About a year ago, I arrived in Rome with two years of college Italian and a fairly good grasp on how to pronounce my favorite Italian menu items State-side. I was fortunate enough to have some knowledgeable friends to take me around as I learned the language and the town, and one of my first weekends here happened to be the wine-tastic extravaganza known as Sensofwine (back again this Thursday!). My afternoon at Sensofwine was educational in many regards (there really is no better way to learn the distinctions of different Italian wines than to try all of them in succession – actually, that’s not totally true, after a while they do start to blend together to my as-yet-still-unrefined palate), but the most important acquisition I made that day (in addition to a love of lardo), was linguistic.
The word assaggio (from the verb assaggiare) is, simply, a taste. A taste of wine, a taste of prosciutto, a taste of lardo, a taste or sample of anything. It is incredibly useful at events like this – Posso avere un assaggio di questo Barolo? (Can I have a taste of this Barolo?) or Vorrei assaggiare il castelmagno (I would like to try the castelmagno cheese) – and really carries you through all sampling situations. I mean, when faced with 100+ options at Il Gelato, you can’t be expected to just pick one without asking for an assaggio, si?
So there you have it. Assaggio is the noun (“a taste”), and assaggiare is the verb (“to taste”). A few simple phrases:
Posso assaggiare – Can I taste?
Posso avere un assaggio – Can I have a taste?
Vuoi assaggiare? – Would you like to taste?