Where to Vault, formerly Salvatore’s, in Medford Square.
Why To eat pretzel bites and tater tots at the site of a notorious bank robbery.
The backstory For years, Vault was known as Salvatore’s, part of a small chain of Italian restaurants north of Boston. Before they started serving spaghetti, the Medford location was better known as Depositors Trust Co. Over Memorial Day 1980, several police officers carried out a caper, punching through the concrete wall of an adjacent optician’s office to slink into the bank’s vault. The scheme was immortalized in “The Cops Are Robbers: A Convicted Cop’s True Story of Police Corruption.” (The hole is still visible.)
The new name is a cheeky nod to the restaurant’s history, with accents like vault doors and safety deposit boxes to match. The revamped dining room is a sleek study in tan and beige, though the vibe remains lively and local.
“I changed it up because the restaurant had been there for about 13 years, and it was time for a new concept — something new and exciting,” says owner Denise Baker, who bought Salvatore’s from her boss in 2015 after years in management. She started out as a server at Papa Razzi in Burlington and Concord when her kids were small, working her way up to food management positions at Wayland’s Coach Grill, Concord’s Middlesex School, Boston University, and Aramark. She hopes that the new Vault will remain a neighborhood hangout, just like Salvatore’s.
What to eat: A few Italian signatures are still on the menu, such as Baker’s favorite dish, scallops in a limoncello cream sauce. There’s also chicken parmesan and piccata. But now you’ll find nachos, pretzel bites with beer cheese, turkey and steak tips, and a spicy fried chicken sandwich. The menu’s sleeper hit, though, are the tater tots. These are not your typical spud-stuffed wedges. Instead, imagine plump hash browns piped with bacon and corn, sweet and crunchy — almost arancini-like — that would be equally at home dunked in ketchup or maple syrup. These are topped with sour cream and chives, but they don’t really need a dressing. Picture rounder fast-food hash browns gone glam. They didn’t last more than a minute on our table. Most entrees are under $25; apps are usually $11. (Can’t argue with a $9 nacho platter.)
What to drink: Cocktails embrace the crime-scene theme: The Safety Deposit Box combines gin and green tea; the 1980 is simple pineapple-infused vodka (did they make vodka infusions back then?). An On the Lam, with light and dark rum, triple sec, and OJ, will surely make you forget your sins. Wines are standard issue and usually $10 apiece.
Baker says that the bar scene is more popular than ever, thanks to huge new signage with letters that light up and actually say “Bar.”
“We used to have a wall with a mirror. Every time people came in, they’d ask if we had a bar. Now people walk in, start to ask if we have one, see the sign — and say, ‘Never mind: We’re heading there!’” Baker says. Not a bad idea. Just don’t get arrested.
The takeaway: People-pleasing food in Medford Center, with a seamy history and exceptional tater tots.
55 High St., Medford, 781-393-9333, www.salvatoresmedford.com