Good food is a treat. But good company and good atmosphere really make the dining experience. The WMSE Food Slam has all that in spades, do did my visit to SALA. WMSE Volunteer Coordinator Chris DeMay and I had one of those dinners that leaves you smiling until you fall asleep.
Run by Teresa Balistreri, a peach of a gal if ever there was one, and her brother Tony, SALA (the restaurant formerly known as Sala da Pranzo) has recently been remodeled and its menu given a bit of new spin as well. It’s cozy, lively and friendly and the same can be said of its food. Everything about it has an energy that makes you comfortable and happy. It’s lovely to feel like something special is going on right at your table while something else special is going on in the room around you. One of the joys of eating out is being part of a convivial communion. SALA is the place for that.
You’ll find a menu full of Italian favorites, all sounding so good it’s hard to choose. Chris and I settled on classic bruschette, beet, arugula and goat cheese salad, saltinbocca and one of the night’s several specials, lasagna. If ever two things were happy together it’s tomatoes and bread. A crunchy and fresh combo is a great, if messy, way to get your appetite going. (Seriously, has anybody ever been able to eat bruschette gracefully?) Speaking of grace, the beet, goat cheese and arugula salad was all sorts of delicate, each element of great quality, making it a really good version of this favorite. The lasagna delighted in similar ways. “It’s exactly what you want from lasagna,” Chris said. “It’s really well layered and the ricotta is so creamy.” Each bite was a little different, showing off more quality ingredients, all playing so well together whatever combination came in the forkful.
The saltinbocca, chicken breasts topped with prosciutto and parmesan over angel hair pasta with a sage beurre blanc, well, I wanted to just snuggle right into the plate. “Velvety and fortifying,” Chris said. Perfectly done chicken breasts, a rarity when eating out, I find, made it even better.
By the time we were taking our lasts bites, I’m pretty sure we were glowing, prompting Chris to say, “They do it really well here; to create something special out of something people do (eat) several times a day.” Which brings us to Chris’s musical pairing: “Great meals, like great records, are journeys of the mind and senses. At best, something that takes the participant on a ride—not merely from point A to B—but to another place altogether new and original, a world unto its own. One record that comes to mind is Ghost of the Great Highway by Sun Kil Moon —Mark Kozelek’s masterpiece from 2003. It sustains as well as enriches the listener. It never fails to take me somewhere.”
yours on a convivial journey,
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