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Ciao! Ristorante in Sylvania celebrates 25th anniversary

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    As Sylvania and its surrounding areas have gotten bigger, so has Ciao! Ristorante, said general manager Terry Kretz. ‘[But] we stand true to who we are.’

    THE BLADE/KURT STEISS
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    From left clockwise, Jim Czirr of Spokane, Wash., Allen Dumont of Ann Arbor, and Dave Williams of Cave Creek, Ariz., enjoy soup and conversation at Ciao! Ristorante in Sylvania.

    THE BLADE/KURT STEISS
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Corrected version: Restaurant’s address has been changed.

When Ciao! Ristorante opened, it was the only Italian restaurant in Sylvania. Now, it is celebrating its 25th anniversary, marking its success.

“Sylvania’s grown, [and] the restaurant has grown with it,” said general manager Terry Kretz. “[But] we stand true to who we are.

“We’re a rustic Italian restaurant, we serve rustic cuisine. That’s been our philosophy for 25 years,” he said.

The anniversary celebration at 6064 Monroe St. between normal weekday hours of 5 and 10 p.m. Wednesday includes wine specials, free birthday cakes, and live jazz and pop music from local performance duo Chris Brown and Candice Coleman, who play weekly on Monday and Tuesday nights.

It also will have a “retro” menu with popular throwback items and decades-long favorites, such as lasagna and tiramisu, a dessert of espresso flavored lady fingers layered with cheese filling.

“It’s going to be a big thank you party for supporting us for 25 years,” said Mr. Kretz.

But as synonymous as it is with Italian cuisine, Ciao didn’t start that way. After the Ann Arbor-based Mainstreet Ventures closed its Real Seafood Co. restaurant at Toledo’s Portside Marketplace in 1990, company Chief Executive Michael Gibbons, who lives in Toledo, bought a Frisch’s Big Boy and converted it to a D. Dennison’s Seafood Cavern, the company’s first restaurant in Sylvania. But the seafood diner “didn’t do well,” said Mr. Gibbons, because “it was too expensive for the market.”

But the company’s Italian restaurant in Ann Arbor, Palio, was a success, and so D. Dennison’s was converted by Mainstreet Ventures to Ciao.

Aside from Ciao, Mainstreet Ventures also owns locally a Real Seafood Co. and Zia’s restaurants at The Docks in East Toledo. The Ann Arbor company has 21 restaurants in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, West Virginia, and Florida.

Ciao’s seafood origins are still visible in its “pesce” menu, which includes crab, shrimp, and salmon but with an “Italian twist,” said Mr. Gibbons. Mr. Kretz said the restaurant’s daily fish special is its most popular item.

To local manager Brenda Keefe, Ciao’s fresh ingredients “really make a difference in the quality of food.” All seafood is flown out of Boston three times a week, while herbs are picked from the chef’s own herb garden.

Food isn’t the only way Ciao keeps it fresh, Mr. Gibbons said, noting it remodels every five to seven years. Additions have included a fireplace and a patio; four years ago the entire dining room was remodeled.

As important as change is, consistency is key. “Day in, day out, people trust that the food will be good, the service will be good,” said Mr. Gibbons.

Depending on its use, the Italian word “ciao” can be both a greeting and a farewell, both a “good morning” and a “see you later.” It’s breadth of meaning reflects the guests who come to the restaurant; Mr. Gibbons said he has seen both his grandchildren and his friends enthusiastic about Ciao

“It seems to be such a gathering place,” said Mr. Gibbons.

Contact Ahmed Elbenni at aelbenni@theblade.com or 419-724-6194.

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