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Time to indulge: Salvatori's 2nd location a hit

Ryan DuVall - 11/18/12

Time to indulge: Salvatori’s 2nd location a hit

The only thing Salvatori’s Authentic Italian Eatery needed was more space.

The cozy little Italian place in a truck stop outside New Haven serves some of the best pasta dishes in the area, the service is excellent and it is one of my favorites.

But with success came crowds, making dining there a challenge to say the least.

A few months ago, owner Sam Leto not only found additional space, but he found a gorgeous space in The Shops on Scott Road that was once home to Aboite Grill. And now that space finally has food that lives up to its looks.

Little was done to change the interior except for the addition of some of Leto’s family photos; a family that is the inspiration for his cuisine. And the crowds have rushed to the new store, too, so Leto has already expanded to a space next door for large groups and spillover.

The already large menu did not expand, it shrank as pizzas are not available in the new store because of a leasing agreement by another of the shopping center’s tenants. But the new Salvatori’s has a bar and puts it to good use with decanters of infused vodkas, which are used to make fantastic lemonades and other adult drinks.

I tried one of Salvatori’s calzones – the closest thing to pizza they can offer – and it was an acceptable alternative. The dough was browned but still soft and was brushed with garlic butter. There was plenty of meat – pepperoni in this case – and cheese, and it was a tasty and filling sandwich of sorts.

But it was not as tasty as the surprisingly good Italian beef sandwich. It had tender, flavorful meat, sweet red Mancini brand peppers, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, a so-good-I-wanted-to-drink-it broth for dipping and it included a generous portion of pasta on the side.

While looking at Salvatori’s many complex pasta options, the classic spaghetti and meatballs seems a bit boring, but don’t let it fool you. Salvatori’s makes its meat sauce and meatballs the right way (nothing frozen here). For proof, you can watch how they make both on the restaurant’s website at

The sauce had the perfect balance of sweetness and savory, slow-cooked beef flavor. The two hand-rolled meatballs – roughly the size of racquet balls – were Nana-worthy with the perfect ratio of Parmesan, garlic and herbs.

Those meatballs were also found in Salvatori’s lasagna, which has sliced ones in place of ground meat. But the star was the cheese: loads of velvety, creamy ricotta and chewy, stringy mozzarella. If you get a full order, be prepared to be eating it for lunch the next day, or better yet, as an indulgent late-night snack.

Speaking of indulgence, an appetizer found its place on my favorites lists. The sausage, chicken and roasted peppers was just that, a large crock filled with bubbling marinara, tender pieces of chicken breast, a lot of sliced Italian sausage, bell peppers, onions and Mancini peppers. It is served with thinly sliced, toasted ciabatta bread, but I advise pairing it with an order of garlic-cheese bread.

It was heavily seasoned and the fat from the sausage created a little pool of grease on top, but it had the kind of rich, slow-cooked goodness that screams comfort food. I couldn’t stop diving back in. I think Salvatori’s could even serve it by the cup as Italian stew.

As homemade as that “stew” was, a not-from-scratch entrée – one of few at this eatery – was almost as impressive, thanks to its from-scratch sauce. Leto gently enrobes his spinach raviolis in a creamy balsamella sauce, an Italian version of béchamel. He adds fresh mushrooms and more fresh spinach to the sauce. The balsamella is infused with garlic, the meaty mushrooms add depth and the dish is crazy good.

There were really few negatives when it came to the food.

The House Potatoes appetizer – ground sausage, onions and Mancini peppers topped with garlic butter and shredded Parmesan cheese – was tasty, but there were several undercooked potatoes in it.

The fettuccini Alfredo was rich and creamy, but I should not have opted to pay extra to have chicken and vegetables added. The sauce took on too much flavor from the veggies – particularly the broccoli – and lost some of its decadence.

I was also surprised, given Salvatori’s has time to infuse liquors, that it doesn’t brew its own iced tea. Actually, there was no tea as the drink dispenser was empty.

The service was also not as flawless as it has always been at the original. I was not told about the specials during both visits.

During one visit my server brought an incorrect beverage and then went MIA. The server was MIA during most of that busy night and the wait for the main courses and the check was way too long.

