Jul 12, 2021

Dining With Draz: A Salute

By Lori Draz

Lamb Osso Bucco

It was a spectacular weather day, so we decided to take the back roads to downtown Matawan to visit A Salute. Now, maybe it’s my many years in Catholic school, but I’m always a little cautious about going into a space that used to be a church, but I will say that the restaurant owners have beautifully preserved this 170-year-old building and its architecture which lends to a unique and attractive dining experience. There is a large square bar when you enter, complete with big TVs; diners move to the left and eat in the area that was clearly the worship space from its previous life as Trinity Church. For years, this space was occupied by a restaurant called Bart’s, and the new owners of A Salute are keeping the traditional tastes of home-cooked Italian going. The food is rooted in rustic favorites, prepared with the feel of “Grandma’s recipes” authenticity.

We selected three appetizers and a Detroit-style pizza, which they define as somewhere between the thick Chicago style and the thin New York version. The pizza was delicious with that comforting taste of something your mom would make when you came home from school. Our appetizers included a really nice plate of lightly battered and fried calamari. These are quite good and well worth your try. We also had the crispy Mozarella en Carrozza which comes in four triangles, perfect for our group of four. Our third was the Selezion di Mozzarella, where you choose one of three mozzarellas and one side to accompany it. We choose a super creamy Burrata di Tartufo, paired with roasted yellow peppers –yum! This was my favorite of the three, but that calamari was a close second.

Now for the entrées. Diner one selected the Short Ribs Ragu with rigatoni, Pomodoro, chianti, peas, carrots and ricotta. This is one of the restaurant’s recommended dishes, and our diner agreed. It is a rich, beefy dish, and the short ribs were tender and tasty. It’s a substantial dish as well, and it almost sure that you will be bringing some home for lunch the next day.

Diner two picked the Porcini Ravioli in a black truffle cream which is a more petite-sized offering. He was impressed by what he identified as tenderly cooked handmade ravioli. The creamy sauce had just the right hint of truffle. Thanks to its gentle flavors and manageable size, he gladly finished every bite.

Diner three selected the Pork Chop Giambotta, a thick center-cut chop topped with sweet and hot peppers and a tangy vinegar over mashed potatoes, all topped with crispy onions. It’s a beautifully plated dish with a bright, sunny taste, thanks to the tangy vinegar and peppers, which were not really hot at all. Diner three said the pork chop was juicy and well-cooked, and overall, the zingy dish rated a thumbs up.

I picked the Lamb Osso Bucco, which comes served over farro with peas and carrots. If the pork dish was the sun, this dish is the night. It’s an earthy, deeply flavored dish with a brown gravy and a woodsy feel, thanks to the barley-like farro. Farro is tricky to cook, and for my liking, the farro and the diced vegetables were a little too al dente, so if you like them soft, be sure to ask.

We wrapped up our meal with a chocolate lava cake, which comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. We also had the Affogato, an amaretto gelato with a cookie. The dessert menu sticks to standard choices and the desserts are somewhat small, really meant for one, so plan ahead when ordering. The coffee comes in a smaller cup too, so you may need a refill if you’re a big drinker.

 

There is a small parking lot another parking lot across the street. Valet parking is available. There is a courtyard for dining and partying, and I heard a band cranking up as I left, meaning this could be a good late night stop too.

Cost –Moderate What we liked –The well-preserved and intriguing space, the homey flavors, tableware and plating, the big bar, and the hoppig’ outdoor dining and party section What could be better –It gets very loud. There is no kids menu, and the coffee could be a little better.

We give it 4 Js

A Salute is located at 74 Main St. in downtown Matawan. 732-566-0267. ASalute.com. Open Monday through Saturday serving the same menu from 11:30 am to 10 pm, Sundays from 1 to 8 pm.