AUBURN | There's a reason Osteria Salina carries the name of its owner, Guillermo Salina, and not Bambino's Bistro, the two area restaurants he already operates.
That's because the new State Street eatery, opening Dec. 19, also carries Salina's 20 years of restaurateurship within its brick and venetian plaster walls.
"It's in there. Every single little detail," he said. "Any person that's committed to a profession has a dream, and you want to reach that. I think we've put in everything that I've wanted to have in my restaurants."
The list is long: A rotisserie, a wood-fired brick oven, a raw bar, a creperie and a bar with signature cocktails and craft beers.
Then there's the social menu: Free valet parking, live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, a kitchen table where diners can watch chefs in action, and cooking classes in the restaurant's upstairs office, complete with a terrace overlooking Dill Street where Salina plans to host post-class tastings.
For all the ambition reflected in the new restaurant's name, Salina has his own, more straightforward answer for why it's not also called Bambino's Bistro: It's not a bistro.
"It's a little more homey, a little more than a bistro," he said. "It makes you feel like you can bring your whole family in there."
The inclusion of "Salina" is also more than a personal signature: It's the name of an island in his family's native Sicily, and a place that bottles the spirit of Osteria Salina.
"When you're young and you want to have good food and you have a night out, you go to this little island called Salina," he said.
At Osteria Salina, "good food" doesn't mean grand prices, said Sean Wrench, director of sales and marketing at Salina's restaurants.
For those who prefer more upscale cuisine, there's the raw bar, rotisserie quail and dry-aged steaks. The latter, Wrench said, makes Osteria Salina unique to the region.
"It's a process that takes three weeks and pulls all the moisture out to bring out the flavor, and it makes the steak very tender," he said.
As for the younger couple who'd just like a couple of beers and some pizza, they'll run up no more than $20, Wrench said.
The pizza's preparation in the wood-fired brick oven lends its own uniquely upscale flavor, too.
"There never was a wood-fired oven in Auburn," Salina said. "The city has never issued a permit for one, so this would be the first."
The drinks are largely Wrench's domain. With 15 years of bar-tending experience in Orlando, he talked to Salina a month ago about taking a job in that vein. Before long, Wrench was running the Osteria Salina bar and marketing the restaurant.
His creations include a dill pickle dirty martini garnished with a pickled okra spear, as well as a peanut butter and jelly martini.
"We're trying to create uniqueness," he said.
Beers will also be adventurous, with craft brews like like Left Hand Brewing Co.'s Milk Stout Nitro, which Wrench called "freaking incredible." Diners who'd prefer the comfort of a Coors or Bud Lite will also be accommodated — the bar will stock a wide array of bottles in addition to its six taps.
The creperie, meanwhile, isn't so much a new venture for Salina as a restored and reinvigorated one.
"In the beginning, (Bambino's) had crepes," he said. "We changed it because people were confused if we were Italian food or French food. So we took out the crepes."
With its own storefront adjacent to the restaurant, the creperie shows off the breads and desserts Bambino's has always baked in-house. Salina is also consulting local pastry chef Maria Giacona about the sweets menu.
The restaurateur's other biggest asset in opening Osteria Salina has been contractor Joe Bartolotta, whom Salina credits with being responsive to all of his needs.
"Whatever I asked for, he was able to make it happen," he said.
Bartolotta was one of the Auburn Bambino's biggest patrons, Salina said. As Osteria Salina absorbs much of its upscale dining business, the Genesee Street eatery will shift to pizza and other fare conducive to faster service. But Salina isn't about to forget about the restaurant where his success started in the summer of 2008.
"Every year Auburn is progressing. I was here when no one wanted to put a penny in downtown. My wife and I put 20 years of savings in downtown — we played the lottery," he said. "And we're so happy to see that all these things are happening."