Boxed pasta or not, the primavera, packed with plenty of vegetables (and three large shrimp; a worthy $2.49 addition), cream, garlic, garlic and yet more garlic, delighted.
We started our dinner with the Vine Ripe Tomato Mozzarella ($7.99), a pretty plate of peppered red plum tomatoes perched on basil cloaked, fresh, mellow mozzarella that we chose to have drizzled with balsamic vinegar. A light sprinkle Omega Seamaster Professional White Dial of salt made it sing.
Not homemade are the pastas, which an admittedly "very picky" friend found inexcusable: "I was very disappointed that a Little Rock landmark Italian restaurant does not make their own pasta." Still, she deemed her manicotti OK and reasonably priced, and appreciated the timely service.
cozy nevertheless. Dark features the carpeting (watch the step down into the east dining area), chairs, shelving with wine bottles, ceiling paint and tablecloths under glass tops are balanced with bright artwork and natural light during the afternoon and evening.
The ravioli, puffy pockets of fried cheese, were served with a chunky red sauce. The recipient reported: "If that wasn't a Omega Seamaster Brown
It's good this was consumed during a girls' lunch out. It probably would not have delighted a date. Associated Press text, photo, Omega Seamaster F300hz
Past the old school awning and old lady lace curtains, it's not a candles in Chianti bottles on red and white checked tablecloths Italian place. It's quaint and Omega Speedmaster Blue Titanium
Our delightful dinner server, Lee, made sure we were in no danger of being rushed or missing curtain at Arkansas Repertory Theatre this on a rather chaotic Friday night for the restaurant. Business was slow, but a staff member was being taken to the hospital (to be clear this was due to a known medical condition, not the food). Still, the scene and servers kept calm and composed; we never would have suspected anything was wrong had there not been an ambulance with flashing lights outside.
Next time we're seeking steak, we could be calling an Italian restaurant. Ciao's supple, succulent tenderloin, cooked to a medium rare, was downright memorable. Did it need one of the three sauce preparations the restaurant offers (we settled on the classic: topped with blue cheese crumbles and a balsamic reduction)? No, but we never refuse blue cheese. The steak was served with a vegetable medley featuring squash, green beans, mushrooms and onion and as if more food were needed a heaping side dish of pasta with marinara sauce.
And after two primarily pleasing recent visits, we vowed to chow there again soon.
homemade sauce, it had me fooled."
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The petite restaurant keeps its regular menus to one page, while offering specials (see the board at the entry or check the evening seasonal menu). Regular dinner entrees range from $7.99 for a half order of various pastas plenty for most diners up to $18.99 for Veal Scaloppini.
For lunch, we tried the fried cheese ravioli ($5.75), the cheese manicotti ($5.75) and the linguine primavera ($7.99 half order; $12.99 full order).
With an intimate atmosphere and animated service, downtown Little Rock's enduring Italian restaurant cleverly caters to business lunchers and evening show goers (that is when shows take place Thursday through Saturday, the only evenings Ciao serves dinner). The kitchen and servers grasp that downtown diners probably have somewhere else to be soon.
Ordering dessert would have made us late for the show, but after a recent lunch we'll know to order dessert first. Not only are the cannoli ($5.99 order of two, $2.99 for one) quite tasty, they disappear fast. We requested an order of two to finish our meal, but alas there was only enough chocolate chip dottedcream for one. What we got reminded us of Vaccaro's in Baltimore's Little Italy (although we could have done without the chocolate syrup drizzle).
Ciao remains classic Italian
The Baltimore raised reviewer appreciated half of her dish the zippy, shellfish dotted pasta. But the filler heavy (corn? In a Maryland crab cake?), breaded crab cake nesting in it was more reminiscent of a hush puppy.
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