Sal is the chef and kitchen boss of Fort Bragg's Senior Center, where he prepares daily luncheon meals and Meals on Wheels for maybe 150 or so seniors a day, serving gourmet meals on a limited budget every day of the week. But he pulls out the stops when Sal's Bistro present special meals to the general public to raise funds for the center's operations. (Senior Centers across the state have lost much of their funding during this great recession.)
For these special events, Sal procures (often by donation) ingredients that are usually rare or extraordinarily expensive, and serves them at modestly priced ($10 to $25) dinners to sold-out crowds of up to 200. Special ingredients are premium seafood like fresh abalone, dungeness crab, king salmon and albacore tuna, donated by local fishermen or from Fish & Game seizures. Meats include rare elk, venison, buffalo, organic beef and free-range chicken. He always features a vegetarian offering that the most avid carnivores sometimes select.
Entrees are sauteed, baked, roasted or grilled as they require, but Sal's real gift is as a saucier. No matter how high-falutin' or humble the entree, it will be accompanied by a savory sauce of an extraordinary delicacy and complexity that comes from his many years of experience.
Service is by volunteers who are always pleasant and quick to please, but not always professionally skilled. Meals include wine which is generously poured and always of excellent quality. (The donating wineries hope to impress you enough that you will become a loyal customer.)
The serving venue is the senior center dining hall, which is set up for tables for 6 - 8, which may be reserved in advance. White linen tablecloths and floral centerpieces give a festive look to the rather institutional architecture. (The Senior Center used to be the junior high school.) Servers roam the room with wine and coffee and often musicians are playing dinner music. Overall, dining is a first-class experience, intentionally if not quite in execution.
At the end of the day, what is remarkable is the food. I truly believe Sal's culinary skill is the equal or superior of any chef in the county--and there are some remarkable and famous cooks here in Mendocino.
I can't finish without mentioning that Sal from time to time serves a Sunday brunch--usually featuring an extravagant entree like crab omelette with fixings, accompanied by mimosas and coffee royale. If you ever want to start out the day right, this is the place to go.
Really great food, enthusiastically served, and all for a good cause--what's not to like?
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.