Published on May 13th, 2012 | by Katie Elberson0
Little Italy's Best Salad: Chipparelli’s or Sabatino's?
It’s that time of the year again. The time when lush comfort foods to give way to plates of fresh produce and healthful salads in the name of swimsuit season. Of course, not all salads are going to help you fit into that bathing suit. There are salads mounded with fried chicken and bleu cheese, salads made inside of an oversized taco shell, and salads made out of potato or egg. And then there are the kind of salads you find in Little Italy. “Famous” salads, salads that spark a debate over which is the better option to fill the space between the bread basket and the pasta course.
On the surface, Sabatino’s Bookmaker’s Salad and Chipparelli’s House Salad have very little in common. Though they both begin with a pile of crisp iceberg lettuce, that’s where the similarities stop. Sabatino’s is topped with a mound of provolone, salami, hard-boiled egg, olives, and cold shrimp, while Chip’s is simply tossed with pepperoncini, cherry tomatoes, and a few slivers of onion. These are salads that are typically mentioned in the same sentence, but yet they seemed to be worlds apart. Having heard praises and critiques about both options, we decided to see for ourselves which salad was superior.
We started at Sabatino’s, where we were hoping to sit at the bar, enjoy a glass of wine, and split a large salad. One problem – at Sabatino’s, there’s only a service bar. Instead, we were seated at a table in one of their dining rooms, where we apologetically told our waitress that we were really only looking for some salad, not a full meal. She brought us a bread basket anyway, and we munched on soft Italian bread while sipping our burgundy wine. The salad came out in a matter of minutes, dressing on the side, and it was enormous. Really, the salad at Sabatino’s is more of an antipasto platter – the vegetables are wildly outnumbered by meat, cheese, egg, and seafood. Personally, I’m not a fan of cold shrimp in salads, but I enjoyed the salami and provolone. But because I was basically eating meat, cheese, and a few bites of lettuce, it felt a lot more like a cheese plate than a salad. I also found the parmesan dressing, which was so abundant we had barely put a dent in it when the salad was finished, a bit gritty and a little monochromatic in its flavor. Already dangerously full from salad number one, we ventured just across the street to Chipparelli’s, where we were able to sit at the bar for round two.
I was disappointed to discover that there wasn’t any fruit available for the sangria, but the drink itself was light and refreshing. Their bread basket was also stocked with thick cuts of an Italian loaf, but Chip’s crust was more browned, and the slices had more structure than the bread we’d tasted at Sabatino’s. Our salad came out on individual plates rather than one large serving platter, which did make it easier for us to serve. I preferred Chip’s dressing to Sabatino’s – it was garlicky and had a pleasant texture from the parmesan rather than the grittiness we’d tasted at our first stop. And it’s important that you like the dressing here, since the salad is positively drenched in it. A health food, this is not, but I couldn’t help but feel that while Sabatino’s salad could feasibly be considered a meal, the salad at Chip’s is really more of a first course. With the dominance so squarely placed on iceberg lettuce and dressing, this salad will fill you up due to sheer quantity, not because it’s a meal in itself.
I had expected, really, to be able to compare apples to apples with the salads at Sabatino’s and Chipparelli’s. But in actuality, everything about these restaurants seemed different to me: from the more reserved, formal air at Sabatino’s to the casual, comfortable atmosphere in Chipparelli’s bar area. The salads that were so largely different, though their base of iceberg lettuce and cheesy dressing would lead you to expect similarities. Even the service was different – we joked and laughed with our bartender at Chip’s, while our waitress at Sabatino’s, while attentive, was very reserved during our visit. The personality of these restaurants are in their differences and, for me, Chip’s hit the nail on the head.