225 Johnson St.
Sassella, which opened next to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in July, aims to raise the bar for Italian food in Santa Fe. Under the culinary direction of executive chef/partner Cristian Pontiggia, it offers a variety of classic, mostly northern Italian dishes punctuated with innovative approaches to traditional ingredients, some of which are more successful than others. The restaurant has energy and ambition, and it shows great promise of reaching its fine-dining goals. You could spend years exploring the extraordinary resources of the bar.
Recommended: negroni flight ($18), affettati misti ($18), Caesar a Modo Mio ($18), penne al barbera ($23 ), lamb shank Milano ($38), Nocciole e Cacao ($14 ). — Patricia West-Barker, Oct. 11
1291 San Felipe Ave., Suite 2505-204-7869madamematisse.com
Madame Matisse, native Parisian chef Eric De Margerie’s petite café in a small, boxy light-industrial space on a Cerrillos Road side street, has a captivating counter full of practically perfect pastries and a menu featuring French classics from onion soup and quiche Lorraine to croque madame — with some nods to Americanism and the Southwest in between. Ambience is a bit lacking, but service is friendly, quick, attentive, and professional and the food is flavorful and largely quite enjoyable. Recommended: croissant ($2.50), cinnamon twist ($3.50), apricot Danish ($3.50), butter cookies ($7), Florentine omelet ($10.50), Nutella crêpe ($8.50), onion soup ($6.50), and spinach-mushroom quiche ($10.50). — Laurel Gladden, Sept. 13
311 Old Santa Fe Trail
The newest addition to the ever-morphing New Mexico Fine Dining empire and the newest tenant of the restaurant space at Garrett’s Desert Inn, Jimmy D’s (presumably named for NMFD’s co-helmer Jimmy Day) is like a mid-20th-century fever dream, with eye-popping colors and graphics in the main dining room and a bar that recalls the Brady Bunch’s living room or another vaguely cartoonish mid-mod fantasy. The menu is fittingly retro, too, with restaurantified versions of comfort-food all-stars, from pancake breakfasts to country-fried steak. Recommended: Jimmy’s Burger ($14), avocado dip ($7), huevos rancheros ($10), Hangover Hash ($14), chicken salad club sandwich ($10), Nikkirita ($14). — L.G., Aug. 23