Sassy Sassi

In the midst of the growing trend of minimalist, modern eateries on the YYC scene, Sassi has strutted into Mission in spectacular style.

I recently chose to celebrate my birthday at Sassi Kitchen & Bar, because I’ve outgrown Earls and Joeys – at least when it comes to “celebrating” the fading of my youth.

As soon as you hit upwards of 25ish, your birthday becomes less about celebrating becoming more of an adult, than it is trying to prove to others (including yourself) that you are, indeed an adult with everything together.

Restaurants like Earls and Joeys – while fun (and full of delicious eye candy), are places that I remember going to with friends when I was…let’s just say a lot younger. I remember all of us feeling so cool that we had graduated from hanging out at Boston Pizza and Denny’s. But now, the thought of having my birthday at an Earls or Joeys gave me the uncomfortable feeling that I would be desperately trying to relive memories of my younger days.

Sassi is a great, sophisticated restaurant if you're looking for something a little bit swanky but not super expensive.

No, for my upwards of 25ish birthday, I needed to take things to a new level. I needed something sophisticated and unique...and dazzling. Bring on the chandeliers, the ravishing décor and elegant martini glasses. After all, no matter how upwards I get in age, I will always want to make a splash on my birthday. #AgingInStyle

Situated in the heart of 4th street among trendy pizzerias and sushi establishments, Sassi is a contemporary European-themed restaurant with a stunning interior. Decorated with luminous white furnishings and eye-catching chandeliers that contrast nicely with the black wall unit of the bar, Sassi’s atmosphere is anything but subtle.

“The lighting of the interior was what inspired the look and feel of Sassi,” says Mary Balkos, co-owner. “We designed the place so that during the day, the natural sunlight pouring in through the windows merges with our white decor to create a radiant glow; in the evening, the chandeliers set a warm, beautiful mood.”

Myself and Mary Balkos, co-owner of Sassi.

Balkos and her husband Chris Balkas (that’s right, their last names are one letter off from being identical!), both former Torontonians, opened Sassi in November of 2015, after the space had been sitting vacant for over ten years.

“Before we moved in here, this place was a hole in the ground,” explains Balkos. “And then Strategic Group (an Alberta-based real estate group) developed this building and now we have an amazing community of different businesses on this block.”

The experience of walking into Sassi is how I imagine it’s like to enter an Oscars or Emmy after-party. A swanky white bench flanked by vintage-looking pillows adorned with the faces of Elvis and Marilyn greets you at the entrance. When you walk into the dining area, you’re captivated by the lofty interior design, enhanced by grandiose paintings of angel statues.

The entrance way of Sassi has plenty of personality and style. 

“The angel statue paintings are portraits of the exterior of the Paris Opera House,” notes Balkos.

Wait a minute…the same Paris Opera House haunted by the Phantom?

“Yes!!!” exclaims Balkos.

Turns out, Balkos is a huge fan of the musical, The Phantom of the Opera, having seen it numerous times in Toronto, and the show’s majestic theme provided a little extra inspiration for Sassi.

Myself and my friend Madeline in front of one of the angel statue paintings at Sassi.  

So what kind of restaurant is Sassi exactly? Well, think of it as European fusion. After all, many of us enjoy Asian fusion restaurants, where you can get sushi, Pad Thai and ginger beef. Why not have a European fusion restaurant, where you can savour French pate, Italian pasta and pizza, and Greek/ Mediterranean cuisine like hummus and olives?

For appetizers, Balkos strongly recommends Sassi’s lamp lollipops.

“They are so succulent, tender and flavourful, that our customers often want more…and a lot of times they will order more!” remarks Balkos. “Sometimes they get so hooked on how tasty our lamp lollipops are, that they’re inspired to order our rack of lamb for their entrée – which is fabulous by the way!”

While I’m getting pretty up there in age, I’m still at the stage in life where my friends and I are more of a pizza, burgers and salads type of crowd – and Sassi’s expert chefs are excellent at pleasing this type of crowd as well.

Sassi’s frites with truffle oil and parmigiano is an appetizer to die for. The orgasmic combination of the savoury truffle oil and parmesan cheese pretty much sent me to heaven with every bite.

The Veg Out pizza comes with a generous amount of roasted red peppers, mushrooms, black olives, oregano and arugula. And the size of Sassi’s pizzas are massive. The pizzas come equipped with scissors for you to use to cut your slices, as the pizzas aren’t pre-sliced in the kitchen. An advantage to this is, is that if you have an eating companion who wants to try a slice of your pizza and you really don’t feel like sharing, you have control of how large a slice you cut.

The Veg Out pizza, like all the other pizzas offered at Sassi, comes with scissors for you to cut your slices. 

Like many other fine pizza establishments in the city, Sassi’s pizzas come with chili flakes and oil on the side for added flavour. Err…just be careful not to pour on too many chili flakes or you might find yourself downing your martinis too quickly.

The Caprese Salad, with ripe tomatoes, burrata and arugula is pretty average – nothing compared to the glorious Caprese Salad at UNA. But the grilled chicken I ordered with the salad was excellent indeed. The flavourful, large portion of chicken really helped turn my salad into a complete meal.

If you order the Caprese Salad, I highly recommend getting it with chicken. 

As for drinks, the signature Sassi Martini is a delicious concoction of vodka, Amaretto, Crème de Cassis, and lime and pineapple juice. You might also enjoy the Between the Sheets martini, a refreshing blend of brandy, Cointreau, lemon juice and “a lot of fun!” according to Sassi’s co-owner Chris Balkas. If you’re a bourbon fan, Sassi also whips up one hell of an Old Fashioned, guaranteed to hit the spot. How do I know all this? I drank all of these on my birthday – and would gladly do it again!

The Sassi Martini is Sassi's signature cocktail.  

What I also really liked about Sassi is how spacious the place is. There’s room to move around and enjoy yourself without feeling like you’re elbow to elbow with the next table. Walking through the restaurant towards the bathroom, there’s so much space that you can casually pass servers carrying food and drinks without feeling nervous about knocking someone or something over.

The spaciousness can be attributed to Balkos and Balkas limiting the amount of tables inside, so guests don’t feel cramped. Therefore, it’s strongly recommended you make a reservation well ahead of time.

And if you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion or just want to organize a meal with a large group of people, Sassi has a beautiful “royal table” that can seat twenty guests and make you feel like you’re at a tea party in a fairy tale.

Sassi is a great place to have a birthday party!  

So whether you’re celebrating aging gracefully, going on a date, enjoying a night out on the town with friends, or simply wanting to appreciate a good quality meal in a stylish environment, Sassi Kitchen & Bar is your escape to a world of glitz and decadence, conveniently in Mission.

“What we really want is for people to walk into Sassi and be transported to a fresh, crisp and unique environment,” says Balkos.

So come on in, sip on a signature cocktail and enjoy what sassy Sassi has to offer.