way creamy. The most excellent champagne, but perhaps it was the energy…
Step two: Veal carpaccio. I had never actually had carpaccio, and I feel like I don’t like veal, but after that drive and my adrenaline, I had some daring in me, so bring on the raw meat! I can’t describe the melt-in-your-mouth texture and the rich, creamy flavor of the oh-so-thin slices ensconced in a border of finely-shredded parmesan and garnished with capers, olives, and basil. Bliss.
Step three: Entrées. What to choose, what to choose? Well, when I saw Cannelloni with shaved truffles I knew there was no other choice. Filled with Brocciu cheese, which seemed to me somewhat like a Mizithra, it was just rich enough to add essence but not so rich that you couldn’t eat the third bite. The truffles made the dish, though, decorating the length of the pasta with a rich, earthy color and adding a visual texture that made the softness of the dish seem more engaging and decadent. Really, incredibly, lovely flavor.
And his dish? The prawns. “I heard him tell you ‘great choice,’ but he didn’t say that for my order.” That’s what he said. But the flavors eliminated those reservations.
Oops…and Step 3.5: The Wine. “Do you trust me?” Our server promised that the white from Ajaccio was the best choice, so the half-bottle would be just enough to accompany the food perfectly yet insure a safe drive down the windy hill back home. He was right.
And what we loved the most? The combination of everything; it was a spectacular experience in every way, from the location to the ambiance to the down-to-earth staff and, most of all, the meal. Entranced by our surroundings, having indulged in well-prepared food, we descended the steps (Descendez! Descendez!) blissfully relaxed and ready for the windy ride down the mountainside.