One of Harrogate’s most popular Italian restaurants is celebrating its 20th birthday – while its sister venue is marking its tenth year in business.
As a number of the spa town’s restaurants have shut their doors, Sasso and Caffe Marconi continue to go from strength to strength.
Family-run award-winning restaurant Sasso opened its doors in Princes Square, Harrogate, for the first time in May 1998 – the brainchild of Italian chef Stefano Lancellotti and his English wife Sara, along with her father Brian Ferguson.
Named after Stefano’s home town of Sasso Marconi, just outside Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, Sasso quickly built up a reputation across Harrogate and beyond for its home-made authentic Italian cuisine.
And it is a reputation that Stefano and Sara have built on during the past two decades in Harrogate – Sasso has had an entry in the The Good Food Guide almost every year since 2008.
“We are delighted to celebrate Sasso’s 20th birthday and Caffe Marconi’s tenth birthday – we are incredibly grateful to all our loyal customers for supporting us over the past two decades,” said Stefano.
And he puts the restaurant and café’s longevity down to providing consistently good home-made authentic Italian food.
“When Sasso first opened, there were just two of us in the kitchen and three staff in the restaurant – now there are six of us cooking in the kitchen and nine staff out front. We are delighted that our authentic home-made Italian cooking and excellent customer service continues to inspire,” he added.
After ten years in Harrogate, Stefano, Sara and Brian decided to open a second venue in the town – and Caffe Marcon was born. An authentic Italian café, a few doors away from Sasso, the venue becomes a bustling pizzeria by night.
Over the years. Stefano’s menu at Sasso has evolved, as well as the size of the restaurant. With just 60 covers in 1998, Stefano’s favourite dish then was Sformatino di funghi – individual porcini mushroom mousse with basil sauce.
In 2018, with 110 covers in Sasso and Caffe Marconi, Stefano’s favourite meal is Tagliolini con aglio, olio e frutti di mare – home-made pasta ribbons with sweet garlic, calamari, courgette and a Sicilian breadcrumb and chilli topping!
“Cooking has changed during the past 20 years with new cooking methods including Sous Vide which has revolutionized cooking meat, ensuring all the flavor and tenderness is kept,” said Stefano.
“And there has also been a move towards healthier eating – which is basically what Italian food is!” he added.
The restaurant scene – and the way people hear about the different eateries – in Harrogate has changed in the past two decades – with the arrival of plenty of chains offering discount vouchers and meal deals. Sasso has tried to combat this by continuing to offer authentic Italian cooking at reasonable prices.
“Social media has changed the way people hear about us – it’s rare these days to get a word of mouth recommendation, it’s through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!” said Stefano.