Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ciao! (Sylvania, OH)


Having heard many wonderful things about Ciao(!), I ventured out to Sylvania with four of my friends for an evening of -- hopefully -- good Italian food. What some may not know about Ciao, however, is the fact that it is part of the Mainstreet Ventures "chain" which includes other local favorites such as Real Seafood Company and Zia's.

So what can you expect at Ciao? A homey, unpretentious decor with great, attentive service. In addition, I have to agree with that it has a country club feel to it. It was easy to pick out the regulars from the non-regulars (i.e. my party) as they sat down, exchanged greetings with the servers, and ordered without even taking a gander at the menu nor the daily specials.

The menu was rather expansive with many highfalutin choices, from artichoke hearts stuffed with seafood as appetizers to lobster ravioli as entrees. One tip to eat at Ciao is to come with a group of folks who are willing to sample the various menu options. The second is that you will not be able to pronounce half of the items on the menu, and chances are, you won't be the only one -- so point to the item if necessary.

Since we couldn't decide on one appetizer, we ended up ordering two. The first was the Carciofo Fritti (panko fried artichoke hearts with cream garlic vinaigrette; $8.95.) Yes, it was just as delicious as it sounded on paper. Granted, it was a bit on the greasy side, but it also brought out the natural juiciness and unforgettable flavor of artichoke hearts.

Our second appetizer was the Bruschetta Ciao ($5.95.) While the bread basket was unimpressive, I was pleasantly surprised at the good execution of the aforementioned bread with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella. Needless to say, both superb appetizers set the bar quite high for our main courses.

All entrees come with a house salad, although it can be substituted with the soup of the day (gazpacho on the evening that we went) for an additional $3.95 surcharge. To be honest, it looked like watered down salsa when presented and, well, it also tasted like watered down salsa, even after our server had stated in a matter-of-fact tone that it tasted like anything BUT salsa.

The Gamberetti al Abruzzese (grilled jumbo shrimp in spicy piquant sauce served with orzo and fresh vegetables) caught my eyes, but the special of the day (Rainbow trout in special sauce served with pesto mashed potatoes and butternut squash - $21.95) sounded equally impressive that I eventually settled with the latter. With the exception of the butternut squash which was rather tasteless, I enjoyed the dish. The trout was grilled to perfection while maintaining its texture and freshness. The pesto mashed potatoes could easily top my list of top 10 comfort food; with just the right hint of pesto, the basil fragrance blended nicely with the potatoes.

Now, onto the other small disappointing factor to the meal: dessert options. Ciao does not have a dessert menu. Rather, following your meal, a server will present you with a tray of six dessert shooters. I believe a single shooter was about $2.50 while the entire tray, $11.75. Now, it doesn't take a math genius to figure out that you get more bang for your buck if you were to simply say 'Yes' to the entire tray (while sampling all the sugary goodies.) Helloooo, win-win situation! The only drawback, however, is that Ciao does not offer regular sized portions of the dessert shooters (which included the zabaglione, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, etc.) Fret not, because these shooters are beyond rich. One is more than enough to curb that sweet tooth craving... for an entire week. My favorite -- and it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone -- was the chocolate mousse. Whipped glass of heaven, I tell you.

Unlike its Italian restaurant counterparts, Ciao will not send you home with the feeling that you are going to explode at any given second. You will be stuffed but you will not swear off carbohydrates for an entire year. Rather, you will be looking forward to your next trip back -- seeing the dearth of noteworthy Italian restaurants in town -- to sample the rest of the menu, or that delicious sounding special of the day.

Rating: ****

6064 Monroe St
Sylvania, OH 43560

Ciao Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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