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Address: 270 Madison Ave
City: New York, NY
Zip: 10016
Phone: (212) 213-3440
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Map: Map
Chef: Clifford A. Crooks
Cuisine: Italian
2nd Cuisine:
Area: East 30s
Entree Price: >$30
Payment: Amex Visa Mastercard Discover JCB



In our downtown-centric restaurant world, the corner of Madison Avenue and 39th Street doesn’t immediately sound like a top dining destination. But you’d change your tune if you visit Salute, the haute-Italian eatery that resides on that unprepossessing spot. There are a number of reasons for the often-packed house, some of which have nothing to do with the food. First, there’s the dynamic pop-jazz quartet who plays in the spacious bar area only on Thursdays (and who are definitely worth catching, even if they are loud enough to make conversation in the dining room a tad difficult). Second, there’s an incredibly extensive list of wine by the glass, heavy on Italian varietals and dotted with vintages even devoted oenophiles might not be familiar with. Third, there’s the chance to glimpse Clifford Crooks, the handsome, young African-American chef who was recently a contestant on Bravo’s highly-watched reality TV show “Top Chef.” Last, but not least, is the superior cuisine Crooks and his dedicated staff deliver from the open kitchen at the back of the rather large restaurant. Be warned, you’ll pay a pretty penny for the privilege – a three-course dinner with wine will easily top $100 – but you’re likely to leave extremely sated, if not necessarily dazzled. For starters, consider the house’s “Salute” salad, a beautifully presented mélange of greens, sliced pears, chunks of gorgonzola, and spiced pecans that my dining partner savored oh-so-slowly, or a pair of delicate but extremely satisfying crab cakes accompanied by a small stack of jicama slaw. While you don’t necessarily think “duck” in an Italian restaurant, Crooks’ preparation of the fowl is excellent; slices of perfectly seared duck breast with just the right amount of fat paired with a delicious confit and tasty chestnut gnocchetti. My friend, fighting the winter chill, opted for a comforting bowl of tubittini pasta coated in a puree of winter squash and other vegetables; the unusual dish played like a healthier (if blander) variation on macaroni and cheese. Carnivores, on the other hand, will go wild for the enormous cowboy steak, a gigantic rib-eye served with a heap of French fries. The house takes desserts very seriously, which allows you to depart from such standards as tiramisu and cannoli, although both are on the menu. For visual effect, a banana flambé cake is hard to beat; the towering disk consists of layers of chocolate/hazelnut mousse cake topped by a layer of banana mousse crowned with a ring of homemade marshmallow that’s set ablaze with liqueur. For pure decadence, however, a sampler plate of homemade hazelnut gelato sandwiches, a super-rich chocolate-topped espresso cake, and a cup of deeply intense “hot chocolate” is the true winner. Indeed, it’s worthy of Salute – and a salute.

Review By: Brian Scott Lipton