Replacing The Kennedy Room in Kingston, is newly opened Salotto Bar and Kitchen. By the same owners as Santa Lucia Trattoria down the road, this modern Italian eatery offers the shorter version of Santa Lucia’s menu. You’ll find some tempting starters such as an antipasto platter, arancini balls and zucchini fritters. Pastas are homemade and are to change regularly with three types of sauces remaining constant. A selection of pizzas are available as well as your meat options like rib eye, veal scallopini, and fish fillet. The porchetta of 1.2kg stuffed and rolled pork belly looks absolutely amazing.
The fit out has had a minor change from The Kennedy Room with a vibrant wall of vintage looking posters of liqueur at the back. I thought this was wallpaper, but was informed that each poster had been individually applied to the wall to create this effect. I don’t know how many hours this would have taken but it does look good.
I was in the mood to try a few of the starter dishes rather than the mains that day, so that’s what we ordered. We started off with the antipasto platter of San Daniele prosciutto, cappacollo, mortadella, and wagyu bresaola with grilled vegetables, olives and pickled artichokes ($25). There was a good selection of cured meats and the grilled vegetables were lovely on their own. The pickled artichoke was extremely sour (nearly brought tears to my eyes) but I enjoyed the rest of the vegetables. We weren’t expecting the crumbly and pungent hard cheese (not listed on the menu) so this was a bonus.
J polished off the entire little bowl of olives but his complaint was they were very tiny and average tasting which didn’t necessarily outweigh the effort in nibbling each one and spitting out the pip.
I liked the fact that you could see the small portion of smoked salmon flakes wrapped inside the gooey subtly cheesy centre. This wasn’t too heavy and I was pleased with the fullness of flavour in this weighted dish.
The torno al crudo ($17) were thin slices of raw and lightly smoked tuna with an orange and campari sorbet topped with caper berries. The sorbet had nearly completely melted by the time it reached us. Although I don’t drink alcohol, I still wanted to try this for something different. The tuna was super thin and so delicate. The sorbet provided a hint of bitterness including a bitter aftertaste however it didn’t overwhelm the pureness of the tuna. Very easy to gobble up but the Campari sorbet just didn’t do it for me. I’m sure it would taste fantastic to those that drink Campari!
The crusty Italian bread with olive oil and vinegar ($6.50) is not too crusty that you nearly cut the inside of your mouth with a soft white centre. J and I both liked dipping this into the oil and vinegar. The bread comes from Dom’s Woodfired Gourmet Bread which is also available at the Old Bus Depot Markets.
I was keen to try a pasta dish so I made a date with another friend to try Salotto a week later for dinner. She was also interested in the small starters and ordered the arancini and a side of polenta chips ($10) with a tomato dipping sauce. The chips had a fabulous fried and crispy exterior, however it wasn’t as flavoursome as some other places.
The handmade pasta of the week was fettuccine. Out of the three sauces (carbonara, bolognaise and seafood), I decided on the seafood (frutti di mare) in a tomato based sauce (you can also choose garlic and oil). This was a larger portion than expected with the fettucine twirled and piled high on the plate. I was impressed with the large slices of squid which were cooked to perfection – tender, easy to chew and juicy. There was also no scrimping on the amount of squid served. Together with the black mussels, vongole and two king prawns, the bold and slightly acidic tomato sauce was a great base to ensure the seafood shined. The fettucine itself was long, chewy with a bit of resistance and easily slurpable. A good portion size of fettuccine too. Thick white napkins were appreciated to wipe away the after effects of slurping. An enjoyable hearty dish.
For dessert, I couldn’t go past the tiramisu ($14). This was a decent portion size, dusted with coca powder and topped with a sliced strawberry and chocolate shard. Kudos to the kitchen staff for taking the time to cut off the green leaves from the strawberry. It was a good height with three layers of lady fingers and mascarpone in between. The first few bites of the tiramisu were pleasant but I felt that it got heavy very quickly (perhaps due to the richness of the mascarpone cream) and I didn’t end up finishing this.
My friend was excited to order the Nutella cronut ($14) served with vanilla bean ice cream and crushed amaretti biscuits. I was also curious to see what it would look/taste like after trying the photo worthy cronuts at Ricardo’s. Quite frankly, Salotto’s ‘cronut’ is not a cronut. This version had two round flat pastry layers, similar to roti, with Nutella spread in between. The pastry was crispy but very oily. This was a bit of an anticlimax to dinner.
Both times I dined at Salotto (Sunday lunch and Friday night dinner), there was live music playing which is great! The Sunday arvo was very chill and so relaxing with only a handful of diners there. We sat inside in quiet bliss listening to the sweet tunes coming from the musician by the door. We found there was natural light coming through the skylights which made it surprisingly brighter inside than outside. In contrast, the Friday night dining experience had a different vibe altogether. It was at 90% capacity inside and completely packed outside. The bi-fold windows had been thrown open to officially welcome spring that warm evening. We were seated inside again where noise levels got progressively louder over the night in addition to another live music act. By 8pm, it was very hard to hear what the other person was saying. The atmosphere was buzzing with groups of friends enjoying themselves, but be prepared for the noise levels.
I enjoyed the light starters on the menu and the handmade pasta, but I thought the desserts were sub standard. Service is friendly and delivered with a smile – on both occasions, staff immediately brought a bottle of tap water and glasses to the table, and were quick to take orders. Although we were checked upon for any additional drink orders throughout our dining experience, it was easy to get the attention of staff if we needed anything extra as there were plenty of staff roving around.
Salotto Bar and Kitchen is on Kennedy Street and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Wednesday to Sunday. Menu online.
Value for money 7/10
FPJ score 22/30
If you want more random photos and updates about food, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.