But I still left happy thanks to a dessert like no other.

Salvatori’s offers cannolis and they are pretty tasty, as is the tiramisu, but nothing compares to the cinnamon rolls. As large as and made just like sausage rolls, the pizza dough in these is stuffed with cinnamon-sugar and butter, and the crusty dough gets a little more butter on the outside. The butter oozes out from the inside as soon as you cut into it, followed by the lava-like cinnamon filling.

Journal Gazette Metro Editor Tom Germuska joined me during one visit and he literally laughed out loud for about five minutes after taking his first bite; it was that ridiculously good.

White chocolate sauce or caramel (or both) were the traditional topping options, but Salvatori’s has added dark chocolate, raspberry sauce and strawberry puree as options now.

Sounds like a good excuse to go back and have another – not that I need an excuse to return because this new Salvatori’s is pretty much as good as the original.


Family recipes taste just as great at new Salvatori’s

Cindy Larson - August 28, 2012

Cindy Larson August 28, 2012
News Sentinel

Family recipes taste just as great at new Salvatori’s

Family started with location near New Haven and now expands to second eatery in southwest Fort Wayne.

How lucky are folks on the west side of Fort Wayne? Sam and Angelino Leto, the same family that opened Salvatori’s in a little spot east of New Haven, have expanded their business to the Illinois/Scott roads area.

Also named Salvatori’s, the new restaurant is even better than the one in New Haven, which is small and a little lacking in atmosphere.

The new Salvatori’s, where Aboite Grill used to be, still has the high ceilings and faux windows of its predecessors. A pergola with artificial greenery and white lights delineates part of the dining area. Large stained glass panels hide something — maybe a prep station? Salvatori’s is named after Sam Leto’s late father, Salvatori. The Leto family opened the first Italian restaurant in Fort Wayne, Leto’s Pizza, in the mid-’60s. Salvatori Leto worked there as a teen and learned the family recipes, which were passed down to his son, who now uses them at his two restaurants. The new Salvatori’s offers some interesting appetizers, baked and tossed pasta dishes, calzones, rolls, sandwiches and salads, plus full bar service. My lunch companion arrived before I did, and ordered what he “thought” was a non-alcoholic drink. That strawberry basil martini most certainly was alcoholic. (I had to take a few sips.) With Grey Goose vodka, Tanqueray gin, lime juice and strawberries, this boozy concoction topped with fresh basil was aromatic and smooth. I wasn’t sure I liked the flavor of the basil in the drink, but it didn’t stop us (mostly him) from drinking it. We chose fresh vegetable crostini for an appetizer, and what a treat it was. Four slender slices of toasted ciabatta bread were topped with finely chopped vegetables — tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, green and black olives, carrots, cabbage, and red, green and banana peppers, all marinated in an Italian dressing, and then topped with a bit of mozzarella. I loved the crunch of the vegetables, the mild marinade and the toasted bread. I picked spinach-filled ravioli for my entrée, a half order, which was plenty. I still had leftovers to take home. I didn’t closely read the description, but did see the word “marinara,” so thought it would be in a red sauce. I was surprised to be served a dish in a white sauce, with just a touch of marinara. Sometimes Italian white sauces are too rich for my palate, but this creamy balsamelia sauce, basically a milk, butter, flour and salt concoction (think béchamel) was very much to my liking. The ravioli was filled with a four-cheese mixture and chopped spinach, and the entrée was topped with a bit of asiago cheese. Very mild and delicate. Our excellent server noted that the dish is baked right on the plate in the oven, so the ravioli stuck a bit to the plate, but it wasn’t a problem. My companion selected Basilicata: peppers, onions, Italian sausage and rigatoni tossed in a mildly spicy marinara sauce. It was a bit spicy, and the sliced sausage links were bursting with flavor. A good choice for him; I liked my mild, meatless dish better. He, too, had plenty of leftovers. We couldn’t leave without trying the cannoli for dessert. We split one, and it was just enough to enjoy without overeating and feeling guilty. Very creamy with a hint of cocoa, sprinkled with colored sugar which gave it a little texture. The perfect ending to a very good meal. Source:

Couple opens Salvatori’s in honor of father

Nichole Hacha-Thomas -- August 03, 2012

Nichole Hacha-Thomas August 03, 2012

Couple opens Salvatori’s in honor of father

There’s a new Italian restaurant in town since Salvatori’s Authentic Italian Eatery opened July 9 at its newest southwest location, 10337 Illinois Road.

