The food abides…

Review – Ciao Italian Bistro

Was up at Wiregrass this past weekend with my special lady friend doing a little shopping. We wanted to catch the Symphony in Lights Christmas show but we had a little time to kill before the next one started so we decided to grab a bite. Since Ciao had just opened a couple weeks earlier, we chose to give it a shot.

Cards on the table, I will fully admit to the fact that I am more critical of italian restaurants than most, probably due to my heritage and upbringing; nothing can hold a candle to what my Mom, Dad or Grandmothers cooked for dinner on a Sunday evening. However even adjusting for the inherent bias, Ciao didn’t impress me, mostly because they broke one of the cardinal food sins that I’ve mentioned multiple times before.

CIAO

Located in the Shoppes at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel, Ciao currently occupies the space that was once filled by Pagelli’s, another Italian restaurant which, interestingly enough, I throughly enjoyed. They did no remodelling whatsoever so you still feel like you’re sitting in Pagelli’s, at least until the food comes.

The staff was friendly and our server was polite, attentive and surprisingly knowledgable about all the dishes we inquired about. I have to assume since they just opened, the menu training was fresh on his mind but I was still glad he was able to answer every question without hesitation. The food came out quickly which again, was a good thing considering they were quite crowded due to the Black Friday weekend.

Shrimp and Tortelini

I decided to try the Shrimp and Lime Tortellini which was cooked in a pinot grigio and fresh tomato sauce while my special lady friend ordered the Mushroom Ravioli. We shared and I can honestly say the food was not bad but it didn’t floor me either. I really enjoy any dish that uses lime as it’s one of my favorite infusion ingredients. However I didn’t taste much lime at all and it was curiously served with a lemon on my plate. Barring that however, Ciao had one major flaw: the portion sizes.

As you are well aware, I’m a stickler for portion sizes. I’m not expecting King Henry’s feast when I go to a restuarant, but I do expect the portion sizes to match the pricing, especially in a bad economy. I don’t mind paying a little extra for a large portion of food, nor do I mind small portions if the price is equally reasonable. Ciao’s portion sizes were just way off. 19 dollars for five normal sized shrimp and a what amounts to a ladel-full of tortellini is not kosher. My date claimed her Mushroom Ravioli was sufficient but her six little pasta pockets looked awfully sparse on the plate as well.

Perhaps it was an off-night. It’s possible that because they’re new, their chefs aren’t quite used to making the dishes yet and are moving foward sparingly as a result. Maybe they had high patron turnover due to the Black Friday shopping weekend and they needed to make their supplies last until their Monday delivery. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I will probably give Ciao one more try to see if they’ve adjusted but until then I would not recommend it. There are plenty of other great restaurants at Wiregrass like Cantina Laredo, Prime Bar, Grillsmith and Yamato where your dollar will go much farther and you will still leave satisfied.

Have you tried Ciao? If so, what was your experience? Leave a note in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

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2 responses

  1. Mike

    CIAO! was amazing! The prices was fair and the food was marvelous. My wife had Chicken Piccatta and the portion was big and delicious.. I had the Lasagna and I was impressed. Happy Hour was awesome with 2 dollar draft beer.The manager Nick was excellent and made us feel at if we were eating at his home. I would strongly recommend that you give it another try.

    June 24, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    • A.C. Noia

      Thanks Mike.

      By my own admission I’m a harsh critic of Italian food and a stickler for portion sizes so take anything I say in these two departments with a grain of salt 😉

      I did give it another shot a couple months later and had a slightly better experience. I talked about it in my Ciao Revisited post. Based on my last experience and your recommendation I’ll be giving them a third try!

      June 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm

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