It started out with a few slices of pizza. One standard or plain, a margherita, and a specialty slice with pepperocini, and spicy capicola. The pizza was really good. Very thin crust and a perfect balance of sauce, cheese and toppings. What made it better is that it was not overpriced. It seems like every pizza joint feels the need to double the price of any slice that has just one extra topping. So they got my attention. I looked at the menu and saw it was interesting and diverse. My wife agreed and we put it on our list of places to try. By a fluke, we ended up here rather than a place up the street. As it turns out, when I called the place up the street to ask if they were open at 5pm, they told me it would be better to stop by at 5:30. So when we showed up at 5:50 we saw there was a private party going on. It happens, but I just wish they had told us when I called and altered my schedule to come nearly an hour later.
So, here we are on a rainy Sunday afternoon, the place is much smaller but far more friendly, and we were not seated underneath an air conditioning vent since we were both a bit wet from running to and from the car to find a place to eat. So as soon as we are seated they come by with some bread sticks. Actually more like bread crusts like from the ends of the pizza, which was a much welcomed delight so we can enjoy the wine I brought while deciding what to order. The dipping sauce was probably roasted red pepper, not the typical tomato sauce.
Being of Sicilian descent, their version of Sicilian meatballs seemed interesting and had veal, ricotta and raisins. Veal and raisins sound about right. Ricotta was a bit rich for where my ancestors came from, as they had no money, but raisins was definitely a Sicilian ingredient and not typical in what they call Italian food here in the United States.
They were quite large and quite good, very tender, not like what you usually find which are so homogenized you can’t tell what it is much like a hot dog, and these are not the kind you can bounce off the wall and it won’t break. Adding the sweetness of the raisin with the savory might seem odd, but it actually helps keeps the meatball soft and moist while fading into the sweetness of the sauce. Thumbs up on this one.
Next we come to the arancino, which they describe as a pear shaped rice ball with mozzarella, pancetta, aurora sauce and peas. As any Sicilian knows, riceballs are always round. Maybe the pear shape was for aesthetics, but they were good either way. However, the mozzarella in the middle was not melted, not even slightly. The sauce was good but I did not taste the pancetta.
So the appetizers were good, and now its on to the main entree. I’ve been dying for linguine with clams, but they had something called Spaghettini which is thin spaghetti served with baby clams, marechiara sauce, basil and Calabrian chili flakes. This was more like a broth, not a sauce, and I know its supposed to be lighter, but it was a bit too much broth for me. As for the Calabrian chili flakes, I certainly did not taste them. Nonetheless it was a great dish and I don’t think I’ve ever had anything like it. The baby clams were nothing I can recall seeing, but it was good, not the linguine with clam sauce I was thinking of to fill a void, but still good.
My wife is a very picky eater. About the only thing I can count on her liking is steak, if its cooked right. The Bistecca is a grilled skirt steak marinated in honey-balsamic glaze and served with mashed potatoes.
To finish off the dinner we shared some Tiramisu and I got an espresso. Overall a nice ending to a great meal. No complaints about this place. Its far more Italian than what many think are Italian, so I give this one thumbs up and I hope to return soon just to order their appetizers which are more like a secondi for those who knows what that means.
Saluga Bistro – 510 Bloomfield Avenue Verona NJ 07044
Phone: 973-857-2584 Web: SalugaPizzeria.com