When Clemenza instructed Michael Corleone how to cook for twenty or more, he told him simply to take a “little bit of oil, fry some garlic, throw in some tomatoes, shove in your sausages and your meatballs and a little bit of wine.”
Fellow Sicilian Salvatore Piccione neither throws nor shoves. He is far more subtle and nimble in his preparations of delicious variations on traditional Italian dishes. Most recipes are his own, with suggestions and additions from his sister, maitre’d and co-owner Angela Alagna.
The deliberately “homey” (Angela’s word) interior is divided into three sections: primary (seating 70) and secondary (seating 35) dining rooms and a spacious bar. The ambiance is enhanced by walls sponge-painted in a soft ochre and arched niches with Italian ceramic pots that are decorated with green vines.
Notwithstanding the white tablecloths and napkins, the atmosphere is informal and relaxed, enough even for those who insist on wearing jeans to dinner. The staff is unusually friendly and attentive – without having to shout, since tables are set apart sufficiently for everyone’s conversational ease and the separate dining rooms can’t hear each other. Even better, the bar does not attract a raucous crowd.
You can begin with any of twelve specialty cocktails, ranging from five martini variations to “Sal’s Lemonade” (Meyer lemon juice, infused vodka with Sicilian blood orange, mango and passion fruits). There are more than 30 selections of red wine and 20 of white, mainly from California; eight are available by the glass.
Dinner is a treat. Nine versions of antipasti. Five salads. Ten pasta combinations. Four vegetarian dishes. Entrees of veal, chicken or fish.
Let’s start. Antipasti of calamari Palermo (their hometown of Mazara Del Vallo is one hundred kilometers from Palermo) consists of tender baby squid sautéed with tomatoes, capers, garlic and fresh herbs. Insulata D’Angela (I told you she had her own inventions) of field greens, apples, toasted pecans and gorgonzola cheese in a honey vinaigrette dressing.
All pastas are excellent and half-orders are available for children (who will find no pizzas in this ristorante). Particularly recommended are the authentic Sicilian Melenzana Ripiena (eggplant filled with veal, sausage, potatoes and cheese in a marinara sauce) or the Fettuccine al Gamberetto (fettuccine tossed with shrimp, peas, tomato and cream sauce).
For a main course, you might consider either my favorite Vitella alla Salvatore (veal, prosciutto, mozzarella, herbs and chardonnay wine) or Sogliola (filet of sole, with capers, lemon and white wine). If you choose to go there on Tuesday, Saturday or Sunday, you can indulge yourself with Salvatore’s stunning lasagna. The local frozen food section would not recognize the exceptionally thin, hand-made pasta which cradles hand-ground beef in the “house” tomato sauce. Nightly specials can vary from lamb chops to osso bucco to salmon to…
First course and entree ranges between $27-32.00, without drinks. However, Salvatore’s also has a Tuesday evening prix fixe (or whatever Italians say) menu at $20.00 and a “happy hour” menu for the bar (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, 5-7 p.m.) which will surprise you with its variety, price and generous portions.
Salvatore’s has been at the same location since moving here from San Francisco in 1996: 1627 North Broadway, Walnut Creek (925-932-2828). Parking is convenient – for Walnut Creek anyway – across the street in the new library parking lot (which is free after 6 p.m.). Salvatore’s is open Tuesday through Sunday between 5-9:30 p.m., but until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It accepts reservations. I suspect that it will be accepted enthusiastically by you as well.
Filed Under: Lifestyle