Ciao Bella (September 17, 2012)

Hi guys, A here. Ciao Bella, located at 703 Denman Street near Stanley Park, I admit, had the vibe of a tourist trap, where familiar Italian dishes would be served up to loud out of towner grownups with their out of towner kids. I was to be proved wrong, and in a big way. A year or so ago, my family (for reasons I honestly cannot remember) decided to give it a try. Ever since, it’s been a regular haunt for me and the fam and we’ve never been disappointed. Monday and Tuesday they have a great half-off pasta deal (one of the best in Vancouver in terms of value for money) that’s excellent for a quick bite in the city before or after a go along the seawall. Apologies for the not-so-good quality of photos, I used my Blackberry for the pictures as dinner plans were somewhat last-minute and I wanted to share this great find!

Complimentary bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar – B-

Honestly the bread is not the reason I go here, but it was a nice touch to offer olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping as opposed to your regular butter. Pretty standard stuff. Nothing spectacular, nothing awful.

Salmone al Limone, accompanied with potato, carrot, string beans and garnish ($19.95) – B

This was my dad’s, but he kindly had me try a little. The salmon was done respectably so, and nothing was too adventurous. For what it is, it’s okay, but I wouldn’t be running back for it.

Linguini Calamari, with optional ground pepper and/or chili flakes ($8.50 when on Monday and Tuesday special) – A

I have to say, I am not a fan of North American-style pasta, with the sauce just poured clumsily on top of boiled pasta, and apart from super fancy Italian places which will set you back a fair penny, or establishments that place a bigger focus on quantity rather than quality, I haven’t encountered an Italian restaurant that does pasta the way I remember it from Italy. Traditional full Italian meals have pasta as the primi piatti, or first dish. That’s right folks, the Italians have pasta as a starter. Therefore, the North American way of serving it “Big Gulp” size doesn’t really pay homage to the original intent of pasta itself.

History lessons aside, the calamari was well cooked (aka no “gritty” bits) and was clearly cooked alongside the sauce and pasta. The flavours were so well-interwoven, and the accompanying fresh-ground pepper and chili flakes (I absolutely cannot live without some heat in my food) transformed it into sort of a linguini arrabbiata alle calamari… now that’s a mouthful I can stomach. For what it is, it’s a great deal and a satisfying plate.

Overall Ciao Bella offers a solid dining experience. I’ve also tried other items from their menu like the beef carpaccio ($12.95) and the tiramisu ($6.95), and both were done exquisitely. If you’re in the mood for something fancier and where the service is a bit more attentive, then look elsewhere, but for what it is, which is reasonably priced and authentic Italian cuisine, then come on down to what looked like a run of the mill tourist trap, but turned out to be much more.

– A
Ciao Bella Italian Restaurant & Piano Bar on Urbanspoon

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