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Salvatore’s

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Salvatore’s
Salvatore’s eggplant parmesan has portions fit for two. (Photo: Tiffany Probasco)

Author: Tiffany ProbascoSalvatore’s eggplant parmesan has portions fit for two.

Author: Tiffany ProbascoSalvatore’s eggplant parmesan has portions fit for two.

Italian cuisine is almost synonymous with the word Boston. In a city rich in Italian immigration history, it’s no surprise to find Italian gastronomy in almost every neighborhood. However, quantity does not always equal quality. The amount of Italian food available makes it harder for quality food to stand out. Fortunately there’s Salvatore’s — one of my favorite Italian hot spots, which I think soon will become one of yours.

The Décor

Salvatore’s has five locations in Andover, Lawrence, Medford, Boston’s Seaport and the Theater District. I recently visited their Theater District location at 545 Washington St. It’s great to see that Salvatore’s is one of the pioneers in the revitalization of the area.

The area has seen a major facelift, with major neighborhood revitalization projects like the Opera House, Emerson’s Paramount Theater and a condo high-rise currently under construction. Salvatore’s has filled out the block by moving into an old video arcade that had been vacant for several years.

There are no traces of gaming machines here. Instead, the space has gone with an upscale Manhattan dining room feel with contemporary design booths and wooden chairs. Old Italian theater paintings line the walls and hang between large television screens above the bar. The entire restaurant is open concept, so even from the dining area you’re able to view the game. The bar area has tall tables that are conducive to mingling. If you’re not into sports, it can get a little loud, so just don’t plan your anniversary dinner the night of a championship game.

General Manager Elizabeth Murray commented on the revamp of the neighborhood.

“Seeing the Theater District transform and have an identity again is great,” she said. “We’re happy to be a part of that. We of course aim to have guests come here from out of town, and the theater community, but it’s so important for us to have our regulars in the neighborhood [come in] — that means a lot to us.”

Drinks and Bites

Drinks:

To cleanse my palate I started off with the I Heart Ginger. If you really like ginger, this is the perfect drink for you. The combination of Bacardi Oak Heart spiced rum, Domaine de Canton (a French ginger liqueur), fresh lime and lemon juices, agave nectar and ginger beer blend perfectly together to deliver a pleasantly spicy kick.

My absolute favorite drink is their Aperol Spritzer. Not many places carry aperol, but it is an authentic Italian summer drink, though it’s so popular they have it on the menu all year long. It simply consists of aperol, martini presecco, ice cold soda and orange slice. It’s a perfect cocktail blend for a warm summer evening.

Bites:

In true Italian fashion, I sampled (well, more than sampled in some cases) something from each part of the expansive menu.

Assiagi (Italian-style appetizers)

One of the most popular items in this category is the Arancini Fiorentina — carnaroli risotto balls stuffed with spinach and gorgonzola and served with marinara. They were very crispy and well-presented. Surprisingly, they were not my favorite. The risotto could be a bit softer, but it certainly had a very balanced flavor; the cheese wasn’t overpowering, nor was the spinach.

The staff and chef also raved about the Scallops Limoncello, which pairs locally sourced scallops with a flavorful creamy citrus sauce.

Insalata (Salad)

The Signature Salad was probably one of the best salads I’ve had in a while; mixed greens, gorgonzola cheese and sliced apples are tossed in their house dressing. These simple ingredients take you on a journey of textures and flavors — the soft crunch of the salad, the crisp bite of the apple and the smooth citrus flavor of the dressing all in one. Fantastico!

Primi (First course)

The pastas here are made fresh every day, so I was excited to try one of my Italian favorites: Butternut [Squash] Ravioli. They artfully blend the creaminess of the butternut squash with the sweet density of dried figs and the mildness of gorgonzola and cream. After taking the first bite, I had to pause for a moment to savor all the richness. The artful layering of complex flavors with creamy overtones enveloped my taste buds and made me almost sad to move on to the next course.

Secondi (Second course)

For the second course, I chose the eggplant parmesan, and when it came, I thought — this is for one person? The portion was definitely enough for two. In my experience, eggplant parmesan can easily be over-salted with breading or over-oiled with cheese. This eggplant parmesan was incredibly balanced. The fresh mozzarella cheese quality really made a difference in solidifying all the flavors together. This was not just a dish, but an expertly executed tight-rope performance of flavor.

Dolce (Dessert)

The Signature Dessert is a brick oven-fired dessert pizza filled with melted Nutella and chocolate chips drizzled with cherry and chocolate syrup — and topped with whipped cream. If you are a chocolate lover, get it.

Executive Chef Joe Gracyalny explained the food preparation process. He says about 80 percent of everything they make is from scratch, including the sausage and pepperoni. He trained at the Seaport location for almost two years before he came to the Theater District location, so he knows the recipes inside and out. Although Gracyalny has an Italian background, he was trained in French cuisine, which influences his preparation of the sauces.

He says the key to their flavor balancing is timing.

“We train the staff to add the right flavors at the right time. We also turn out the food at a steady pace, so patrons are able to fully enjoy the meal,” he said.

He’s a very hands-on chef, and says that he is in the restaurant frequently to check in and work the line. He also says the company promotes new ideas and creativity, which enables him to directly regulate quality.

“When I first came on they wanted to update their meatballs,” he said. “It took about four or five trial recipes, but now my recipe is used in all of the Salvatore locations.”

Events and Specials

For those who have Celiac Disease or gluten issues, Salvatore’s has a full gluten-free menu that is almost the size of their regular menu. This also includes gluten-free desserts.

The location also provides 10 percent discounts to their Emerson and Suffolk college neighbors. They work very closely with Broadway in Boston and the Boston Opera House. If you sign up for membership at www.broadwayinboston.com, you can get a 20 percent discount at the restaurant using their discount card.

They hope to add a late night menu soon, similar to their Seaport location. They also plan to add a “happy hour” bar menu.

Why You Should Visit

The number one reason you should come to Salvatore’s is to have an amazing culinary experience — bar none. The care that they put into the food shows in every single dish. I recommend purchasing different items to share, or simply come back and try something different each time!

Salvatore’s
545 Washington St.
Boston, MA 02111
617-542-5555
www.salvatoresrestaurants.com