The owners Sam Leto and his wife Angelina already have a successful restaurant in New Haven, which opened in 2006. Sam said both restaurants really are a modern-day love story, opened in loving memory of his father.

The restaurant business is in the Leto blood, as Sam uncle once owned Leto’s Pizza in the mid-1950s – only the second Italian restaurant in the area at the time. Sam’s dad worked at the pizzaria when he was a kid. And, like many way back when, he even met his future wife within the shop’s walls.

“They met, got married and that’s how my sister and I came to be,” Sam said.

Later Sam’s dad left the pizza-selling business to work in law enforcement. But his dad longed to open his own restaurant one day, Leto said.

The year Leto’s dad retired, he opened Sam’s Place downtown on the landing. Not more than a few months later, Leto said, his father was dead and the family later lost the restaurant.

“It was always his dream,” Leto said. “So, I wanted to open a restaurant in his memory.”

Thus, Salvatoris was born. Both locations serve up calzones, sausage rolls, homemade lasagna, manicotti, cannelloni and more.

Most days you will find Sam and Angelina Leto deeply involved in the day-to-day operations with Angelina handling the administrative side and Sam in the kitchen cooking up the authentic Italian foods he ate as a child.

“I grew up eating Italian food, always eating. I think of my grandmother when I was younger and watched her make these recipes a hundred times,” Sam Leto said, admitting he tries his hardest to do his deal grandmother’s recipes justice and is even still working to perfect a few.

Leto said the Illinois Road location will capitalize on the food, ambiance and customer service its New Haven location is known for, but will step up its offerings with more space, a full bar and a secluded dining area for meetings or private dinners.

Leto invites the community to come out and give Salvatori’s a try.

“If you are looking for a different place to try, come out and enjoy a night at Salvatori’s,” he said. “The portions are great and the portions are right.”

Source: [defunct]  

Dining worth lines at Italian hideaway

Ryan DuVall - 01/15/12

Dining worth lines at Italian hideaway

It is no longer just the cozy little place I happened upon in, of all places, a truck stop east of New Haven.

No, Salvatori’s Authentic Italian Eatery has seen its reputation grow to the point that it is always packed and there is usually a line of folks waiting to get in.

One would think a bigger space was in order for the restaurant Sam Leto opened next to Bill’s Sun Mart and Taco Bell along U.S. 30. But keeping the numbers low allows Leto and his crew to concentrate on what is most important – making from-scratch Italian food better than the bigger places.

Leto still makes his meatballs by hand, still grabs an empty pot to start each order of Alfredo sauce and still takes time to ensure everything is up to his standards. Only recently did he decide to add to his menu.

The staples are still there, but there are some new twists, starting with an upgraded version of his to-die-for fettuccine Alfredo.

The Alfredo Especial has the same silky, cheesy, rich sauce, but includes crispy fried prosciutto, green peas, roasted red peppers and crushed red pepper. The peas popped with freshness, the prosciutto added a wonderful salty bacon-like quality, the roasted peppers added a touch of sweetness and the crushed pepper added some spice. This carbonara of sorts was an even better take on the best Alfredo in this area.

Another new addition that found favor was the Cavatelli Pesto. Shell pasta was beautifully enrobed by a bright green sauce made with fresh basil and garlic and tossed with roasted red peppers. The pesto sauce was not too intense (which is good if you are not a fan of pesto) but had a pronounced kick of garlic. I had chicken added to mine, and there were plenty of tender, juicy bits of breast meat throughout.

The Cavatelli Caiazzo was just as good. The pasta was joined by sliced spicy Italian sausage, red onions, mushrooms, stewed tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil in a rusty colored tomato sauce made using a spiced butter that was a little oily but really added some heat.

