After lying dormant and unfinished for years, it’s delightful to see the space on 300 East that was originally intended to be a food hall now open as a roomy restaurant. And by roomy, I mean that Salt & Olive is HUGE. If you’re claustrophobic, this is the place for you.
Located adjacent to Undercurrent bar, Salt & Olive is a casual eatery with Italian culinary leanings. The head chef – Chef Neza – served time in the kitchen at Valter’s Osteria and others, before coming on board to open Salt & Olive. He is joined by a crack team of experienced pros, including head mixologist Cory Dudis. And, speaking of mixology, Salt & Olive sports a full bar that looks to be about a city block long. Again, there’s plenty of room to move around in this sprawling space.
Salt & Olive is really two businesses in one. There is Salt & Olive Cup of Joe, where customers can enjoy coffee, teas, and specialty beverages like the Coconut Black Licorice Latte, among others. And then there is the restaurant side where guests order in advance at a station at the front of the eatery and then food and drinks are delivered to your table by a server or food runner.
The decor and ambiance is very contemporary and industrial, yet with a warmth that is unique. I look forward to warmer weather when the sidewalk seating becomes available and the big garage door in front opens to let the outside in.
Choose a table to eat at or grab a seat at the bar or kitchen counter and perhaps start off with an appetizer or two. There is beef carpaccio ($15) on the appetizer menu, along with temptations like lamb lollipops ($19), charcuterie ($27), smoked trout dip ($18) and others. Our party shared an order of homemade flat bread with white bean dip, blistered cherry tomatoes, rosemary and sea salt, which was delicious and enough to share four ways. And I enjoyed a respite from the standard hummus served at most cafes; the dip made with white beans was a welcome change.
There are three salads currently on the Salt & Olive menu: A classic Caesar ($9), steak salad ($17), and the insalata verde ($11) that my wife enjoyed. It’s a combo of baby green and red lettuce with thinly sliced red onion, green olives, cherry tomatoes, fennel, and shaved Pecorino cheese, drizzled with red wine vinaigrette. A very satisfying salad.
From the pasta section of the menu, tagliatelle with shrimp, capers, basil, roasted peppers, and white wine sauce ($23) would make for a good springtime lunch or dinner dish. My stepson inhaled his pasta, which was tortiglioni verde ($20). Tortiglioni is a pasta shape similar to rigatoni, and at Salt & Olive Chef Neza serves it in a Sambuca pesto cream with olives, prosciutto, fresh burrata and tomatoes. The Sambuca lends a subtle anise flavor to the delectable dish.
The biggest section of the menu is called Il Legno, which translates from Italian as “the wood.” I can only guess that this refers to the wood-fired pizza oven in which the Neapolitan-style pizzas at Salt & Olive are baked. And there’s a wide range of them – from basic cheese and pepperoni pizzas to one made with black truffle ricotta, another topped with carne asada, a wild roasted mushroom pizza, and many others. Pizza prices run from $15 for a Margherita to $32 for a seafood pizza called The Night Out, which features shrimp, lobster roasted bell pepper sauce, mozzarella, olives, dill, and tomatoes. I’m a Margherita lover and the Margherita pizza at Salt & Olive is a good one, although in my opinion they go a bit overboard with parmesan cheese.
Returning to the pastas, we also enjoyed the hearty bucatini ($21) – thick spaghetti-type pasta tossed in a rich sausage ragu and topped with a big scoop of burrata with freshly cracked black pepper.
As I mentioned, Salt & Olive has a full bar and a decent wine and beer selection, as well. There are currently two dessert (dolce) options: semifreddo affogato ($10) with Frangelico, hazelnuts and chocolate espresso sauce, and the zeppole e limone ($9) that we shared. This was a wonderful dish of zeppole (Italian-style fried dough balls sort of like donut holes) on a bed of lemon-citrus mascarpone, topped with fresh seasonal berries like raspberries, blueberries and blackberries and dusted with powdered sugar. Simply scrumptious.
Salt & Olive isn’t exactly a cutting edge restaurant in terms of its cuisine. But for straightforward comfort food – pastas and pizzas, especially – with an Italian flair, it’s a wonderful new addition to the downtown dining scene. The food from Chef Neza’s kitchen is solid and the restaurant is so inviting that I fully expect it to quickly become a favorite SLC lunch and dinner destination.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week: “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.” – Mark Twain
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.