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First Bite: Benvenuti Opens in Walnut Creek

A fresh take on an old favorite.


Nicholas Boer

Benvenuti (which means “welcome” in Italian) is the reincarnation of Salvatore Ristorante, a classic Walnut Creek trattoria whose menu stayed constant for more than two decades. After an eight-month renovation, the Italian eatery recently reopened under its new name.

It’s quite an apt name: Giuseppe Alagna’s broad smile practically reeled me in from the sidewalk. And Giuseppe’s ebullient mom, Angela, who helped her brother Salvatore run the restaurant for 30 years (Salvatore was located in San Francisco for the first 10 years), is still running the show and giving out hugs.

Above all, the food is homey. Our first bite of warm, crispy Acme bread with a garlicky dipping sauce was as comforting as the new decor was cheerful. Then came simply steamed clams and appetizers of grilled artichoke and roasted cauliflower, new dishes that show the menu is taking a more seasonal direction. But most of Salvatore’s favorite standard dishes remain on the menu, including meat lasagna, potato gnocchi, and melanzana ripiena—roasted eggplant filled with a hearty mix of ground veal and sausage. Also satisfying was Benvenuti’s house-made pappardelle with plump meatballs.

I had never had dined at Salvatore, but my tablemates, who were regulars during the restaurant’s early years, remember it fondly. Apparently, what’s old is new again—a welcoming restaurant never goes out of style.

1627 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek, (925) 938-2828, salvatoreristorante.com. Dinner Tues.–Sun.

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