A west-end pizzeria quietly makes some of the best Italian food in Ithaca

November 25, 2014 by Mark H. Anbinder

Over the last few years, whenever we've talked about good pizza options in Ithaca, or good wing joints in Ithaca, someone has invariably asked, "What about Sal's?" We've always known about Sal's Pizzeria, in Ithaca's west end, but it's been ages since we'd paid them a visit, and it was long overdue.

We were delighted to find fresh mushrooms, not canned, at Sal's.We were delighted to find fresh mushrooms, not canned, at Sal's.Since Sal Melice opened in 1989, this small pizzeria and Italian restaurant has been offering excellent pizza, fantastic wings, subs, lasagna, salads, and lots more. Across from Agway in a Fulton Street shopping plaza that drivers zip by without a glance on their way south on Route 13, Sal's is easy to miss, but worth stopping in.

We began with wings and pizza, because that's what brought us back to Sal's. The wings were meaty with just enough crackle to the skin, and the right amount of sauce -- not too dry, and not too gloppy. The "hot" was nice and hot but not overpowering, with a pleasantly flavorful tang, and the cup of bleu cheese dressing plentiful.

Then the pizza arrived, and we couldn't have been happier. As we've said before, people have near-religious differences over what pizza is "supposed" to be. Around here, we often hear local pizzas compared to that holy grail of the field: the NYC pizza. At the risk of starting an argument, we're going to say this is as close as it gets. The crispy crust isn't too doughy, the sauce has a real tomato flavor, and there's plenty of cheese. We can see why people keep pushing us back to Sal's. It's not the cheapest pizza in town, but it's far from the most expensive. Worth the splurge.

Baked lasagna. Perfect.Baked lasagna. Perfect.While we enjoyed our pizza and wings, we chatted with the staff about the restaurant's history and its menu, wondering what we should try next. A recent question from a reader about where to find the best lasagna in town helped us choose.

Next visit, then, we ordered the lasagna. If there's a better one around these parts, we haven't found it. That same flavorful sauce, and gooey cheese bubbled and golden brown on top. They make the sausage from scratch at Sal's, with a little fennel and a little spice, and we hear it's what makes the pizza burger so good.

Eggplant parmigiana on a toasted loaf of bread, because why wouldn't you?Eggplant parmigiana on a toasted loaf of bread, because why wouldn't you?The last thing we wanted to try was a Sal's sub, and since eggplant parmigiana is a weakness of mine, that's what we picked. Eggplant parm can be greasy, but this wasn't. I can see ordering this sandwich again and again and again.

Lots of people order from Sal's, since they offer free delivery, but carrying out or dining in are options, as well. The restaurant is nothing fancy, but if you visit, you can relax with a pint of beer or a glass of wine. 

Sal's even offers gluten free pizza, using a prepared gluten free crust topped like any other Sal's pizza. No, it's not quite as good as Sal's regular pizza, but it's perfectly tasty -- and if you can't eat regular dough, it's magical! Do keep in mind that Sal's does not have a gluten free kitchen or oven, so Celiac sufferers and those with extreme gluten sensitivity should be aware that cross-contamination is a possibility.

Pizza, wings, subs, and pasta are a great way to build an affordable, sharable meal. Plan on spending $5-15 per person. Pay Sal's a visit at 220 South Fulton Street, on the right side of the stretch of Route 13 southbound between Maxie's and Wegmans, check their web site at ithacasalspizzeria.com, or call 607-277-7257 (SALS) and tell them you heard about them here.

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