The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Open air dining makes Sal's stand-out spot downtown

When Sal's Caffé Italia owner Giuseppe Finazzo moved his restaurant 14 years ago, he thought the Downtown Mall would be the perfect spot to serve pizza and offer outdoor dining.

"I liked the place and there was no pizza on the mall," Finazzo said.

For University students, the Downtown Mall offers many sights and sounds during the fall, and its nighttime outdoor dining scene can't be topped.

Finazzo opened Sal's on the Downtown Mall when he decided to move from his former location on Ivy Road. He operates restaurants in Earlysville, Crozet and Standardsville as well. Finazzo said he moved downtown because it was time for a change and the Mall offered a good environment for Sal's.

Diners can take advantage of two different atmospheres at Sal's, which offers the opportunity for a casual outdoor meal, or an intimate indoor affair. The interior atmosphere welcomes guests with a friendly, cozy feel. Tables wear crisp white linens and offer candlelight. The walls come alive with landscape paintings and mirrors, and a brick oven behind the bar ties everything together with comfort.

To add to the neighborhood restaurant feel, Sal's has installed a television at one end of the restaurant and a jukebox so guests can make themselves at home. Tables are fairly close together, but maintain privacy. On crowded nights the restaurant could feel cramped, but on a regular evening and afternoon the atmosphere is quite pleasant.

Sal's outdoor seating offers a real treat to diners: with white Christmas lights draped around the borders of the seating area, eating in this location offers quite a romantic experience.

Not only does Sal's atmosphere instantly relax guests, but the staff puts diners at ease as well. They welcome guests at the door and give plenty of personal attention. Guests can see that their positive dining experience matters to the staff. Staff refill water glasses, serve food quickly and seem to know when their aid is needed.

The meals offer the same quality as the atmosphere and service. Sal's serves a variety of pasta dishes, house specialties, regular and specialty pizzas and hot and cold sandwiches. At $9.50, the Pesto Shrimp Pizza was smothered with tomato sauce, cheese and a delicious pesto sauce. The crust had just the right combination of thickness and crispiness. The shrimp was a bit tough, but did not detract much from the pizza's overall quality.

The Garlic and Olive Oil Pasta ($9.75) was fresh and presented nicely. However, it was rather bland to taste, especially compared to the pizza.

Finazzo's favorite dishes are the Shrimp Alfredo and the Fresh Tomato and Garlic Pasta. Diners can savor the freshness of the ingredients and the intense flavor of each bite. Entrees range from $6.95 to $14.95.

"Everything is pretty popular here," Finazzo said. "I like everything"


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