A WARM ITALIAN WELCOME
Byline: Holly Haber
If you crave a taste of authentic Italian food in a stylish urban setting, head straight to Salve!, the newest venture of veteran restaurateurs Janet and Phil Cobb.
The Cobb’s first foray into superb Italian cuisine was Mi Piaci, which is still going strong after nine years in the Dallas suburb of Addison. Salve! offers the same quality of gastronomy in a quietly elegant environment, on lower McKinney Avenue — much closer to downtown and to the International Apparel Mart.
Opened in mid-February for lunch and dinner, Salve! is divided into a bar bistro for impromptu visits and the main dining room, where reservations are recommended.
The bar is hip. It serves a mean vodka martini accented by caper berries along with an inexpensive, but well-considered menu of salads and sandwiches. Top choices are the wood-roasted peppered beef sirloin with horseradish sauce over mixed greens, roma tomatoes and lemon dressing ($7); or the rich grilled panini with white truffle boschetto cheese and white truffle oil ($9).
As tempting as the bar is, don’t miss the main attraction at Salve!, which is the dining room. Pale sage green walls, gold candelabra sconces and a neutral taupe, espresso and gray block carpet serve as a comfortable and serene setting for some superb cuisine.
“I’m getting older,” confessed Janet Cobb, commenting on the ambience. “I need to have calm. Carpeting and an acoustical ceiling are appropriate for me.”
Among the highlights of the menu is the exquisitely simple and delectable malfatti al pomodoro — irregularly cut fresh pasta with extra virgin olive oil, roma tomatoes and basil ($8). Richly infused with wine and a pleasure for the palate is the wild boar carmelized onion ragout, served with herbed gnocci ($10).
Risotto, a favorite of Janet Cobb, is offered only at dinner and comes in four variations: oxtail ($18); porcini mushrooms, asparagus and white truffle oil ($15); seared scallops and saffron mascarpone ($16), and beef marrow and arugula ($17). One of the most popular items is the bistecca — a three-pound Florentine-style T-bone steak grilled with coarse sea salt, black pepper and olive oil and served with fingerling potatoes ($56 for two).
The ultimate garnish is Wayne Broadwell, the witty maitre d’ who was formerly at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, and who knows everyone of import in this town.
The name, “Salve,” translates from Italian into “Welcome, good friend.” It was suggested to the Cobbs by the managing partner of Harry’s Bar in Venice, said Janet Cobb. The Cobbs toured Italy, sampling hundreds of restaurants in preparation for opening Salve!.
“I wanted to do another Italian restaurant, different from Mi Piaci, and take it up another step,” she noted. “We wanted to create something fun and urban.”
They have succeeded.
The restaurant is in a freestanding building on the same lot as the new Texas Capital Bank building. Both buildings are owned by Crow Holdings, which also owns the Dallas Market Center.
The Cobbs are leaders in the redevelopment of downtown Dallas and the McKinney Avenue strip known as Uptown. Janet Cobb heads the Central Dallas Association to redevelop Main Street, and Phil Cobb is chairman of the Public Improvement District for McKinney Avenue.
“We have a deep interest in this area,” Janet Cobb noted.