Authentic Italian food is a precious commodity on Martha’s Vineyard, and Chef Salvatore della Torre is bringing it to the table with his new Vineyard Haven restaurant, Salvatore’s. If you loved his dishes at La Soffitta, you can expect more of the same at Salvatore’s. And that’s a good thing.
I’ve been meaning to order takeout from the new restaurant, and this weekend, I finally did. Lucky for me, my family can never decide on the same options, so we always end up with a variety. But before I dived into any of the dishes, I sat down with the chef and talked about opening his new restaurant. We sat outdoors in the small seating area in front of the Union Street restaurant, six feet from the next table.
I asked della Torre how owning his own place compares with working for someone else. “For me this is a challenge, and I like challenges,” he said. “Whenever you work for someone else, you go to work, do your job. Here, it’s me, and I have to make sure everything goes perfect.”
And he added, “You work more, you sleep less.”
He’s had the building since November 2019, then began renovations and opened in late May. “So far, so good,” he said with a smile.
Della Torre is from Naples, where he first learned his way around a kitchen from his grandmother, who ran a very small cafe. He’d stay with her after school when he was a little boy, and watched what she was doing very closely. That’s where, he said, he first began to understand the two key ingredients for any chef: love and passion for food and cooking — with some culinary education on the side. He studied in Italy and France, where he stayed for almost 18 years.
Della Torre said he loves the Island, and is happy to be here in West Tisbury with his wife and family. “It’s a beautiful Island,” he said; “when you do a good job here, people know.”
I took a little tour of the place while I was waiting for my order, and I met della Torre’s two partners, Nikola Stalovic and Dusan Veselinovic, both gearing up for the incoming dinner crowd. They took a break to take me out into the courtyard in the back of the restaurant; it was bordered with blooming plants of all kinds and a herb garden. The inside is rustic and comfortable, and I could imagine stopping by the bar after work with friends — as soon as that’s an option. Della Torre said that business has been good so far, after opening according to the state’s safety protocols. He also told me that he plans to be open year-round, saying, “We’ll be open year-round, maybe change the days open, but we’ll be taking care of Island people, this will be a place to go on the weekend. We’ll take care of people; in winter we stick together.”
I came home with a late lunch, and my son James plated our takeout so that we could savor the experience a little more at home. He didn’t get to fuss too much though, as we were all hovering around him, eager to eat.
The Tagliatelle al Ragu, with housemade pasta and slow-cooked beef, lamb, and veal in tomato sauce, was delicious ($20, and enough to share). We ordered two paninis, the Steak Panini ($18) and the Vegetarian Panini ($13); they came with either fries or a seasonal salad. Both paninis were good, but I surprisingly loved the steak version, with balsamic onions, cremini mushrooms, fresh Burrata, and arugula. (I must’ve been in a meat-eating mood, because my favorites were the steak panini and the ragu.) I also ordered an Insalata di Rucola ($13), because I planned to try a little of each dish, but put my focus on the huge salad with fresh cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, a very smart move. The ingredients in his dishes are local and close to 100 percent organic, della Torre said. “I use quality ingredients in everything I make, no cheap stuff.”
I’d been to La Soffitta when della Torre was chef there, so I already knew I would love the food at Salvatore’s. It’s a welcome addition to Vineyard Haven, and I can’t wait to meet friends there after work for apps and drinks.
Salvatore’s, 20 Union St., Vineyard Haven. Takeout or dine there, practicing social distancing. Open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 11 am to 10 pm; open Saturday and Sunday, 11 am to 11 pm. Lunch available 11 am to 3 pm daily. 508-687-9457, salvatoresristorante.com.