Longtime residents might recall Ciao! in Sylvania, as a Big Boy decades ago. But for 20 years this upscale restaurant has done quite well serving medium-priced Italian food.
For our first visit we opted for the code di scampi tirena ($22.95): several plump oven-roasted jumbo shrimp wrapped with pancetta, and served with creamy-sweet asiago mashed potatoes and brandy butter pan sauce that enhanced everything it touched.
But the rather average chicken parmigiana ($17.95) was dry and mildly disappointing, if only because we had high expectations after being told it was a local favorite.
Our second dinner outing was better. The North American salmon in the salmone al ferri con raviola was flaky and fresh, and served over cheese ravioli with sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and tomato in a rich garlic cream sauce ($22.95), while the pollo suprema, a moist breast of chicken marinated with Dijon mustard and fresh herbs, and finished with liberal drizzles of tarragon aioli ($18.95), was the highlight of the meal. And its side of vegetables, crunchy and well-seasoned, proved more than an afterthought by a busy kitchen.
The spiedini misti ($22.95) -- a generous carnivore's plate consisting of grilled chicken breast, lamb chop, spicy Italian sausage, and jumbo shrimp -- was an effective sampler platter, but would have been better served with sauces such as the tarragon aioli and brandy butter pan sauce to enhance the entree.
For appetizers, consider the ravioli fritti -- lightly fried cheese-filled ravioli served with equally zesty tomato basil and creamy pesto sauces ($7.95) -- or the carciofo ripiene -- roasted whole artichoke hearts stuffed with jonah crab and sweet Maine shrimp ($9.95). Too often restaurants zealously over-cook fried calamari to a rubbery paste, but Ciao!'s lightly fried calamari with saffron aioli as a dipping sauce ($11.95) was the proper texture: moderately chewy.
For a more casual dining option or expanded appetizer Ciao! serves a trio of brick-oven thin-crust pizzas made with "real Italian style." We tried the quattro formaggi -- a dressed-up cheese pizza ($9.95) of fontina, mozzarella, gorgonzola, and parmesan, along with sun-dried tomatoes that had us rethinking our preference of American-style pizza.
Salads are salads, but a cup of zippy tomato soup served with gorgonzola crostini was an unexpected standout and worthy of a second order for our final visit.
For desserts, a slice of layered-cake tiramisu and crème brûlee (each $5.95) are popular choices, we were told, but were routine, while the flourless chocolate-almond cake was slightly bitter, save for a dollop of sweet homemade whipped cream. The best of the lot by far was the pistachio cheesecake ($5.95), a wickedly decadent treat that perfectly capped the night. Alas, it's not always on the menu.
In a restaurant such as Ciao!, service should be a strong suit; in both dining experiences the wait staff was friendly and attentive but never obtrusive.
Ciao! caters to both the dress-shirt and tie and the Polo shirt and jeans crowd, with a dining room brimming with patrons on romantic date nights, family gatherings, and social outings. It was also recently remodeled. The restaurant has a cozy-dark ambience, with a deep-brown wooden interior, glass bottle chandeliers above the roomy but intimate booths, and a large fireplace in the heart of the dining hall.
During our initial outing our waitress gladly shared how the restaurant's staff pitched in to renovate the restaurant in a single day. There was unmistakable pride as she described their efforts. Based on our superb experiences at the restaurant, they certainly have a right to be proud.
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Address: 6064 Monroe St., Sylvania.
Phone: 419-882-6014, 1-888-456-3463 (reservations).
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 5 to 11 p.m. Friday; 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday; 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are accepted.
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Average Price: $$$.
Credit Cards: AE, Dis, MC, V.
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org.