Restaurants / Openings

With a Slick Design and ‘Wall Couture,’ Sassetta’s Downtown Dallas Comeback Commands the Joule Lobby

The Tuscan-Inspired Eatery is Back and Prettier Than Ever Thanks to Dallas Designer Jean Liu

BY // 06.03.22
photography Douglas Friedman

A visit to the new Italian eatery Sassetta is like visiting an old friend — one you hadn’t seen in years and looking better than ever, with a fresh attitude. The Headington Companies concept premiered in the Dallas Design District in 2017 but, like so many others, closed during the pandemic. The restaurant now commands the lobby of The Joule hotel, taking over the space of the former Americano, and has been reimagined by Dallas designer Jean Liu.

Tim Headington, who has led the renaissance of downtown Dallas (with The Joule and Forty Five Ten) for more than a decade, named Sassetta after a village in the region of Tuscany for which he has a soft spot. Before my visit, I asked Liu to name a favorite design element, and I spotted it right away: “The de Gournay mural probably takes the cake,” she said. “It’s an abstracted landscape of the Tuscan hillside representing the restaurant’s namesake, the village of Sassetta. It was a custom piece we collaborated on for months with de Gournay. The embroidered sections throughout make it hard to call it a wallcovering — instead, we prefer to consider it wall couture.” And we agree: The mural, with its undulating shades of browns, reds, and burnt orange, is dramatic.

550 3.jpg MUST RUN (Photo by Douglas Friedman)
Hen o’ the Woods pizza and the Il Buco Vita Goddess pitcher. (Photo by Thanin Viriyaki)

We were seated in the area of the dining room that had been opened up to create a patio-like al fresco setting with views of the cosmopolitan sidewalk action. We began with a Carmenta’s Spell cocktail, which is named for the Roman goddess. Not only was it delish, but we loved the whimsical Il Buco Vita hand-blown Goddess pitcher it’s served in, which resembles a voluptuous angel. The pitcher will easily draw two to four guests into her intoxicating spell. (A limited number of the pitchers are available for sale at Forty Five Ten.)

The menu at first seems classically Italian, but a closer look at the ingredients reveals intriguing tastes. Conceived by executive chef Mat Urban, the menu references the Mediterranean regions of Southern France, Northern Africa, and Spain. When asked about his personal favorites, Urban says, “I go straight for the Bolognese. Everything is house-made, from the noodles to ground meats and guanciale made at Commissary. Our secret ingredient is a bit of chicken liver in the sauce for extra flavor and richness.”

528 JeanLiu_Sassetta_066-F (Photo by Douglas Friedman)
Liu designed Sassetta in The Joule to be a subtle nod to Harry’s Bar in Venice. (Photo by Douglas Friedman)

With its subtle nod to Harry’s Bar in Venice, this new incarnation will be a hit with all who have missed Sassetta. Currently open only for dinner, we’re hopeful brunch might soon be on the horizon. We’re always on the lookout for a relaxed, picture-perfect spot with intriguing people watching to while away a Sunday afternoon.

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