My husband and I went to dinner at Ciao Bello the other evening. This is a Vallone establishment that Tony calls "Your neighborhood Italian restaurant". Unfortunately, it is not in our neighborhood but we consider it to be well worth the short drive.
As we discussed which direction to take our order, we contemplated the wine list and were torn between one of the Italian Sangiovese-based wines with which we were familiar or an unknown Pinot Noir. We opted for the unknown as we have great faith in their wine list and ordered the 2009 Alderbrook Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. This was a young, medium body fruity wine with good acidity and a hint of spice that ended up working fantastically with everything we ordered.
We started with the Polpette, a deliciously soft meatball over cheesy polenta that mixes together into a rich, creamy goodness. We followed that up with a new pasta appetizer, duck stuffed tortellini in broth, also yummy and a nice weight for summer time.
I decided to try to keep it light for the rest of my meal so as to save room for their not to be missed desserts. I ordered the spinach and strawberry salad with goat cheese panna cotta and pine nut puree and the Cioppino shellfish soup. My husband had the crab and shrimp topped Red Snapper Tesoro. All three items were absolutely fantastic.
At this point, we had finished the bottle of wine and, in reality, had eaten plenty. The only problem? This is really not a place to skip dessert.
After making a pact to hit the the gym in the morning, the next thing you know, we are looking at a slice of Mama Vallone's chocolate pie. It looks so simple but is described by my husband as "Out of control good". We are also looking at a new mascarpone and peach layered dessert. It was equally scrumptious in its creamy fresh, sweet, juicy way. We were going to share but the pie quickly became his and the peach quickly became mine. These were washed down with coffee in the hopes of staving off the food coma until we made it home.
I really can't recommend this restaurant enough. The high level of quality coupled with the more than reasonable prices for what you get, keeps us returning. Everything that I have eaten here has been ridiculously good, fantastically fresh and always interesting. Again, highly recommended!