Eats with Anderson: Saltoro Brings Fresh Twists to Continental Cuisine

Lakesiders are all too familiar with the bustle of Aurora Avenue and its gas stations, pharmacies, donut shops, and occasional respectable restaurants. It is certainly a reliable place to head for food after a long day at school. Maybe not so well known, and just a half-mile further from campus, is Greenwood Avenue. Here, alternative and generally better dining options can be found. That’s just where I headed on a cool Sunday night to grab a bite to eat. 

When you first turn onto Greenwood, it might not seem much different than Aurora. There are one-story businesses, occasional restaurants, and apartment complexes. But as you venture farther south, the feeling changes. The neighborhood calms and the street is lined with large evergreens, lush bushes, and cozy houses. Here is where you find a quintessential neighborhood restaurant providing European classics, Saltoro. Saltoro’s warm color palette of mellow oranges and reds and its large sign reading, “Saltoro: Seafood | Landfood” distinguishes the restaurant from its surroundings. A short flight of steps leads to a covered porch with strings of lights, set with a few tables for outdoor seating. 

With each bite, my nose felt bombarded with fried sage.

         The restaurant feels like it could be a remodeled house, and dining on the front porch made the meal feel more personal as if I was at home enjoying a family dinner. While the furniture wasn’t special (simple perforated metal tables and chairs), it didn’t take anything away from the intimate dinner setting I was enjoying. The waitress promptly came to ask for drink orders, as well as any appetizers. She gave me a short rundown for what to expect in a dish I was contemplating and happily answered all of my questions regarding the menu, speaking to a level of professionalism at Saltoro. 

         Regarding appetizers and drinks, I wanted to try some familiar dishes and some new  ones. I ended up with a lemonade, the Saltoro Salad, and fried risotto balls. These first dishes were certainly enjoyable. As a salad skeptic, I found the Saltoro Salad to be exquisite. The greens were fresh, the dressing was light with a zing to it, and the creamy blue cheese and toasted almonds added dimension to the texture of the salad. The risotto balls were delicate, delicious, and fried to a near-perfect golden brown. They had a beautiful crunch which was immediately followed by a creamy, warm, cheesy bite of risotto. While I thought this was an Italian classic (risotto) with an American twist (deep frying), it turns out this is Saltoro’s take on a Roman dish: Suppli al telefono. Suppli, meaning surprise in Italian, is a fitting name for this splendid dish and Saltoro nailed it in all regards.

Thereafter, my enjoyment of the experience took a slight dip. Once I had licked my salad and appetizer plates clean, it took some time for the waitress to return to our table. While European dining experiences generally stretch on and allow time between plates, Saltoro left me wondering if I had been forgotten. After the fantastic appetizers, my stomach was eager for the next course, pappardelle bolognese. When it finally arrived, my concerns quickly disappeared. In front of me sat a steaming plate of flat pasta, swirled into a symmetrical mound, with a dollop of ricotta cheese on top, and fried sage and rosemary as aromatics. The entree was well plated and was visually appealing. The flavors and textures were on point, the sauce was rich and creamy, and the veal was bursting with flavor. The dish, however, suffered from an overuse of aromatics. The sage was nearly intoxicating at times and overpowered the flavors of the sauce. With each bite, my nose felt bombarded with fried sage.

To top off the evening, I turned my attention to the dessert menu. My eyes were immediately drawn to the Raspberry Crème brûlée: a classic French dessert with a slight twist. To me, a well-executed Crème brûlée differentiates a great restaurant from a good one. Sadly though, the execution suffered. While the sugar crust on top of the crème had a balanced thickness, it was over-torched and arrived at the table burnt. Instead of a beautiful crackly golden crust, the caramelized sugar was a dark brown and difficult to enjoy. Be careful with the torch! But my woes didn’t end there. The crème lacked the structure typically found in a perfectly baked Crème brûlée and I felt it was closer to a raspberry yogurt poured into a ramekin.  

While the dessert was an underwhelming end to the meal, it did not take away from a pleasant dining experience. With the wonderfully executed appetizers and a satisfying main course, Saltoro is well worth the trip past Aurora to Greenwood.