As if homework, studying and midterms were not enough, there is also the challenge of finding a quality meal on a limited budget, but one that does not include the words “Denny’s” or “Top Ramen” in it.
I went in search to find restaurants in the Yuba/Sutter area that offer affordable prices without compromising the quality of their dishes. I stayed away from restaurants like Red Robin and Applebee’s, those that have “big name” character, because I wanted to place the spotlight on some hidden gems of our community.
I found Salute in Yuba City, an Italian restaurant, if the name did not give it away, located at 628 Plumas Street. My date and I walked into what used to be a YMCA thrift store on a Saturday evening and were quickly and warmly greeted by our hostess.
Not having to wait in line on a Saturday night was a nice advantage. Do not make the assumption, however, that the absence of a large crowd meant a lack of quality dining.
The entrance of the restaurant includes a small, but well stocked bar, complete with flat screen television for viewing those all-important soccer matches, and a large open kitchen in which you can watch the experienced chefs work swiftly to prepare meals.
A hand-painted mural of Tuscany graced a wall in the entrance and again on a wall on our way to the dining room. We passed the kitchen and bar area, through Roman-like archways into the dining room, which was inviting and very well lit. Dinning room walls are painted in a warm, lemon yellow with olive trees hand-painted in a darker yellow.
Large picture frames hang from the walls, without pictures in them, drawing attention to the olive tree paintings. The design for the interior of the restaurant, I am told, came from the creative minds of designers out of San Francisco.
As we sat at our table, we were handed the extensive Salute menu, which includes several pasta dishes, risotto, salad, chicken dishes, seafood dishes, veal and, on our visit, rack of lamb. The cannelloni dish is different every day with a chef-selected filling as is the pasta special and the bruschetta topping.
We opted for the bruschetta ($7.95) as our appetizer. Two large pieces of toasted focaccia bread topped with healthy servings of diced tomatoes, mushrooms and fresh grated parmesan cheese with just the right amount of garlic in the background pleased our palates until our main course arrived. The noise level allowed us to carry on a conversation at a normal decibel.
Italian music quietly played in the background as we were served our main course. For her, Fusillia alla Genovese ($7.95). Fusilli pasta covered in a basil pesto sauce with fresh green beans and diced potatoes. The aroma of the basil gave evidence that the ingredients used are of the freshest around.
For me, Risotto Boscaiola ($8.95). Creamy Italian rice cooked just right with large chunks of grilled chicken and mushrooms. The servings were the perfect amount. I did not leave feeling regret for having overdone it, nor did I feel like I got gypped. The food definitely shows inspirations from several parts of Italy, including Tuscany and Milan, and proves that the chefs strive for authenticity in their work.
Our meal concluded with a piece of their homemade cheesecake ($5.95). Wow! Incredibly creamy dessert atop a graham cracker crust drizzled with a delicious strawberry sauce. The homemade Tiramisu was also very appealing.
The variety of culture is a value in the Yuba/Sutter area, and Salute has been successful in bringing authentic Italian cuisine to the community. Owners Jerzy Blank, Merisha Wazna and Francesco Gazzana, who is the Milan-born head chef whose training includes visits to England and Naples, all face many challenges. One of these challenges is staffing.
Blank mentioned that since there are no universities in town, young potential talent leaves the area. Blank is nonetheless optimistic about the future of the restaurant and what it can bring to our community.
One of the main attractions is the opera nights in which they entertain guests with professional opera singing and a fixed course meal. Guests travel from miles around, often those with European roots, who enjoy the incomparable ambience you find at Salute.
College students can enjoy a fantastic Italian meal, where the cuisine is enhanced by fresh, authentic ingredients and homemade pastas for around $20.
“You won’t find any takeout here,” Blank said. “Meat is meat. It’s the flavors you put into it that makes the difference.”
My overall experience at Salute was pleasant. All operations of the restaurant seemed to flow smoothly in spite of the fact that, on our visit, they were understaffed and one of the computers was down. I thought that the service and food were both great.
Italian fingerprints and influence are everywhere in the function of the restaurant. If you are looking for a place that serves bona fide Italian eats along with great service and reasonable prices, then make a stop at Salute. Ciao!