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“Overpriced.” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Sal's Caffe Italia

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Sal's Caffe Italia
221 East Main Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902
+1 434-295-8484
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Ranked #148 of 455 restaurants in Charlottesville
Price range: $14 - $25
Cuisines: Italian, Pizza, Pizza & Pasta
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Restaurant details
Good for: Doing business
Dining options: Reservations, Takeout
Dining style: Casual Dining
Senior Contributor
44 reviews 44 reviews
21 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 23 cities Reviews in 23 cities
24 helpful votes 24 helpful votes
“Overpriced.”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed September 3, 2012

While it was pleasant dining outside on a warm summer night, the ambiance did not outweigh the overpriced entrees. $20 for a serving of lasagna and $15 for a 12 inch personal Hawaiian pizza? The kicker was that the $2.50 side salad we added to our meals consisted of a lot of romaine lettuce, 2 thin slices of cucumber, and 1 tomato wedge. That's it. No carrots, no croutons. Just a lot of lettuce, a few cucumbers and a piece of tomato. My husband and I ordered the "house italian" salad dressing which, we were advised, was "oil and vinegar based". No. It was just oil and vinegar. Apparently, whoever made the salads did not stir or shake the dressing before pouring it on our salads. I had oil and some vinegar and my husband had vinegar with some oil and globs of crumbly pink stuff which we assumed was Parmesan cheese which had been sitting in the red vinegar-based dressing. Must have been the last 2 servings of the "house italian". We were also served a small loaf of room temperature bread and plain olive oil before the meal which was promptly cleared away when the entrees arrived. Our server was friendly and efficient but the meal was overpriced and merely average.

  • Visited August 2012
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
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51 reviews from our community

62% Recommend
    16
    16
    12
    1
    6
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Top Contributor
58 reviews 58 reviews
23 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 28 cities Reviews in 28 cities
129 helpful votes 129 helpful votes
“Finally, a proper cannoli outside of NY! Everything was delicious!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 14, 2012

I have somehow managed not to go to Sal's for several years, but I rectified that oversight tonight and won't make that mistake again! My husband, uncle and I went there for Restaurant Week, a twice-yearly event where generally more expensive local restaurants offer special menus for $26 per person, with $1 of the price going toward a local charity. I am a native New Yorker and Italian is my favorite cuisine, both to eat out and to cook at home, and I can't pass up a great bargain, so off to Sal's we went.

We went early so we could attend a concert, and with a thunderstorm looming, we chose to sit inside. (Ironically, the storm waited until just after we left to stop dropping the rain.) It was a bit stuffy in there, even with ceiling fans, but our drinks kept us cool. We were served two small loaves of bread and olive oil for dipping within moments of being seated. The interior is dark, with nice ambiance and closely set tables, just like an Italian caffe should be.

I ordered the prosciutto and honeydew melon appetizer (to die for...the perfect balance and I generally don't like honeydew, but it was very flavorful), chicken piccata served over spinach instead of pasta (inventive AND it worked beautifully...the best spinach I've ever had, although the sauce was a tad salty), and a cannoli for dessert. OMG, the cannoli was to die for. I nearly ordered a second one to bring home and will probably have to do that the next time I walk by. The cream was exactly right, not too sweet, with small chocolate chips, stuffed generously inside a crunchy shell. I felt like I was back in NY, and savored every bite. I was thrilled with every course and would go back tomorrow for a repeat if we weren't visiting another restaurant!

My husband ordered the caprese salad, which had red peppers in addition to the traditional tomato, mozzarella, pesto, and basil. I sampled it and it tasted just as you would expect, very authentic. He had the lasagna bolognese and wow, was it huge. It normally is priced at $20, and it's worth it. One of the best lasagnas I've tasted. He ate half and brought the other half home. For dessert, he had gelato, a vanilla ice cream with caramelized honey and fig. It was very light, and served in a white wine glass, a nice touch.

My uncle had stuffed mushrooms for an appetizer, and pronounced them very good. His entrée was impressive: lobster, sun-dried tomatoes and peas served with linguine. He loved every bite. For dessert he had NY cheesecake with Nutella sauce and strawberries. He said it was very rich, and that the cheesecake itself didn't have a strong enough cheese flavor, but he still said it was delicious.

Our waitress was excellent, friendly and expeditious. We sat near the open kitchen and it wasn't a distraction at all. Several staff members greeted us as we arrived and thanked us for coming as we left. If you go on a nice weather day, be sure to eat outside. It is great fun to people watch.

Now that I am done chastising myself for missing out on Sal's all these years, I can't wait to go back. I know the regular prices may be high compared to more casual restaurants, but in my nearly 12 years of living here in the Charlottesville area, I can easily say this is one of the best meals I've had here. Well worth it. Go. You won't regret it!

  • Visited July 2012
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
5 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“Not a big thing”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed July 13, 2012

Good service but the food was average. I did not like the ambience of the tables outdoor and the prices were expensive for the quality of the food.

  • Visited July 2012
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Tampa, Florida
Top Contributor
134 reviews 134 reviews
48 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 67 cities Reviews in 67 cities
83 helpful votes 83 helpful votes
“A pleasant surprise”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 19, 2012

During a recent visit, we found that many of the restaurants high on TripAdvisor were closed on Sunday. We drove around a bit until we discovered the interesting Downtown Mall area which is an open area of streets full of shops and restaurants. We walked up and down the main drag and finally decided to sit in the outdoor area of Sal's.

The three of us all ordered something different and were all very pleased with our food. The service was also quite good and it was nice sitting in the middle of the street in a fenced area outfitted for the servers.

The pricing was a little high but not too bad relative to the food & service quality. We were very pleased with the whole experience, and based on our dinner I would recommend Sal's.

  • Visited June 2012
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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Panama City Beach, Florida
Top Contributor
59 reviews 59 reviews
39 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 29 cities Reviews in 29 cities
38 helpful votes 38 helpful votes
“Overpriced with a lazy manager”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed June 16, 2012

Well the food was pretty good. The service was slow even though there were few people in the place. What was really disgusting was the manager or owner, maybe Sal, I don't know, was sitting out in the front. He did not say anything as I walked up and looked at the menu posted right next to we're he was sitting. I thought he was outside to smoke or something, or just hanging out. But no, this guy was a boss man of some kind. He was not helping at all, actually he was in the way, making the waitresses bring him the phone instead of attending to the patrons. It was just a weird situation. I ordered a pesto pasta with a little bit of shrimp and chicken, a house salad, and drank water. My total bill with a 15% tip was $28. It was good, not great, but I was really turned off by the lazy guy.

  • Visited June 2012
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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