By Susan Hayes
The effusively friendly Jimmy Cosgrove, whose ever-smiling face you saw when dining at Hot Tomatoes in years past, is now running his own show as part owner of Salute restaurant in down town Hartford. When he works his way around the dining room, you feel like you are his personal guest and he genuinely wants you to enjoy dinner at his establishment. Salute has been hot since it opened in early 2010 and if you haven’t given their fresh take on Italian fare a try, you are missing out. You feel like you are part of the scene when dining there, but don’t expect a quiet romantic night. This place is bustling and borders on noisy when it is packed. If you can handle the lively atmosphere, you will enjoy the wonderful service and friendly vibe.
The décor is contemporary and sophisticated, sporting neutral tones. The seating is comfortable. The lights that hang over the smallish bar are eye catching and hint at an art deco nuance Venetian glass. On the way to the lavatories, notice the framed photos of old time Hartford. They enchant me every time!
The cheese-stuffed garlic bread is noteworthy at Salute – a must-order. This alone will bring you back, but if you follow it up with the sublime sweet potato ravioli appetizer with sage cream, your taste buds will be singing. The strawberry salad never fails to please with its tangy goat cheese and fresh berries, if you feel like some greens to start you dinner. Share the three with someone so that you have room for an entrée and perhaps dessert.
The cavatappi Bobo is one of my favorite dishes; you’re served pasta topped with grilled vegetables, cherry tomatoes, basil, brown butter and a balsamic reduction. This is truly peasant-style pasta with all the goodness of a kitchen garden atop. On a recent visit we ordered the shrimp fra diablo and while the flavors were very good, the dish was a little oily for my taste. I may ask them to go light on the oil if you are a fra diablo fan. One nice touch on the menu is the addition of asterisks, which indicate spicy and vegetarian dishes.
Desserts do not disappoint here. There are traditional Italian favorites like tiramisu and new takes on comfort food like banana bread pudding with a caramel sauce and butter pecan gelato! I tried the former recently and as a bread pudding fan, I found it out of this world. Don’t worry; If you need your chocolate, they deliver as well!
As Salute is in downtown Hartford, it does not have its own parking lot. We almost always find free parking on Lewis Street behind the restaurant. However, there is a garage right next door where and as a diner, you are entitled to 50% off Monday through Saturday. The garage is closed Saturday afternoon and Sundays. If weather permits, there is outdoor dining on a patio to the side for the restaurant. It opens up a few more seats on a hopping evening. Make reservations, so that you will not be disappointed with a long wait. The bar is not huge and there is nowhere else to wait. There is a small private room toward the back that can be rented for functions or a more intimate dinner party. To me, Salute means celebration. I have not only celebrated my eldest daughter’s 21st birthday there, but had their catered food at other family celebrations. Raise a glass of proseco, as I often do and find a reason to celebrate at Salute.
100 Trumbull St,
Hartford, CT 06103
Hours: Lunch Mon to Sat 11am-3pm; Dinner daily, starting at 4pm on Sat and Sun
Susan Hayes works at a local High School in her spare time, but her true passion lies in culinary pursuits, cooking gardening, blogging and discovering new dining spots. Her work can be found at Black Cat Cooking Chronicles.