CLOSED: Close, but no cigar: dinner at Ciano
Monday, September 26, 2011 at 3:07PM
The Lady Who Lunches in RIP: NYC restaurant cemetary, Restaurant reviews

"Remember this block?"  I asked Megan, as I simultaneously raised a clasped fist in to the air, as if I were about to throw a punch.  "Hahhahhahah!  Of course I do," she chuckled.  Memories.  I used to live in a tiny studio apartment on the lovely stretch of 22nd Street, between Park Avenue and Broadway, from 2006-2007.  In fact, it was my first NYC apartment experience sans roommates.  Sounds fancy and glamorous, right?  Wrong.  I was leasing my unit, which just so happened to be located in a "co-op" building, from the owner, a Ned Flanders-like idiot from Florida.  To make a long story as short as possible, the nightmare began in February 2007 when, for two consecutive weeks, the building was without heat.  After many failed attempts to reach the super, I called '311' and filed a complaint.  Unbeknownst to me, the city doesn't take matters of heat lightly.  An inspector was dispatched to our building the next day to get an internal temperature reading.  We failed miserably.  13 degrees below the legal limit, to be exact.  Because of this, The City of New York ended up taking my building to court.  And, because of that, my building had me evicted.  Needless to say, I hate 22nd Street.

To celebrate both of our belated birthdays, Megan and I decided to treat ourselves to dinner at Ciano.  Having arrived just before our 7pm reservation, I was pleasantly surprised when the hostess offered to seat me as an incomplete party.  Luckily, I didn't have to wait more than a couple of minutes for Megan to appear. 

While we waited for our glasses of wine, Megan and I took in Ciano's fabulous, 'Tuscan farmhouse meets cabin-chic' interior space.  Think: unfinished plank wood floors - warm hues - splashes of exposed brick - an open fireplace - various large skylights - mini topiary trees.

"Cheers!"  Our glasses of wine clinked.  "To both of our belated birthdays, and hopes that our meal at Ciano will be able to take the 'taint' out of 22nd Street," I exclaimed. 

After perusing the dinner menu, Megan and I decided that we would split a handful of dishes instead of ordering individually, as the prices were steep.  Moments after we placed our food order, we 'broke bread' with a duo of freshly-baked plain and pizza focaccia.  A spicy, chili-flecked oil and truffled butter accompanied.

Roasted Veal Meatballs  Luckily for me, Megan isn't keen on beef, so these morsels had my name - and my name, only - written all over them.  Hovering atop a shallow dollop of white polenta, were two amply-sized (meaning slightly bigger than a golf ball) meatballs that were encased in a rich, red wine-heavy glaze.  The interior of each yielded a soft, almost velvet-like texture that completely melted in my mouth. 

Smoked Burrata Ravioli  Ricotta (not smoked burrata, FYI) cheese ravioli was lightly kissed by a zucchini-basil pesto/toasted almond brown-butter sauce.  Having pictured something totally different - heartier sauce, smokier and more dense cheese - from what we actually received, I was a bit disappointed by this pasta.  While it wasn't bad or even below average, per se, this is not a dish that I would ever consider reordering, should I return to Ciano.

White Polenta (side dish)  As my friend, Robin, would say, "meh."  There is no question in my mind that Ciano whips up their version from scratch, but Megan and I found the polenta to be a bit boring.  There was something missing.  Pepper, maybe?  Perhaps it could have used more melted parmigiano cheese?  Come to think of it, Ciano's rendition was a bit undercooked for my liking; I prefer mine to be a bit more dense.  Perfect example?  The polenta on the brunch menu at Five Points.   

Caramelized Diver Scallops  Of all of the dishes that we ordered, this was the most visually appealing.  Sexy, if you will.  Prior to sauteeing, the top of each scallop was individually scored with a knife.  This seemed to result in a deeper, more golden brown exterior and caramelization (note to self). 

The shellfish sat atop a whole-kernel corn ragu that was dotted with sliced mushrooms and salty pancetta.  While the flavors were spot-on, I wished that the scallops had been cooked just a little bit longer, as they weren't as firm as they had appeared.

Dessert: Roasted Peach Napoleon  Unfortunately, I found this particular dessert slightly awkward to eat and, to be honest, underwhelming.  While I love the idea of 'peach Napoleon,' this version seemed to be more of an afterthought, especially with the ghetto spritz of chocolate sauce at 6 o'clock (if you're looking at the peach Napoleon, itself).  Isn't there a more clever way to construct this treat instead of using paper thin wafers and awkwardly-large peach slices?  Thank god I wasn't on a date...

Conclusion  I don't think it's fair of me to judge Ciano so harshly based on one meal but, let's be honest, there are a couple of reasons why I would not return: too expensive - many of the items we ordered were just 'mediocre' and the ingredients on the pasta dish were misleading.  However, there were things about Ciano that I did enjoy: atmosphere - bar scene - meatballs - bread + truffle butter.  So, would I go back?  Yes, for snacks and wine. 

Now, to the most important question of all: do I still hate 22nd Street?  Not as long as Ciano hangs on to those ridiculously amazing veal meatballs!  I'm serious.


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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