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“Food nice let down by slow service” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Sal's Caffe Italia

Sal's Caffe Italia
221 East Main Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902
+1 434-295-8484
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Ranked #71 of 465 Restaurants in Charlottesville
Price range: $14 - $25
Cuisines: Italian, Pizza, Pizza & Pasta
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Reservations, Takeout
Dining style: Casual Dining
Top Contributor
60 reviews 60 reviews
17 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 29 cities Reviews in 29 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
“Food nice let down by slow service”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed October 15, 2013

Good menu and pretty fair food, and it was quite full early evening which was encouraging. Unfortunately the service was poor. Not a reflection on the staff just there weren't enough of them. The outside seating area was a bit scrappy too. Shame - has all the ingredients to be a whole lot better.

  • Visited October 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
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72 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Rating summary
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Oak Brook, Illinois
Senior Contributor
30 reviews 30 reviews
18 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
“The food was average. The service was atrocious.”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed October 7, 2013

The servers were nice, when they bothered to check on us-- but they rarely checked on us!

We ate there on a Saturday night around 8 p.m. The area was hopping with activity. The fact that this place had seating immediately available should have been my first clue. We selected to eat inside because there were many open tables. They were pretty full on their outside patio. We were forced to seat ourselves. A woman eventually came over and changed the obviously used and not yet changed table cloth. (Many of the inside tables were bussed without clean linens.) We sat there for 15 minutes before a waitress even approached and asked us for a beverage order. They were very well staffed and many servers were hustling right past us to serve the people outside.

Once we gave our drink order, it took another 10 minutes to get a bottled beer and a glass of water. (We were seated two steps from the counter. If someone were behind the bar, I would have gone to get it myself!) I ordered a glass of wine with dinner.

After another 10 minutes, we finally ordered our dinner and it took 20 more minutes for us to get our soup (mine) and a house salad (my husband)! The table had not been re-set, so we had no silverware. I had to get up and find my own parmesan cheese to use with the olive oil on the bread. By then, my husband's beer was long gone. Despite putting the bottle right on the edge of the table, we were not re-approached. I eventually put the bottle on a bussing/wood buffet station behind me. Oddly, that was cleared almost immediately!! (And we still couldn't get anyone's attention.)

Thankfully, there was an old movie playing to keep us less aware of the long wait time. You think they'd be trying to add to our bar bill, but no! Not even a glance our way. They all kept hustling past us. We finally got our food--a flatbread pizza and some pasta, 55 minutes after we arrived! This timing is inexcusable in any restaurant. This is certainly not the place to go if you are on any sort of time crunch. We were not in a hurry, but we truly felt ignored.

The food was OK. The warm bread was excellent. The minestrone was fine--it might have been homemade, it might have been Progresso. The fact that it was hard to tell indicated the level of cuisine. I might return to the restaurant, but I would not re-order the minestrone or the vegie, ricotta, chicken flatbread. On the flatbread, the "vegies" were large chunks of zucchini only, nothing else. Since it was billed as vegetable, not just as zucchini, I had hoped for a few bell peppers, mushrooms and onions too. The zucchini pieces should have been in smaller, more bite-sized pieces. I actually had to cut them because they were large and still a little firm. The ricotta was not sprinkled or spead around, but rather, a few large glops of it on the crust. I had to spread it myself because the crust couldn't even hold it up. My husband's pasta was fine.

I would only return if I were really hungry and there were nothing else available. I would also warn that if you want to be recognized, do not sit inside!

  • Visited October 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
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Charlotte, North Carolina
Senior Contributor
48 reviews 48 reviews
37 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
“Atmosphere Plus”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 29, 2013

Well, is this the best restaurant in Charlottesville. No. Is this the best Italian restaurant in Virginia? No. Is this a wonderful place for a well priced meal, served by personable staff in a professional and friendly manner, with a superbly priced wine list, in a wonderful space? Oh, yes, with well prepared Italian food. Yes, this is a wonderful place, with character and good food for a fair and reasonable price.

We ate inside, late afternoon on a cloudy day, in a wonderful room, wide doors open to the pedestrian mall - very reminiscent of a wonderful bistro we ate at in Paris - yellow roses in vases on the tables - black and white family photos on the walls, tin ceiling - white table clothes... Paper napkins. A minor point...

The waitstaff? Wonderful! Friendly, talk about making you feel at home. No pressure, genuine caring about your dining experience,

Wine with dinner - a very nice Chianti - $4/glass. Right $4/glass. Any other place in town - at least twice the price.

Lasagna - very large portion, but light and airy. Frittata de Mari - wonderful. A bit chewy on the. Scallops, but the clams, mussels, shrimp and linguini were all first rate.

Rigatoni bolognese? Absolutely fantastic! Pasta - perfectly done. Sauce - meaty and flavorful. Thank god for the wonderful, crusty bread served earlier with dipping oil - perfect for totally cleaning the plate of any sauce remnant!

Great cuisine? No. 5 star Michelin? No. Will I be back? Without a doubt I will return each time I am in Charlottesville!

Visited September 2013
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5 reviews 5 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“Wonderful meal in a wonderful city”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 19, 2013

We were vacationing across Virginia, and decided to stay one night in Charlottesville. We asked our innkeeper where to dine in downtown. Since we were near the pedestrian mall, the innkeeper directed us there. Initially we were looking for an Indian restaurant, but happened upon Caffe Italia and decided to dine there in the outside seating. The two of us had wonderful pasta meals (mine was crab and shrimp in a cream sauce) and great appetizer (a bruschetta). The service was excellent. The food was excellent. And dining on the court was just what we needed, very relaxing and good atmosphere.

  • Visited September 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 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.
Fairfax, Virginia
Top Contributor
73 reviews 73 reviews
66 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 43 cities Reviews in 43 cities
32 helpful votes 32 helpful votes
“Ok Italian dining; good price; good food but nothing special.”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed September 14, 2013

This is the second time in a year that I have eaten here and finally realized I am unexpressed. Italian food dishes have no flavor, no rich tastes and I found myself wanting to add salt. I had Cesar salad and dressing scarcely on the salad. Same with the cheese basically none. The linguini with clam sauce, pasta was definitely not home made (I spent some time in Italy) but it was ok cooked boxed pasta. Flavored were light and again felt like seasonings needed to be added. Partner had red sauce with pasta and chicken. Sauce weak but chicken ok.

  • Visited September 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 2 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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