Odeum owner Sal Calisi opens second restaurant in downtown MH
Published in the January 18 – January 31, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life
By Staff Report
Sophia Lauren graces a wall of the newly opened Prova California Table. The Hollywood star’s eyes gaze from the photo with sultry Italian beauty beamed straight across the diners. On the opposite side of the restaurant, a wall is covered with dozens of battery-powered candles that seem to float in mid-air. The clamor of lively conversation fills the air as servers bustle through carrying tasty culinary concoctions to tables.
Prova might easily find its place as a trendy rainy-day restaurant in the hip Notting Hill district of London. It’s located, however, in the heart of Morgan Hill. The latest dining experience in a downtown district, it is quickly gaining a Bay Area reputation for culinary excellence.
Sal Calisi, a one-Michelin star chef, hit a home-run with Odeum, the Mediterranean cuisine restaurant located at The Granary that draws in foodies from throughout the Bay Area to Morgan Hill for an exceptional culinary experience. When the opportunity to buy the former Slims (and The Good Fork) restaurant location opened up, he decided to launch Prova. He spent months refurbishing the location, creating a casual but high-quality dining experience for patrons spotlighted with artwork on the walls celebrating the beauty of women. Besides Lauren, Brigitte Bardot and Frida Kahlo’s photos feature in the restaurant’s decor.
“Our art work is to celebrate women,” he said in describing the ambiance. “What we’re trying to do is celebrate the women and their beauty with our art work. We’ll have more art work as the summer comes.”
Prova opened in late 2016 and is fast gaining a reputation for food and fun. Recently, Morgan Hill resident Cecelia Ponzini enjoyed a mid-afternoon lunch with friends Betty and Bob Beach, their first dining experience at the new restaurant.
The two women shared a Reuben sandwich while Bob enjoyed the steak taco. The three sampled together a jalapeño cornbread cooked in an iron skillet and lathered with maple syrup and butter.
“The food is very authentic,” Ponzini said. “The Reuben sandwich, it’s really, really good. Add a bit of a jalapeño cornbread and it is so delicious.”
“I’d describe it as dessert, it’s so good,” Betty added about the cornbread.
Ponzini was impressed with how Calisi had transformed the former Slims (and The Good Fork) restaurant location into one that conveyed a modern European elegance.
“The ambiance is nice and very welcoming, very warm. I think they did a good job,” she said.
Calisi describes his passion for bringing a quality cuisine experience to his restaurant guests, creating a place with Prova where people can stop by for a leisurely dining experience of smaller portioned plates compared with Odeum.
“I love what I do and I love sharing that with other people,” he said. “Prova is different from Odeum because it doesn’t have a set kind of cuisine. We have stuff that’s Asian, we have house-made tortillas. We have prime New Yorks. We do our own barbecue and smoke our own meats and do our own briskets. We also have pasta. It’s all the stuff I love to eat on one menu. It’s kind of like little bites and things that are sharable. It’s the kind of place you go to every day if you wanted and you wouldn’t be bored.”
Another difference from Odeum is that Prova offers more gluten free and vegetarian options for patrons. It’s also easier for parents to bring their children.
“It’s a lighter, more family style kind of concept,” Calisi said. “Odeum is a little bit larger portions. Odeum is mostly entrees. Here it’s kid friendly and family friendly – so we welcome kids. We have cornbread. We have cotton candy. We have fun stuff.”
Named after the Italian word for “to try or to taste,” Prova intends to grow into the after-hours gathering spot for Morgan Hill, staying open until midnight Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays as a place to meet old friends or make new ones.
“Here we open the doors at 11 a.m. and we’ll be going to midnight pretty soon,” Calisi said. “There’s no place that you can really go and get a late-night cocktail in Morgan Hill, unless you want to go to a bar at that time in the evening.”
Over time, Prova will grow into the downtown’s social spot as more people decide to live in the lofts and condos now being built in the district, he said. Silicon Valley commuters getting off the train might wish to walk the block from the depot to the dining place to meet friends after work for dinner.
“We want to draw people in,” he said. “It’s a great place to socialize.”
Prova’s bar is stocked with 25 craft beers from California, Belgium and other places. Most of Prova’s alcohol is small-batch productions, adding to the ambiance of a well-made cocktail in a casually sophisticated setting where Sophia Loren or Brigitte Bardot would feel at home.
Prova’s wine list is going to start including many more California wines as well as what we currently have now. The Watsonville Road-based Jason Stephens Winery will power Prova’s house wine selection, Calisi said.
The mood of the restaurant can change with the transformation of the colored LED lighting tucked away on the edges of the ceiling. From pastel blue, red, green, the ambient glow pervades the dining area according to the color whim the staff chooses. The changes in the lighting add to the accent of Prova’s decor, making people feel the restaurant is always in a state of transformation
“The lighting, the kind of music that we play, it’s never one thing. It’s kind of eclectic with the mood and the feeling,” Calisi said. “It gets redder as the night gets later. We try to keep it romantic. The same thing goes with the candle wall. We want to make it romantic, but also hip and fun – just a cool place to come and hang out with friends.”