Located a mere stone’s throw from Main Street Mornington, Assaggini is a relaxed dining experience offering world-class Italian fare.
Head Chef Mattia Di Febbo hails from Abruzzo in Italy, a unique region with steep mountain ranges that borders the Adriatic Sea. It’s an area known for its rich cuisine and artisan producers, from fishermen to pasta-makers and world-renowned winemakers.
This traditional ethos and dedication to craft is woven throughout the Assaggini experience. Working alongside restaurant manager Alex Tatchell, the pair have crafted a sophisticated offering combining contemporary Italian cuisine with good old-fashioned hospitality.
A recent renovation has seen every nook and cranny transformed, complete with a moody tiled bar, velvet lounges and navy-blue leather booths.
“We’ve created little vignettes within the restaurant so that it’s a different experience each time you visit; there’s truly no bad seat in the house,” says Alex of the architectural design.
A dimly-lit sunken dining room creates a cellar-like environment, though you can still watch the people peeling off Main Street walking by. You can pull up a classic bentwood chair or park at the bar to take in the theatrics.
Crowd-pleasing snacks and assaggi are perfect for sharing, including polenta chips with black truffle salt, and pumpkin and pea arancini with house-made mayo and delicate herbs.
A seafood-centric main menu has been designed to showcase the best of the Mornington Peninsula. You can start with the oysters – served with finger lime and prosecco sorbet – before moving on to the seafood fritto misto with seasonal leaves and lemon mayo. Larger plates include the house-made linguine with prawns and calamari that’s finished with a light bisque.
The offering also includes dedicated plant-based, gluten and dairy-free menus. “We treat the restaurant as a big dinner party, and if you’ve got guests over at your house, you’re going to cater for them,” says Alex.
Sweet tooths will delight in a visually stunning selection of dolce, including a pistachio and white chocolate mousse topped with edible blooms, served alongside a tangy house-made raspberry sorbet.
An extensive wine list features regional Italian drops that play into the food story. Investing in a Coravin wine preservation system allows the team to offer premium wines by the glass, encouraging diners to try new varietals without committing to the bottle. A full-bodied Contesa Pecorino and a fruity Rosato IGT Terre di Chieti offer a nod to Mattia’s roots, whilst local options include a Trofeo Estate Pinot Noir, a Paringa Estate Pinot Gris and a crisp Montalto Estate Cuvée One.
An impressive cocktail list features a mix of signatures and classics, such as the Yuzu Highball made with Saint Felix yuzu and green tea, topped with a zesty citrus fizz – or the Bon Bon – made with limoncello, butterscotch and Ertistoff vodka. There’s also a generous selection of zero-proof options, including the Senza Spritz, a non-alcoholic riff on the Aperol Spritz.
With the capacity to seat 70 across the venue, Assaggini is made for romantic date nights, long lunches and casual catch-ups with friends. It’s a warm and welcoming space that encourages you to linger, prompting multi-course dining and many a share plate. A visit to this well-loved, modern Italian dining destination is a chance to reconnect, socialise and celebrate local produce and hospitality as its very best.