Salvatore, Italian Trattoria-Pizzeria in Naka-Meguro, Tokyo
Review of Salvatore
Text by John Rayner
The mere mention of the words “Italian cuisine” is enough to set this writer’s mouth salivating at thoughts of pasta, pizza and red wine, and while there is an abundance of Italian restaurants in Tokyo, nowhere does these dishes better or more authentically than Salvatore in Naka-Meguro. The cuisine at Salvatore isn’t limited to one regional style either; the pizzas are genuine Naples fare: thin, crispy and delicious, while Tuscan and Roman influences are apparent in many of the other dishes.
Naka-Meguro is fast gaining a reputation as one of the places for young, trendy types to dine out and Salvatore offers a very European setting, situated away from the noise of the traffic and overlooking the canal. The restaurant is located on 3 floors, with the 1st floor being used as a café/bar for people to stop off for a quick drink, snack or take out. The second floor is the main dining area where the view is most impressive in Spring when the cherry trees lining the canal are in full-bloom. The 3rd floor houses the kitchen, where the sumptuous dishes are created and the bread is baked in the ovens.
The décor itself is refined, without being overstated. The air-conditioners are hidden away behind slats, the walls are decorated with Mediterranean-style pictures and there is a beautiful brick arch embedded into the ceiling over the center of the room. The kitchen contains the pizza oven, which reaches temperatures of 600 degrees Celsius, and was commissioned by the owner using specialist craftsmen flown over from Naples. Indeed, pizzas are the specialty of Salvatore and the menu contains a selection of 25 varieties for diners to sample.
For our visit we opted for the Spacca Napoli Dinner Course, which along with the cheaper Bell’ Italia Course and the more expensive La Cena dello Chef Course, makes up the 3 courses on offer at Salvatore. Whilst the a la carte menu has an extensive list of options for those with smaller appetites, the course menu offers excellent value for money if you are feeling hungry. There is also an extensive wine list featuring wines from all the major regions of Italy.
Our dinner started with a welcome glass of sparkling wine to set the mood and sharpen the palate, and was accompanied by a selection of homemade bread, each type offering a unique flavor with our favorite being the oval breadsticks containing fennel seeds. This was swiftly followed by a delightful plate of assorted delicacies: cauliflower, deep-red prosciutto, creamy pumpkin, zucchini, oyster, grilled tomato, mushrooms and fish. The variety and effusion of flavors made each bite a real treat. The selection included a cut of “mekajiki” swordfish, which had a lovely sharp flavor that complimented the other ingredients well.
Next up was the moment we had been especially looking forward to: the arrival of one of Salvatore’s famous signature pizzas. Being a big fan of tomato-base pizzas, I was a little apprehensive about trying a cheese-only pizza, but the gorgonzola topped with paprika and salsiccia-sausage was outstanding. The crust was absolutely perfect, in fact as good as anything I’ve had in Italy itself, and the toppings complimented each other well. There was a decent smothering of gorgonzola, the bell peppers were oven roasted for 1 hour to bring out their full sweetness, and the salsiccia would occasionally contain small clumps of rosemary, adding a beautiful herby intensity to the flavor.
Our waiter, Kanai-san then served us our pasta dish; bucatini pasta with pancetta and pecorino goats cheese; the sauce containing 2 unique varieties of tomato. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the cheese held the sauce and pasta together well, so that my usual sauce dripping antics were thankfully absent from this pasta eating experience.
After a break to allow the stomach to settle, we were served our main dish; a choice of meat or fish. I opted for the meat, which was slow-cooked Japanese oxtail, a traditional Roman dish (Coda alla vaccinara) of simmered beef-tail served with mashed potato and celery in a thick tomato sauce. The beef was a tender, fall off the bone “niku delight”, and following the pizza and pasta just about the right volume and richness. My partner chose the fish, which was a large cut of sea-bass accompanied by squid, mussels, clams and all served in a soothing prawn soup stock.
Wine & Dessert
We left the choice of wine up to the staff and they didn’t disappoint; the estate bottled Dolcetto d’Alba 2005 complimented our food nicely. This Piedmont wine had light tannins, and although it was quite a full-bodied wine, it was very soft on the palate. It had a nice fruity aroma, with hints of blackberry and blackcurrant.
Another aspect we thoroughly enjoyed was the dolce del giorno (dessert of the day) as we were served a variety of small treats, containing an imaginative mix of flavors, the highlight being an amaretto soaked apricot tart, with the rum soaked baba a close second. As one would expect, the meal was rounded off with a coffee of our choice, in my case a fine espresso.
Service & Hospitality
The staff at Salvatore Trattoria provide friendly, informative service without being obtrusive, and their enthusiasm for and knowledge of Italian cuisine is quite extensive. They will be happy to explain about the ingredients and cooking methods involved in the dishes, and to recommend a wine to compliment your dinner.
So finally, with so many Italian restaurants around to choose from, the only question left to answer is “Would we go back to Salvatore?” The answer: “Si, Certo!!” (Definitely!!)
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
1-22-4 Kami-meguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0051