Sal's Ristorante review
1012 Jericho Tpke. Smithtown, NY 11787
Sal’s Ristorante description A cozy and comfortable spot in Smithtown is Sal's Ristorante, an Italian restaurant serving up ... More »
Related mediaSal’s Ristorante 25 Cheap Eats to try on LI 2013's 10 best new Cheap Eats restaurants 2013's 10 best new Fine Dining restaurants 49 recent restaurant closures on LI 25 fine dining reviews, from Italian to sushi
A red exclamation point punctuates the sign of Sal's Ristorante, which brightens a bleak stretch of road in Smithtown. On wintry nights, the place has a certain radiance, its butternut squash-colored walls hung with resolutely cheerful art. Settle into one of the comfortable upholstered booths and order a glass of wine -- plus a focaccia pillow.
What you'll get is a big pouf of baked pizza dough topped with a zesty garlic, oil and herb mixture. Owner Salvatore Formica describes it as the fortunate outcome of a baking accident. Whatever its origins, it's hard to stop tearing off just another piece. Consider, as well, a personal-sized Napolitana pizzetta whose puffy-crisp crust is crowned with a bright meld of tomato sauce and mozzarella.
But rice balls here are leaden, flavorless. And both the minestrone and Italian wedding soup are underseasoned, as well.
Sharing a plate at lunch: A gummy and bland rendition of ricotta-stuffed manicotti and a lush and satisfying version of chicken Parmigiana. An odd couple. Meat lasagna is a classic, respectfully rendered. Better yet, one night, is the vibrant vegetable lasagna.
Executive chef Pedro Alvarez shows his skill in the pork chop ala cherry peppers -- thick, meaty, juicy and topped with a rousing marinara-hot pepper mix. Savory though it may be, however, bone-in chicken scarpariello turns up with more bones than meat.
Gnocchi Bolognese possesses that light, melting quality you look for in semolina dumplings. And occhi del bue arrabbiata -- short rigatoni in a spicy garlic and olive-laced red sauce -- delivers up just the right fiery kick.
The only house-made dessert, most nights, is cannoli. Otherwise, you'll find commercially sourced finales, among them a hazelnut truffle and a chocolate fondant layer cake. Not terrible; just boring.
In the end, what puts the exclamation point on Sal's is its inherent warmth. It's where you want to be on a chilly night.