An unprepossessing exterior hides a terrific traditional Italian restaurant with handmade pasta, an extensive menu, and an Italian wine and beverage bar situated on a scale in-between high-end fine dining and an economical pizza joint. Monthly specials keep their customers coming back again and again, and yes, you can get Italian cream cake and tiramisu.

Salvatore’s Fresh Ristorante

By Daniel Pliska, a certified executive chef, author, and Missouri Life food columnist. He teaches culinary arts at Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield.

The options for fans of Italian cuisine range from ultra-high-end destination restaurants to economical pizza joints down the street. Nestled comfortably, deliciously, in between the extremes is Salvatore’s in Ozark, where time-honored methods are part of the secret sauce.

Salvatore’s is owned and operated by Chef Daniel Oawster. Daniel honors the family traditions of the restaurant that began in 2012 with original owner Salvatore “Jerry” Demoro and his wife, Judy. Jerry’s Italian grandfather, father, and son are named Salvatore, so it’s no wonder he chose that name for his restaurant.

When Jerry decided to sell Salvatore’s, he hand-picked Daniel as his successor and spent more than two years teaching him ev- every detail of the business. Since Daniel took over as owner in 2021, it has been his family, including his mother and sister, who create a memorable dining experience for guests.

Pasta is the specialty of the house, and Chef Daniel makes Salvatore’s pasta from scratch. He also makes the bread and sauces. His mother, Cindy, assists with the desserts. Pasta-making is a laborious undertaking. I can attest that most Italian restaurants bring in their pasta from outside vendors, either in dry or frozen form, but that’s not the case here. Like most pasta-makers, Daniel uses semolina flour milled from harby winter wheat.

Salvatore’s extensive menu includes baked pasta dishes, steak, seafood, and a build-your- own option for combining your choice of pasta, sauce, protein, and vegetables. Menu highlights include the Wicked Chicken
Parmesan, a kicked-up version of a classic breaded chicken breast served with a spicy chipotle pepper sauce pureed into the house tomato sauce. Daniel’s version of Chicken Marsala incorporates ribbons of thinly sliced prosciutto in a traditional Marsala wine and mushroom sauce. When I visited, he served the dish on a bed of casarecce pasta. Daniel also prepared for me his pan-seared scallops in a garlic white wine sauce with julienne red onions and fresh basil tossed in the tender spaghetti. It was simple, yet so satisfying. He adds to the menu with monthly specialis. A fall and winter offering is ravioli filled with butternut squash and ricotta, served with brown butter, sage, and walnuts.

While we ate, Daniel spoke of the restaurant’s Italian wine and beverage program that his sister Cathy serves from the bar adjacent to the open kitchen. I enjoyed a refreshing Aperol Spritz is made with sparkling Prosecco wine. Aperol is an Italian bitter aperitif, flavored with gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona. The spritz was spiked with a bitter orange liqueur called Bauchant. Another popular cocktail is the Limoncello Martini.

After dinner, try the Italian cream cake,triple chocolate truffle cake, carrot cake, or the traditional Italian favorite, tiramisu. The dining experience at Salvatore’s is enhanced by hand-painted murals that line the walls in the dining room. Local artist Larry Wagner painted soothing, pastel scenes of the Italian countryside.

Daniel, a Branson native, had dreamed of owning a restaurant since he was 13, and worked toward his goal by enrolling in the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Austin. He sharpened his skills at several acclaimed Houston restaurants before returning to the Ozarks where he is realizing his dream and keeping traditions alive at Salvatore’s.

View the full menu and get updates on seasonal specials at

Traditions are essential at Salvatore’s and are revealed in everything from the restaurant’s name to the owner’s commitment to fresh, handmade pasta. It takes a lot of ravioli to satisfy customer demand.

Chicken Marsala and pan-seared scallops are among many delights on Salvatore’s menu.