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MIKE SHAW | The Burgs
The 16-inch bruschetta pizza has a rosemary crust and is covered in chopped tomatoes, garlic and basil.
MIKE SHAW | The Burgs
Chicken marsala at Sals Jr. is served with a side salad and the customer’s choice of pasta.
MIKE SHAW | The Burgs
Sals Jr. in Fairlawn is owned by Alessandro Pugliese.
Baby Calzone. Photo by Mike Shaw, The Burgs
Pizza Nutella. Photo by Mike Shaw, The Burgs
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Walking into Sal’s Jr. in Fairlawn, we knew immediately that we were in an Italian restaurant . The sign said “Seat Yourself,” and as we did, the aroma of oregano, garlic and onions charged up our senses.
One wall inside Sal’s Jr. is completely mirrored, creating the illusion of a much larger space. As we settled into a cozy booth, we caught a glimpse of the large pass-through windows to the kitchen , where guests are likely to see owner Alessandro Pugliese.
Pugliese opened Sal’s Jr. in 2004. His father, Dominic, started Sal’s in Radford in 1978, and his brother, Joe, opened Sal’s in Blacksburg in 2009.
The host was quick to welcome us, and our server was beside us in seconds with menus and a big smile . The lunch and dinner selections at this restaurant are extensive and include soups, salads, burgers, subs, pizza, entrees, calzones, and a kids’ section.
During a lunch visit, we ordered a baby calzone ($7.99) and an Italian hero ($7.50). The baby calzone was fill-up-the-plate big and was stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, and our chosen topping, green peppers. It was enough for two people. The marinara on the side was well-seasoned, not sweet. Upon cutting the calzone open the mozzarella flowed onto the plate. There was nothing remarkable about the calzone, which could have benefited from less mozzarella and more ricotta.
The Italian hero was served hot with ham, turkey, salami, lettuce, tomato and mayo. The soft white bread was stuffed so full we had to squeeze it to take a bite , but the salami was so mild it was lost among the ham and turkey. The restaurant was out of fries ($1 extra) so we had some very average onion rings instead.
For take out one evening, we brought home a bruschetta pizza ($15.95). The huge, 16-inch rosemary pizza crust was covered in chopped tomatoes, garlic and basil. The amount of garlic overwhelmed the flavor of the coarsely chopped tomatoes and basil, and the olive oil dripping off the sides made this a poor choice for take out.
We also brought home a pizza Nutella ($6.99). Nutella is one of our favorite treats, so our expectations were high. But the Nutella sandwiched between two pizza crusts was not enough to satisfy. Less dough, more Nutella, please.
When we visited Sal’s Jr. for a sit-down dinner, a basket with a small loaf of bread was quickly set on our table. The bread was soft and warm enough to melt the butter we spread on it as we waited for our dinner.
We ordered something we had not seen before : a pizza pop. The pizza pop is like a calzone, only the crust is folded differently. Our veggie pizza pop ($10.99) was filled with broccoli, spinach, mozzarella, garlic, eggplant and Parmigiano cheese. As with the bruschetta pizza, the garlic was overpowering. The broccoli stems were a little tough, but the bits of breaded eggplant throughout were a nice touch. It was also generously portioned, enough to feed two people.
Chicken Marsala ($12.49) is one of our favorite Italian entrees. At Sal’s Jr., it is served with a side salad and the customer’s choice of pasta. The greens (no iceberg lettuce, to our delight) were bright and chilled, and the perfect amount of fresh red onion and Roma tomatoes made for a perfect salad. We dipped the bread into the house Italian dressing, which proved to be a real highlight. The Marsala wine sauce on the chicken breasts was vibrantly flavored and paired well with the sautéed mushrooms that were plentiful on the plate. The angel-hair pasta was a little overcooked, but it took to the sauce well.
Sal’s Jr. is staffed with friendly, attentive servers, and the restaurant exudes a warm, comforting family atmosphere . It does need a few improvements from the kitchen, including a lighter hand with the garlic .
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