A friend of mine, after reading my review of South Beach, suggested that I try the Italian Restaurant – “Ciao Bella” at 4953 Newport Ave. Since I really didn’t feel like cooking dinner for one of my students and myself, I suggested we give it a try.
This is a “cute” restaurant; facades of little houses line the walls, each one numbered. They really don’t have anything to do with the restaurant, but the décor is warm and inviting even though the restaurant was cold.
We were there at 7:30pm on a Saturday night. Almost all of the 18 tables were full; the noise level was high but tolerable. I wish that the music being played was Italian instead of what they were playing, because it would have added to the ambiance of the restaurant.
The menu is extensive: appetizers, salads, soups, pasta, pizza, sides, desserts, etc., and many different kinds of wine and beer to choose from.
My student chose a pasta dish made with “farfalle” pasta, red peppers, cheese, and topped with Parmesan cheese. It was delicious, served hot and titillated her taste buds.
I ordered Carbonara for several reasons: I make it myself and wanted to compare theirs to mine. (They came in a close second!) They used sausage, bacon, eggs, and pasta in theirs, and it, too, was tasty. (It should be noted that it did not taste greasy, but I took home the leftovers to heat in the microwave, and was amazed to find that the bacon had not been cooked thoroughly. In fact, after heating the leftovers I ended up tossing it out, because there was so much grease on the plate.)
We both ordered only water to drink, and extra water was served to us in an iced, half liter carafe. This was a nice touch and we could refill our glasses as needed.
The two meals, although not terribly expensive – $21 – were ala carte. It would have been a nice gesture to have a few pieces of garlic bread along with the pasta, if for no other reason than to sop up the remaining sauce on the plate. (It should be noted that Garlic Bread is available as a side dish, but we did not want to order more than two pieces. Their “take-out menu” had listed 6 pieces at $3.90 an order. We were never approached by our waiter to see if everything was acceptable or if we wanted anything else, and my student was still eating when the bus boy started to take her plate away.
(Others around us were ordering Pizza, and there were many toppings to choose from.) Several people said that they had been here many times; others, like us, were there for the first time.
Our waiter was actually from Italy; and many of the other wait staff seemed to be also. Again, a nice touch.
All in all, I would say that the food at “Ciao Bella” was good; a little too pricey for me, because I would have liked to have had a salad, or an antipasto, and some garlic bread, etc, and that would have put the price out of my range. (Close to another $10 or so.) If we had ordered a glass of wine, the bill would have topped $45 – more than I can afford.
One additional thing that needs to be mentioned: we practically froze while dining there. It is an “open” space restaurant; the cold wind entered the restaurant as frequently as new patrons, and even though we were seated away from the open doorway, I don’t think that I could enjoy a meal as the weather becomes colder. When you go to enjoy a good Italian meal, bring a sweater – or a coat.
Although we enjoyed the meal, I do not think we will go again, primarily because of the price and because the cold lessened our enjoyment. I would like to see a slice or two of garlic bread along with the ala carte entree. It was just too stark for me. And above all, close the door and let some of the warmth of the restaurant permeate the diners.