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Restaurants & Bars 3

Point Richmond - Salute e Vita

rworange | Jun 11, 200512:29 AM

I wasn’t totally offended by Salute e Vita (you know this can’t be good), but go back, no.

One look at the place set off warning bells that should have been heeded. It screamed “suburban restaurant”.

The review link below is pretty dead on target when it says “Despite the wonderful atmosphere … the meal is uneven -- not altogether bad, but seriously lacking in some areas, while shining in others.”

I didn’t get the shining part. I got the not all together bad part. It also just kept missing really good.

The bread was almost really good. The three small squares of olive oil brushed focaccia, sprinkled with rosemary was somewhere between good and Olive Garden quality. It was the same with the cruets of olive oil and balsamic vinegar which were good but not exceptional. Three slices of Italian bread which had a chewy crust, were only slightly better than sliced bread from the supermarket.

The name of the place should be “Parsley” because everything had chopped fresh parsley on it. Would the dessert have it? Actually that might have been interesting. More interesting than anything the kitchen produced.

My server apologized for the corn and clam chowder taking so long because it was “made to order and not sitting in a big pot”. My mind whirled. How was that possible? How do you make chowder to order?

The server explained that the vegetables were sautéed separately and then the soup ingredients combined. I will tell you there was no sautéing of vegetables involved. It was potatoes, corn, bits of clam and only one lonely chopped piece of celery. Like everything, it was too hot. A skin formed on top. It was a pleasant enough cream of corn soup with not enough diced clam, potato or corn to really qualify it as chowder. The center was marked with small pile of chopped parsley.

The asparagus was the worst I’ve ever eaten and extravagantly overpriced at $8.95. Eight of the skinniest, driest asparagus with grill marks were fanned on top of a pool of balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with feta cheese, anchored by about a cup of chopped mushy tomato and everything sprinkled with chopped parsley. Except for the feta, each ingredient was an inedible mess.

For one of the few times in my life, I was going to send a dish back. Taking one more taste before complaining, by combining everything together in one bite, feta, balsamic, tomato, asparagus, it was pretty good. The tomatoes were slightly sautéed in garlic. It was salty from the feta, sweet from the balsamic and the garlicky saucy tomatoes rescued the dry asparagus.

Should risotto be al dente? It was also scalding hot. Saffron just gave color to the risotto that got its creaminess from mascarpone. It had generous pieces of imported Calabrese sausage and cubes of grilled, chicken breast. It also had chopped parsley mixed into it. This was the best dish, spicy from the sausage, but it was hardly risotto.

There was a nice touch of shaving a wedge of parmesan over the risotto,

A dessert cart was wheeled out and I chose the tiramisu. The cake part was almost unpleasantly soaked in espresso. It was dry and soggy at the same time. That takes talent of some sort. Nice enough layers of mascarpone. No parsley. It was sprinkled with cocoa.

If your taste buds are revved up, here’s a link to the restaurant website.

Nestled at the edge of beautiful Marina Bay in Point Richmond the view is amazing. An island blocks the bay so mainly you are looking out at the charming cove. To either side of the little island in the far distance are the cities of Oakland and San Francisco which disappear magically like Brigadoon when the fog rolls in. It is hard to believe an area this pretty is sitting on the Bay side of Cutter Avenue in Richmond.

It is also a stylish restaurant. One room has comfy looking dull teal booths. Another room doesn’t have a view and there is no reason to eat here without a window seat. The bar has some nice dark wooden chairs and rose banquettes. The floors are wood which amplifies the noise level.

During happy hour there were trays of some sort of fried appetizers. There is a nice outdoor dining area on the front porch of the restaurant which was pretty enough that you wouldn’t need the view if only the food was a bit better.

The staff, dressed in black pants and vests with white shirts and aprons, was nice in a suburban restaurant way. They weren’t the type who could answer too many questions about the food. The customers were pretty casually dressed in jeans, some with Hawaiian shirts. It was the type of attire you wear in a marina.

The restaurant changed owners little over a year ago. Before that it was Salute which had its start in Marin. Before that it was called Hawthorne. The staff was chatting about the high turnover lately.

The bartender looked at the TV and said “We shouldn’t be watching football. This is an Italian restaurant. We should be watching a real Italian game like Bocci Ball”. I thought that since they were an Italian restaurant it would be nice if they served real Italian food.


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