Because of my lack of enthusiasm for Italian food, and disappointment at Italian restaurants that, for the most part, dish out heavy tomato sauce and cream sauce pastas, Salento’s olive oil-based, simple dishes hailing from the Puglian region and Salentine peninsula on the heel of Italy’s boot piqued my interest. Perhaps I just need to try Italian food from another region of
Warning: bad photos ahead! The lights were very dim during the dinner service. I’ve read other reviews liken the white washed, sparse interior of Salento to a basement, but it was the dim, intermittently flickering wall sconces (electrical problem, not intentional), that really made the dining room feel like a basement – a boisterous basement of diners, though; I could barely hear anything by partner sitting across from me at our tiny two-top said all night long.
Our dinner started with complimentary bread and olives. I generally stay away from bread, or else I won’t have room for the actual meal. I pinched a corner of the bread, and ate an olive. Yep, bread and olives. Nice if you need it, but I didn’t.
When this grilled radicchio with gorgonzola, and balsamic reduction hit the table, the first thing my partner said was, “It smells burned.” The balsamic drizzle was not sweet enough to cut the bitterness of the overly charred greens – the radicchio itself was not even that bitter. Bitter greens, carbon char, and pungent cheese do not make a good combination, in my opinion.
The boy had the grilled butterfish with shrimp (shrimp were left off per his request), roasted broccoli (you can’t see it; it’s under the fish), and roasted potatoes. The flavors were simple, with just a touch of olive oil and garlic.
Salento marks the dishes hailing from the Puglian region of
I ordered the linguine aglione with roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, and shaved ricotta – a simple pasta tossed with a few roasted tomatoes, but, to my delight, many roasted garlic cloves.
Again, the flavors were simple, but good. Although, I felt like I could replicate this pasta dish easily at home, and while this is not a sign of a bad dish, I usually expect food in restaurants to exceed my own cooking abilities. Is this Salento’s fault, or the fault of a cuisine that is inherently simple?
Seeing as I ran out of steam before I could finish my generously portioned pasta, we skipped dessert.
The service at Salento was attentive, if not a little too thorough. We had a server; many different kitchen/floor boys ushering plates and filling water glasses; and a managerial-type stopped a couple of times to ask how things were.
Other than the radicchio appetizer, Salento did not disappoint; it just did not excite. But if you enjoy Italian food more than myself, have a palate for simple flavors, and are looking for something other than red sauce-topped pasta, do check out Salento.
2216 Walnut Street
Tues.-Thurs., 5-10p.m.; Fri.-Sat., ; Sun.,