Years ago, when we lived in Hilliard (and later on, Dublin), Salvi’s was a restaurant we used to visit quite often. It was, and still remains, a great alternative for the Olive Garden crowd. As a rapidly approaching middle aged couple with no children, we don’t usually need to consider small things like whether or not a restaurant is “family friendly” before we visit. And maybe things like loud unruly children annoy us a little more than they used to. So bear in mind that this review is written on the heels of being greatly annoyed by being seated next to a couple who allowed their five or six year old to chase their two year old around the restaurant instead of running after said child themselves, and almost watching said child cause a near disaster because one of the places they ran into was the kitchen as a server was coming out with food.
So how did we end up here in this child-friendly hell, you ask? Well, we had fond memories of the PastaSalvi Speciale, and were tempted by both the promise of Osso Buco with Risotto Milanese (which unfortunately, I found out, they took off the menu due to poor sales) and the desire to use the Prestige Card discount for the place.
It’s a fairly large but still somewhat cozy space, darker than you expect because of the shutters over the windows. With ample seating available, we wondered why they sat us in the worst seat in the house, next to swinging kitchen doors and clanging so loud we couldn’t hear each other think when there were plenty of other empty tables. We asked if we could be moved, and they accommodated that request with no problem.
After finding out that there was no Osso Buco to be had, I was at a bit of a loss on what to order. We munched on the soft bread sticks and bread basket while we were deciding.
For an appetizer, we chose the Chef’s Sampler ($12.95), which contains the much anticipated PastaSalvi Special (breaded and fried pasta, with marinara and mozarella over top), Mozzarella Fritta, Bistro Fondue and Mushrooms Stuffed with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Cheese and served with a Garlic Aioli. While they were all well prepared, I think my tastes in Italian food have changed over the years, because I personally found all the fried items to sit very heavy. I think these days I tend to lean more towards salads and small plates. However, I think this of combination would go over famously with a crowd, especially one that includes people who are hard to please.
The entrees we chose normally come with a family style salad, but we opted to upgrade to Caesar salad for an extra $2 each. The Caesar salad was competent in its preparation and well dressed, but we needed to ask our server for more freshly grated cheese and pepper to suit to our taste buds. However, again, it was predictable enough in its preparation that it would be a family pleaser, as it lacked such traditional Caesar accoutrements like anchovy fillets.
Without realizing it, my husband and I ended up with nearly identical entrees. My husband ordered his chicken marsala with fettuccine rather than potatoes, and it came out looking very much like my chicken fettuccine. The Chicken Marsala ($13.25) pairs slightly dry chicken tenders with quartered cremini mushrooms with a creamy wine sauce. Nice mild flavor, and it paired well with the pasta.
I went with the Tuscan Style Chicken Fettuccine ($13.25), which pairs spinach and egg fettuccine with a creamy alfredo-esque sauce, topped with chicken tenders and the same cremini mushrooms, and finished with some Marsala sauce. To be honest, although they were virtually identical, I preferred my husband’s version, because the alfredo muted the flavor of the dish quite a bit.
So while we weren’t blown away by the cuisine at Salvi’s, were weren’t totally disappointed either. Other than the ambiance, everything was pretty good. Like we said, we could get a similar experience at Olive Garden, but why not keep the money local?
We hear they have a really good brunch on Sundays, and we’d like to go back sometime soon to find out. In the meantime, if you’ve got a crowd to feed, and don’t want to spend a fortune, and if you prefer your Italian family style rather than more authentic, there are a lot worse choices.
If you’d like to go: Salvi’s Bistro,1323 St. James Lutheran Lane, Columbus (closest major intersection is Trabue and Hilliard-Rome Rds), 614.870.8788