Walking into Salerno is like walking into an eatery in New York's Little Italy. Nestled on Beach Street, between a One-Hour Photo and Wally's Barber Shop, the Laguna Beach restaurant bubbles over with the smell of garlicky marinara sauce.
Souvenir brandy bottles in all shapes and sizes, along with photos of the owner's Italian homeland, decorate veneer-paneled walls. Traditional plaid tablecloths cover a long row of tables set up in the middle of the restaurant for family-style dining.
Owner Tony Manzi, whose accent is nearly as thick as his meat sauce, opened his first restaurant in Yonkers, N.Y., in 1955. Years later, at an age when most folks retire, Manzi relocated to Southern California and, in 1975, opened Salerno.
The menu here isn't filled with vegetable-topped entrees. Come ready to try the baked mostaccoli with italian sausage. Or the gnocchi. Or, if you happen to be dining with understanding friends, order the fettucini with garlic and oil. Meals are accompanied by a very simple iceberg lettuce salad and a basket of store-bought rolls.