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Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar in Salerno, Italy offers steaks, charcuterie, pastas and other dishes in a trendy, upscale atmosphere reminiscent of a bistro.

Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar in Salerno, Italy offers steaks, charcuterie, pastas and other dishes in a trendy, upscale atmosphere reminiscent of a bistro. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

Although it’s small, the Italian port city of Salerno is home to an astonishing number of cafes, trattorias and restaurants offering a surprising selection of cuisine, from the requisite Italian to French, Japanese and even Mexican.

That makes Salerno, along Italy’s Tyrrhenian Sea coast about 34 miles south of Naples, worth a day trip. But if gastronomy is on your mind, don’t visit for lunch on a Wednesday. Many of the city’s best spots are closed then.

On a recent visit, my companion and I discovered that our first, second and third choices — including a Michelin-starred seafood restaurant with magnificent waterfront views and an authentic Mexican eatery boasting tasty nachos and margaritas — weren’t open for lunch.

Meat lovers with deep pockets have plenty of choices when it comes to steak at Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar. The restaurant offers a variety of steaks from several regions and counties, such as Ireland, Spain and Poland.

Meat lovers with deep pockets have plenty of choices when it comes to steak at Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar. The restaurant offers a variety of steaks from several regions and counties, such as Ireland, Spain and Poland. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

That led us to Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar, a trendy, upscale eatery that is an easy walk from Salerno’s train station and just off its main shopping district along Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

Mood is unabashed in its focus on steaks, cured meats and ham. In fact, a refrigerator case prominently displayed in the restaurant’s indoor dining room proudly displays beef cuts from Europe and other parts of the world.

It’s not inexpensive. A 2-pound black Angus steak from Creekstone Farms in Kansas will set you back about 120 euros.

But depending on your hunger level, that serving and a few side dishes could easily sate at least two or three people. There are, however, some more affordable steak options priced from 20 to 27 euros.

Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar in Salerno, Italy offers indoor and garden seating. The indoor dining room includes a wine cellar and semi-private dining area.

Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar in Salerno, Italy offers indoor and garden seating. The indoor dining room includes a wine cellar and semi-private dining area. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

You can also indulge your love for specialty Parma or Iberian hams, pork belly and salami, among other charcuterie offerings. Again, it’s pricey. A serving of black Angus bresaola, or air-dried, salt-cured aged beef, is 20 euros.

But Mood’s menu also includes appetizers and pasta dishes, including some vegetarian options, that are more budget-friendly. And the generous portions allow for sharing.

My companion and I opted to sit in the garden, decorated with twinkling lights and candlelight in the evenings. There’s a main patio seating area, but tables also are situated out in the garden, which includes lemon trees.

We started our meal with a selection of four Italian cheeses and buffalo mozzarella, which the waiter portioned for us tableside. Three types of freshly baked bread and olive oil also were included.

Among the second course offerings at Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar is roasted duck breast with pumpkin and balsamic caramel.

Among the second course offerings at Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar is roasted duck breast with pumpkin and balsamic caramel. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

The cow’s milk cheeses varied in texture and sharpness. For example, the sweet Gorgonzola had a softer, rounder pungency comparable to a Roquefort.

The quartet also included a five-year aged Parmigiano-Reggiano. The mozzarella, while good, wasn’t a standout. I’ve had tastier Campania DOP buffalo mozzarella from my neighborhood cheese shop.

For an appetizer, I had a vegetarian option that included a poached egg on top of cubed potatoes and sauteed onions. The egg arrived perfectly poached with the yolk runny and the white cooked enough, without being rubbery.

The potatoes were lightly seasoned and expertly complemented by the onions, creating a satisfying dish that highlighted the natural flavors of the ingredients. It was priced at 12 euros, with an optional truffle addition for 3 euros more.

My companion ordered seared Alaskan salmon in teriyaki sauce with pumpkin and red cabbage for 16 euros. The fish came perfectly cooked, seared on the outside but not overdone on the inside.

The red cabbage was pureed into a tangy purple sauce that nicely accompanied the salmon and potato.

Fresh-made tagliolini with Normandy butter is among vegetarian offerings at Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar in Salerno, Italy. White truffle can be added for an extra 12 euros per gram.

Fresh-made tagliolini with Normandy butter is among vegetarian offerings at Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar in Salerno, Italy. White truffle can be added for an extra 12 euros per gram. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

Honestly, we could have stopped then. The portions were ample enough for lunch, but Mood’s pasta and other dishes tempted us into ordering a main entree.

Fresh-made tagliolini pasta with Normandy butter included an option for white truffle. The pasta was firm, with just enough of the buttery, rich sauce to make the dish luxurious but not heavy.

I took the plunge and tried the truffle, which offered a pleasant, earthy dimension to the pasta but, frankly, wasn’t necessary.

The roasted duck breast with pumpkin and balsamic caramel was delicious, my companion said. The meat was moist and flavorful without being too fatty. But the pumpkin was a bit mushy and flavorless, relying on olive oil and the balsamic sauce to give it heft.

In addition to fresh takes on traditional desserts such as tiramisu and creme brulee, Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar offers other options such as this walnut mouse cake with chocolate ganache and caramel.

In addition to fresh takes on traditional desserts such as tiramisu and creme brulee, Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar offers other options such as this walnut mouse cake with chocolate ganache and caramel. (Alison Bath/Stars and Stripes)

Mood doesn’t let down its patrons when it comes to dessert. In addition to tiramisu and creme brulee, more imaginative offerings such as walnut mousse cake with cocoa and chocolate and caramel ganache are offered.

The restaurant also has an extensive wine list with by-the-glass options and a walk-in wine cellar where you can choose your own bottle. Table service is excellent, with a focus on pacing the arrival of dishes to create a leisurely experience.

For those willing to part with some cash, Mood offers a focus on indulgence in fine food and wine without apology.

Mood Steakhouse and Garden Bar

Address: Via Giovani Angelo Papio, 21, Salerno, Italy

Hours: Seven days a week, 8 a.m.-midnight.

Prices: Appetizers, 12-20 euros; pasta and first course dishes, 13-18 euros; second-course dishes, 18-20 euros; steaks, priced by weight; desserts, 8-16 euros.

Information: Phone: +39 089 209 6902; Menu online: tinyurl.com/5n92dc39; Facebook: facebook.com/moodsteakhouse

author picture
Alison Bath reports on the U.S. Navy, including U.S. 6th Fleet, in Europe and Africa. She has reported for a variety of publications in Montana, Nevada and Louisiana, and served as editor of newspapers in Louisiana, Oregon and Washington.

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