A small version of another new addition, the Philly steak pizza, made for a great appetizer.

Thinly sliced and melt-in-your mouth tender top round were joined atop the thin, crispy crust by fresh green bell and jalapeno peppers, red onions, roasted red peppers, globs of creamy Fontinella cheese and a drizzle of good ‘ol bright yellow processed cheese sauce. It would have been great as a sandwich and was darn good as a pizza.

Speaking of great sandwiches, as much as I love Salvatori’s meatballs, I had never tried a meatball sandwich before. Big mistake.

The gigantic meatballs are sliced and served atop crusty Italian bread, which nicely soaks up the meat sauce that covers them along with sweet roasted red peppers, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. It is served open-faced and would be impossible to close and eat with your hands given the amount of toppings.

And although I usually stick with Salvatori’s thin, chewy breadsticks, the Fresh Vegetable Crostini was worth trying as a starter again. The crostinis were nicely toasted on the bottom and soaked up the zesty Italian dressing coating the chopped Roma tomatoes, red and white onions, mushrooms, black and green olives, carrots, cabbage, green peppers, roasted red peppers and banana peppers on top.

My only criticism was the crostini being topped with shredded cold mozzarella, which didn’t really add any flavor. Freshly grated parmesan would have worked better.

There was nothing better than dessert. The cinnamon roll, which found its place in my Jan. 1 “Best Of” column, is basically a big sausage roll only instead of sausage, cheese and sauce, it is filled with cinnamon, sugar and butter. It is then topped with either caramel sauce – my favorite – or white chocolate sauce.

It may be difficult to finish after a big Italian meal and you may have to wait a while for it to be prepared since it, like pretty much everything at Salvatori’s Authentic Italian Cuisine, is made from scratch.

But it is fantastic.

Just like the restaurant.

It may be way too busy and way too cramped given the folks lining up to eat there, but that is an inconvenience I will just have to learn to live with because not returning is not an option.


"This place is incredible."

Pat White - 11/06/11

Pat White 11/06/11
Talk Radio Host

“My God, this place is incredible. Yes, it is in a truckstop, but the food is unreal. Make sure there is room in your fridge as you will be eating for days after dining there. From the appetisers to the desserts you simply can’t go wrong. If you love Italian, this is the place to eat. 5-stars.”

