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With the main courses comes the red sauce, the key to so much of the menu's success. Knowing the secret to Salerno's red sauce could break up a marriage -- or mend one. Following all the right recipe rules, Piccardi produces his sauce simply by reducing the natural juices of the ingredients and adding secret amounts of the classics. He's especially good at getting the right amount of sweetness in the sauce. And not too much oregano. "Mom never used it, except a little on pizza," Tony Salerno declares. "Too bitter."
And the pasta? Though not cooked as al dente as served on the Boot, it's delicioso. Neither the shape, the sauce, nor the number of people at the table matters. What heightens the delight is that the Salerno's kitchen makes its own gnocchi, tortellini, and egg and spinach fettucini with choice of sauce, such as pomodoro, spinach crème, meat sauce, or mushroom sauce ($8.95). Biting into the full, nutty taste of the fresh semolina is like finding a clean, empty stretch of beach.
Or you can go with one of the 12 specialty dishes ($10.95 to $16.75). Recommended are the tender pork chops with peppers, onions, and potatoes ($14.50) or the beef or pork braciole cavetteli ($14.95). The latter, Campanian classics of rolled pork (or beef) stuffed with bread crumbs, garlic, and parsley and served with tomato sauce or "big" spaghetti, shows the kitchen's skills off to good advantage.
301 W. Oakland Park Blvd.
Lauderdale Lakes, FL 33311
Region: Fort Lauderdale
Not all bells ring true at Salerno's, however. The salads ($2.50 to $6.50), from caesar to mushroom, don't provoke much interest, even when covered with homemade, all-natural salad dressings such as gorgonzola basil. And the dessert choices (cheesecake, cannoli, even the homemade tiramisu, from $3 to $3.75) seem decidedly after-the-fact -- which they are, considering you've just finished 2,000 calories of fat and carbs -- not to mention two glasses of the decent house chianti ($3.95 per glass).
The army chow-line portions at Salerno's may be the reason many of the patrons sport elastic waistbands. Make Salerno's a habit and you too may need to let out a few inches. If you don't want to leave the place groaning from overindulgence, leave it grinning because you've been smart enough to ask for a doggy bag.
You may also leave Salerno's slightly disappointed that you are not under a Neapolitan sky. To assuage that feeling, consider the leftovers that the waitress with the eyeliner has so kindly wrapped up for you. Suddenly, it doesn't matter that you're standing there in the sulfurous air, looking out at nothing. You've got Salerno's to remember.