With last week’s crazypants summer-like weather, some coworkers and I decided to venture down to the newest restaurant in downtown Hartford, Salute, which opened where the short-lived Dulce once was on Trumbull Street near Bushnell Park. Headed by local restaurant business veterans Jimmy Cosgrove, Andy Rizzo and Dave Caudill of such establishments as Hot Tomato’s (before it went straight to hell), I wasn’t in a hurry to head down there when it first opened. To me it was just going to be another restaurant in town.
I was wrong.
When we arrived, we were initially told that we would have to be in the bar if we wanted to get food, which we did. We were a group of about eight and the relatively small bar area did not have a table that would accommodate us, nor did we want to be inside on a gorgeous day after being chained to desks all day. So I started to think that the choice of venue might not have been the best. However, Jimmy Cosgrove told us to go grab some tables outside and that he would “take care of us.”
Happy hour (or “happy few hours” as they more accurately call it) drinks were great prices–cheap beers and house wines, and even martinis and other specialty drinks were a mere $5. Most places in the Beat give you a handful of specific martinis at a discount if they discount any, but they were not that stingy here. “Happy few hours” also features half price starters like sweet potato ravioli, crisp flatbread (an entire pizza really), and fried calamari. I had the jumbo lump crab cake and spicy tuna tempura maki, both of which were fantastic. The jumbo crab cake really was jumbo and lumpy–not the sad excuse many restaurants around here call crab cakes. The maki was also a good portion, fresh, and pretty to look at.
Jimmy was incredibly attentive and made us feel like we were his friends already, as did the other waitstaff who came around to check on us. One even made a point to tell us how much she loved working there–not something you get too often at a restaurant or anywhere else. It was incredibly refreshing.
Their full menu is a nice mixture of traditional and funkier Italian that I love with some dishes that look a lot of like my former favorites at Hot Tomato’s. And, at dinner, I noticed they offer gluten free pasta for only $1 more. Their prices also seem pretty reasonable for an upscale Italian restaurant and I can’t wait to head back there again. (I’m also secretly hoping they will give Vito’s a good run for their money since I cannot for the life of me figure out how that place has been around so long.)
Three salt shakers since any place that recognizes the end of the day requires not just a single, but a Happy Few Hours and makes it affordable for both food and drink is pretty salty in my book.