Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ciano - Review

Ciano - Dude Grade: B+
45 East 22nd Street (at Park Ave)
New York, NY
Phone: (212) 982-8422

I have to admit - I am a big fan of the chef here Shea Gallante. He started with Pino Luongo and then Lidia Bastianich, so you know he understands pasta well. After he upped his game and worked for Bouley which you can see in his food - really elevated techniques and refined cuisine. He capped that off earning three stars from the NY Times at the phenomenal Cru. Now, he's opening up Ciano where he takes delicious comfort Italian food and just elevates them off with his technique. Highly Recommended.

Our Menu

Crostino w/ Dungeness Crab ***
What a way to start the meal. This was a flavor bomb. A light mayo sauce (not drenched) covering the amazingly sweet dungeness crab - almost reminded me of a lobster roll. Then, add the great smoky/crunchy bread and topped with the salty flavorful salami - you have an awesome couple of bites.

Crostino w/ Whipped Chicken Livers **
I love me some chicken livers and these were exceptional. These were just really refined - an incredibly light airy texture. Huge chicken liver flavor that was just so friggin delicious.

Great texture on the rice and nice and crisp on the outside. Unfortunately, this was completely bland which was massively disappointing considering how phenomenal the crostinos were.

Rainbow Beets **
with whipped robiola, wild watercress and 12yr aged balsamic
I've seen this dish 100x and these were still great. Perfectly cooked beats that worked so well with the creamy robiola cheese and the ground pistachio nuts. Great combo of texture and flavors.

Roasted Veal Meatballs ***
served with creamy white polenta with herbs and truffle pecorino

Another complete WTF dish. I love me some meatballs and they're always homey/comforting and delicious. However, these are just on a completely different level - technique was so refined and spot on. The meatballs were soft and incredibly flavorful, but what put this over the top was the veal demi, creamy polenta, and pungent truffle pecorino. It was like a 100 hit combo that knocked me the eff out.

Pappardelle *
with Duck Bolognese, Oregano, and Pecorino di Noce

Pasta texture was perfect and the bolognese flavor was sooo delicious - love the twist with the duck. The thing that distracted me was the fact that it was a tad salty - probably accentuated by adding parmiggiano afterwards. We asked for a side of olive oil and it totally helped mellow everything out and actually made it taste more delicious.

Tortellini ***
with braised oxtail and fontina cheese fonduta

Another WTF pasta dish. As usual, the pasta texture was phenomenally al dente. Then, the interior was another flavor bomb - unctuous oxtail sitting on a tasty cheese fonduta. This is definitely one of the best pastas I've had in a long, long time.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way | (no stars - poor to average) | * Good | ** Great | *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience
  • Food (A-) - Phenomenal Italian food that serves very elevated cuisine. Even the breads were phenomenal which are toasted in the fireplace in the middle of the dining room. Unfortunately, the arancini was a miss and the papardelle was a tad off. Still, when this place is on, I don't think you can find a better Italian place in the city.
  • Service (A+) – The server we had was perfect - friendly, engaging, checked in often, and recommended phenomenal dishes. The food came out at a perfect pace - only about 5-10 min wait. As a side note, there's a hostess that looks like a model wearing a sexy evening gown. Seemed quite odd, but no complaints :)
  • Atmosphere (B) – Oddly, everything was very flesh colored and dimly lit - pretty romantic. It's a weird mix here as they're straddling a relaxed vibe (christopher cross playing in the background) and fine dining as all the waiters wear suits. We got there at 5:30 on a Saturday and were immediately seated. The place did get crowded with an interesting mix of older couples (70+), middle aged couples, and large groups. We definitely brought the average age down though.
  • Price (B-) - Price was around $80 a person which is a tad pricey (include a couple of glasses of wine), but the food was so good and the service was phenomenal. What caught us off guard was the pastas were listed as $16, but the server mentioned we can double it up as an entree portion. Unfortunately, we didn't put two and two together and realized that this would double the price from $16 to $30. The overall experience is still worth it in my opinion.
Closing Comments
For me, this is probably tied with Salumeria Rosi for the best Italian food in the city. Salumeria Rosi is way more rustic and laid back, but I would go to Ciano for more refined upscale Italian. Locanda Verde's right in the middle (not as good as either though) - no where near as refined techniques as Ciano, but slightly more refined that Salumeria Rosi.

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