The Columbus institution opens a new store in Dublin.
If you're a fan of well-made Italian-American comfort food served in absurdly generous portions and sold at very fair prices, then you might know about Salvi's.
Better than any national chain in the same hospitality game, the locally grown Salvi's has been pleasing Columbusites in different guises for more than four decades. Once dotting the city with popular eateries, Salvi's legacy was down to its last outpost in Hilliard until recently.
Open since early November, the latest Salvi's venture replaces a Dublin space formerly occupied by an upscale steakhouse chain called Stony Ridge. This new Salvi's is a casually handsome place in a predominantly polished dark-brown wood, lodge-like fashion. Open and roomy, it includes a duskily lit and comfy bar in its handful of dining areas. It's frequently populated by big groups of revelers and young couples out on dates.
The food you'll get here won't have you rethinking your ideas about Italian-American cuisine. But it'll likely have you thinking you should pop in more often. Similarly, while the smallish wine list won't thrill or excite, it contains familiar and reliable labels like Gabbiana, Masi and Antinori.
That bubbly old Spanish warhorse, Frexienet, would be a great sipping choice with the insanely gigantic Bistro Sampler ($13). An appetizer that could serve as dinner for four, it's overloaded with deep-fried, garlicky globes packed with tangy cheese, sausage, mushrooms and sun-dried tomato (they're irresistible) and regulation mozzarella sticks. There's also an addictive sausage and cheese dip with an attractive broiled crust (Bistro Fondue), plus a lot of bread, sauces and a big ol' brick of the famous PastaSalvi.
The latter, possibly invented by the devil, is a hard-to-stop-munching calorie bomb. Like a creamy and cheesy, bread-crumb-rolled, deep-fried, golden-brown lasagna, it comes with most every entree.
So does the kind of fun, old-school house salad. Presented family style in a serving bowl with tongs, its mixed greens (expect some iceberg) get significantly jazzed up with a couple pepperonis, banana peppers and a pleasantly assertive vinaigrette touched with oregano.
The Lasagna di Casa ($13) is a phenomenal value. About as subtle as a charging rhinoceros - but possibly larger - it's a fortress of comfort built with oozy and gooey provolone and ricotta, a rich and meaty red sauce, sausage and even a couple of gratuitous but nice meatballs. You could snack on this baby for days - and might want to.
Surf-n-turfers should target the Veal Riviera ($19). Lots of tender-enough veal and about a half-dozen good shrimp get swamped in a supremely creamy marsala wine sauce with lots of sauteed shiitake mushrooms and sweet vino flavor.
On the lighter side, the not-bad swordfish ($17) didn't have much "lime butter" flavor but it did have a nicely grilled character and a pineapple and bell pepper salsa. In a hubristic move, I opted out of the always spot-hitting PastaSalvi for a healthier vegetable medley; it arrived tepid and waterlogged.
I passed on dessert because a) I overheard a waiter say the tiramisu was "still frozen" and b) anyone who can eat a sweet after a satisfying and massive Salvi's dinner is a better glutton than I.
To read G.A. Benton's blog visit ColumbusDiningGuide.com