For quite a few years, my husband Jack and I enjoyed occasional visits to Salvatore's Italian Grill in Howland Township, Ohio. We'd work in a visit for lunch or dinner and stop at the wine shop next door to replenish our supply. Once in a while, we'd head south from Niles to the Austintown restaurant, which is familiar to many as the former site of The Lodge.
Since we moved to Mineral Ridge, though, the Austintown location has become the place to head; most recently, we acquired a taste for flatbread-style pizza and discovered some real treats here. A late lunch of the Monte Cristo (white pizza with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, $8.50) for me and an Old World Brier Hill for Jack (sauteed green peppers, onions and marinara sauce sprinkled with Romano cheese to which he adds pepperoni, $6.50 plus a buck for the extra topping, became almost a habit during the hot months of last summer.
Much of the ambience from The Lodge is still here - the dark wood interior and booths, exposed beams and a few things stuck up near the ceiling like an old clawfoot bathtub. There's a good-sized bar near the kitchen, and plenty of cold beer on tap.
Not long ago, armed with a $20 certificate for which we'd paid $10 at MyValleyDining.com, we headed back for lunch. This time, though, we weren't in the mood for pizza; instead, Jack ordered his always-favorite Philly steak sandwich ($9), substituting a salad for the fries for a $1.50 upcharge. The raspberry vinaigrette dressing, he said, is outstanding.
First came the usual basket of "regular" pizza squares and two crispy-on-the-outside warm Italian rolls. We tried hard not to fill up on them so we'd have no room for our entrees, but it was a struggle.
Since I was on the hungry side (plus I figured I could bring anything left over home for later), my choice was the lunch special sausage and green peppers over penne pasta ($8.99). Instead of a salad, I picked wedding soup, which is always delicious here, filled with lots of goodies. The pasta was excellent, and as expected, I brought home more than half of what was in my very large bowl.
Those who prefer baked Italian specialties should love the Eggplant Parmigiana or Lasagna Classico ($12.50 each, dinner portion) or the Stuffed Eggplant Rollantini (eggplant stuffed with ricotta cheese and ham topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese with a side of angel hair pasta ($11.50). My all-time favorite is Linguini Fra Diavlo - crab meat, shrimp and clams in a spicy tomato sauce and served over linguini (I ask for it to be made extra-spicy). Since it blows $15 all to heck I save it for very special occasions, but it's absolutely wonderful. There are a couple of salmon choices on the seafood menu that are delicious as well.
As for Jack, he swears the chicken alla cacciatore is better here than anywhere else ($13.50). The mushrooms, green peppers and fresh tomatoes complement the boneless chicken breast, and the marinara sauce is outstanding. I've also sampled the Chicken Francaise, a boneless breast in lemon white wine sauce served with capellini ($14.50), and still other favorites are the Penne Alla Vodka (penne in cream sauce with prosciutto, shallots and vodka, $14.50) and Penne Alla Arrabiata, or penne with prosciutto in that terrific spicy marinara sauce ($13.50).
For those so inclined, there are several vegetarian specialties here as well, including Penne Primavera with broccoli, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms and tomatoes with either garlic and extra-virgin olive oil or marinara sauce for $13.95. Or, you can built your own, choosing one vegetable and one pasta for $10.50.
Not too long ago when a couple of friends were visiting here from Columbus, we took them to Salvatore's for dinner and discovered a really great deal: Two dinners and a whole bottle of wine for $29.99. The wines (we picked cabernets) were quite good - no $4.95 unknown brand here - and each of us got to choose the entree we wanted (for me, it was that Penne Alla Arrabiata). One of these days, we're going to go for dinner just the two of us and do it all over again.
If you go:
Salvatore's Italian Grill
4831 Mahoning Ave.
Austintown, Ohio 44515
Open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday noon to 8 p.m.