Tuesday, September 13, 2011

#222: Ciao's

The summer was spent wandering the cobbled streets of Rome, hearing Italian everywhere I went, and eating copious amounts of pastries and pasta.  As with any travel, it's a bit of an adjustment to return home, and when I returned, I didn't know what I would miss most of those activities.  Happily, there's Ciao's.

Ciao's is situated in an area I would argue is South Bend's "Little Italy".  Competition is stiff among the four Italian restaurants all are located within a half-mile of each other (Carmela's, Sunny Italy Cafe, Rocco's).  Each has an inspiring story about starting up their business, and each offers something special in ways of ambiance, value, and flavor. 

For me, when I want a little taste of Italy, I would head to Ciao's.  It's tucked away near the Madison Center in an over-sized brick building (the old Bistro on the Race spot).  The benefits to the place include spacious parking and seating, but the building does seem to swallow the intimate feel this type of restaurant might otherwise have.  From an table inside by the window, however, the ivy-covered brick does lend a degree of wine cellar charm.

A glass case of pastries greets you -- these were the catalyst for Adele de Rosa Ciao to open up this restaurant -- and make sure you get some for either dessert or a takeaway treat.  They're not to be missed, especially the fruit-based mini tarts.   Entering the restaurant, you might also run into a member of the Ciao family sitting down with some friends for a meal.   The last night I went, I met three generations of the Ciao family, all speaking Italian.

In regard to food, paper (ie. changeable) menus and an extensive wine list are good signs in my Italian foodie mind, and the variety of dishes offered reinforced that.  The complimentary bruschetta served was just as good as anything I remembered from my trips to Italy, and reviewing the menu became a form of armchair travel.  The pheasant and lamb-based pastas made me think of hearty meals in Umbria, and the pasta da nero di seppia recalled a dare made on a visit to Venice.  The latter dish might make you look like you bit off the end of an exploded pen, but the unusual (and deliciously rich) taste of squid ink is to be tried...although perhaps not on a first date. 

I haven't found another restaurant in town that offers such adventurous Italian fare.  The prices are not the lowest found in South Bend, but the quality of ingredients (and proportions) are among the highest.  Ciao's is the optimal option for an upscale authentic Italian.

Where: 501 North Niles Avenue
When: Tuesday-Saturday, 5:00 - 10:00 pm.  Warning: the pasticceria (pastry shop) opens at 10:00 am.  Disclaimer: This information does not hold me liable for any cancelled diet plans.

Website: http://www.ciaosrestaurant.com/


  1. This blog is such a great idea! I can't wait to get back to South Bend and check out some of the new places and events I have read about here. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for reading and your kind comment! Check out Ciao's (and all) for Third Thursdays...there are especially good deals for sampling some of the downtown restaurants.

  3. I am trying to think of the restaurant on Grape Road , it isn't Chinese however they have the chefs come out to your table to prepare your food. It is sorta similar to Bennihana's but that is not the name , can you help me please, I am wracking my brain trying to figure it out. Thanks D