Address: 1 Alberton Ave
Phone: (09) 845 5331
You can't say we're not determined. Turned away from Sal Rose's doors one recent Saturday night, we came back for another go on Sunday night. Second time lucky - just.
The nice man found us a wee table by the window, where we sat with drinks and menus until a larger table indoors came free.
There was nothing wrong with the table by the window, the breeze was refreshing and the cross-section of Mt Albert locals was interesting, but it was for drinking at, not eating at.
The indoor table put us closer to family groups, which were legion that night. And Sal Rose specialises as a family restaurant, to the point of providing icecream cones for the littlies who wouldn't necessarily enjoy a plated dessert.
Sal Rose describes itself as country Italian, with real Italian heritage and Grandma's recipes. But that might have been John Palino's grandmother. Palino, who started Sal Rose and fronted the TV show The Kitchen Job, has hung up his apron, here at least, passing the ladle to David Meagher. With a name like that, it's more likely to be an Irish grandma.
But it's a restaurant, so we need to talk about food, not forebears.
We started with the home-made flat bread with caramelised onion and mozzarella. The flat bread wasn't particularly flat, and the mozzarella notable only by its absence.
Undaunted, I went for mozzarella again, this time in carrozza, an excellent watercress and small spinach leaf salad with hazelnuts and a subtle red wine vinaigrette. The mozzarella was there, but added nothing to the salad.
He of the more hearty appetite had polpette, which is spaghetti and meatballs, good homely fare with plenty of Rosa's tomato sauce.
Accompanied by, firstly, a Peroni beer (when in Rome, etc) and then a glass of Conti Zecca Primitivo, a robust red described in the extensive wine list as sinewy and chewy, it was all very pleasing.
Sal Rose's menu covers all the regular Italian restaurant suspects - pizza, pasta, veal, chicken and a reasonable vegetarian selection. Bill ordered a Sicilian pizza, the meat-lovers' favourite, on which the mozzarella seemed more at home. It was huge - you get a good feed at Sal Rose - so half of it went home with us.
My risotto of crab and lemon was very good indeed, delicately flavoured, with plenty of crab and both fresh and preserved lemon. The Villa Maria Reserve sauvignon blanc suggested by Meagher, who was on maitre d' duty that night, was an appropriate match.
Defeated, we passed on dolci (dessert) and staggered into the evening, with Monday lunches sorted.
Sal Rose is a popular spot in Mt Albert, a family restaurant that offers value for money and doesn't pretend to do anything else. It's doing good business, and deserves to.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $147 for bread, two entrees, two mains, one beer, four glasses of wine.
Wine list: Extensive, with plenty of Italian visitors and a good choice by the glass.
Verdict: Comfort food with nothing to alarm the adults or scare the kids. Sal Rose does exactly what it sets out to do - it feeds the family without breaking the budget.