Salvatori's is a gem in the rough

Ryan DuVall - 01/21/07

Salvatori’s is a gem in the rough

If there is one thing I have learned in my years of dining out, it is that you just never know what you are going to get. Go to a five-star, $100-a-plate place and you might get just a few specks of food that look more like what is left on your plate when you are finished than what you start with. Then, go to a ramshackle roadside trailer and eat the best barbecued ribs your fingers have ever dirtied themselves on. So, when someone told me there was a new Italian restaurant connected to the Bill’s Sun Mart outside of New Haven off U.S. 30 just east of Interstate 469, I didn’t hesitate to check it out. And, boy, I was glad I did. Located in a gas station, ambience is hard to come by, but the owners of Salvatori’s have done their best. It has fast-food style booths and just a few tables and tile floors, but the walls are an attractive mustard color with red, green and white Italian flag stripes along the top, and there are several dated photos of Italy and a hodgepodge of Italian wares decorating them. I was seated as soon as I walked in the door both times by a friendly, smiling staff member who made me feel right at home. However, unlike my home, smoking is allowed in the smallish dining room, so beware. [Salvatori’s went non-smokining in April 2011] No sooner had I opened the menu than I knew this place was a far cry from the Taco Bell that shares the other side of the building. There are plenty of sandwiches, salads and pizza-by-the-slice for customers on the go (i.e. truck drivers who frequent the facility), but how many truck stops do hand-rolled manicotti or pasta primavera? I opted to try the lasagna and manicotti during my first visit but had to at least sample one pizza. The 7-inch Veneto white pizza proved to be the perfect appetizer. The thin, more chewy than crispy crust was topped with Salvatori’s Alfredo sauce, shaved chicken breast, red onions, mushrooms, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese. The chicken was juicy; the mushrooms really worked well with the sauce and the basil was a fantastic touch. Next time, however, I am going to ask for more onions. Not because there wasn’t enough, I just love onions on chicken pizza. I also tried a dinner salad, which is a half portion of the more meal-sized house salad. It was decent, and I would venture to say better than any other salad I have had at a gas station, although that isn’t much of a venture. The blend of romaine and iceberg lettuce was tossed with diced red cabbage, carrot slivers, red onion and a blend of white cheeses. The house creamy Italian finished it off perfectly. I also found that a couple of Salvatori’s sides were pretty good as appetizers. The chilled tomato and cucumber salad was fresh, crispy and had the right vinegar zing, and the hot spicy cabbage was quite a find. Served piping hot with what I believe was a bit of olive oil or butter and a blend of red pepper and seasonings, this mix of red and green cabbage had just enough spices to make it interesting without being too harsh. But how interesting the main courses were going to be was the big question. I ordered the full order of manicotti because, who am I kidding, I have a big appetite. But I didn’t have one big enough to handle this giant plate of food. Salvatori’s manicotti is made with lasagna noodles rolled end to end and stuffed with ricotta cheese and spices. It is topped with meat sauce, but marinara is available upon request. It was fantastic. The sauce is slightly sweet and quite meaty, and there is a ton of cheese that oozes out with each cut from the fork. The full order contained four giant rolls. I ate two and had plenty left for lunch the next day. The lasagna was even better. Although it contained the same basic ingredients, there was a scrumptious surprise sitting under the top layer – thinly sliced meatballs. Salvatori’s meatballs are homemade and have a good amount of garlic. They were so good; I am dying to go back and try a meatball sub. Both dishes were served with garlic bread that, like the meatballs, was made on site. The Italian bread is just slightly toasted with a drizzle of olive oil, along with garlic and a pinch of spices. It is chewy and delicious. During my second visit, I decided a sandwich was in order, but chose the Maria – pepperoni, ground Italian sausage, salami, ham, marinara and mozzarella cheese – over the meatball. It was served on the same tasty bread the garlic bread is made with and it, too, didn’t disappoint. There was a ton of meat, plenty of cheese, and the sauce was great. It was also topped with a large lettuce leaf that I tossed away. Who are they kidding? Lettuce belongs nowhere near this sandwich. I chose another interesting side with my sandwich during this visit – the house potatoes. Chunks of soft, yellow, quartered potatoes were cooked up with ground sausage, chicken, onions, green peppers and roasted red peppers. It was a great side dish, but a starchy one for a place that specializes in pasta. Somewhere Dr. Atkins is rolling over in his grave. The final pasta dish I tried – Basilicata sausage and peppers rigatoni – had a ton of sliced onions and green peppers and roasted red peppers with the large chunks of Italian sausage and marinara. The helping was huge, just like the manicotti, and I had plenty left over for lunch again. This may have been the best dish at Salvatori’s. It was quite zesty and peppery, and even better with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. I also had to try another pizza and, of course, had to see how Salvatori’s sausage roll measured up. The Abruzzo all-meat pizza was a good pick, but not as good as the Veneto. There was plenty of pepperoni, Italian sausage, ham, bacon, salami (a great pizza topping in my book), cappicola (an even better topping) and ground beef, and the regular pizza sauce was fine, but the fresh basil and mushrooms on the Veneto made it my favorite. The sausage roll disappointed because it was more of a calzone with its bready covering. As a calzone, it was good, but don’t try to pass it off as a sausage roll. Salvatori’s dessert selection is up to par with many other restaurants in the area, but that is not a good thing. The only options are cheesecake – turtle or white chocolate-raspberry. Sound familiar? It should, because I think one out of every three restaurants I visit in this area offers the same thing. They are good, sure, but unimaginative. Had Salvatori’s offered, say, a homemade cannoli or some tiramisu, it would have had me thinking hard about giving a gas station restaurant five stars. Regardless, Salvatori’s is doing just fine. The food was fantastic and the service was great. I saw several truck drivers walking past the front window taking sacks of Taco Bell back to their rigs and shook my head. They didn’t know what they were missing.