Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I've got a soft spot for Italian fine-dining.  In recent years I've realized just how amazing and beautiful homemade sauces and pastas are!  Because of this, it tends to be the cuisine of choice when I'm celebrating a special occasion.  For this recent occasion, the hubby and I originally had a dinner reservation at Chef Michael White's Marea, which we dined at last year.  The food was wonderful (especially the pasta!) but in the heat of the moment, we decided to be adventurous and try something new.  And that is how we wound up at Ciano.  (Boy are we kicking ourselves now!)

Located in Flatiron, Ciano has a rustic feel with a fireplace, dark wood and earthy tones.  We got a great table on the 2nd floor in the corner.  They offer a Pasta Tasting Menu (for $89 per person) which we were really excited to try!
Six course pasta tasting menu at Ciano for $89 per person
Unfortunately it did not live up to our expectations.  The food was ok - while there was nothing particularly negative to note, we both were not wowed by any course.  The downfall of our experience was the service.  I must preface, this is a $$$-category restaurant and is up there in the list of finer dining in NYC.  And with that comes a high expectation for exceptional service.  It fell flat. Here's how my night went...

Upon sitting down, half my place setting was missing.  I asked the server specifically for the missing items, but was brought the wrong ones anyway.  I reminded him I was missing a fork and a plate, not a spoon and a knife.  Perhaps he was just busy and didn't hear me.  *Shrug* let's move on.  I'll sum up the rest of the service later, food first!

First up was the Housemade Egg Caper Noodles with Lobster.  I didn't think the lobster was at it's peak freshness, though hubby thought his tasted fine.  The noodles, sadly, did not seem to be the highlight of this course even thought it was a Pasta Tasting Menu.  Mainly because, there was barely any on the plate.

The little curly-cue you spot are the few strands of pasta
There were a few dishes in the middle that were good but didn't wow.  The lighting was dark so unfortunately I don't have good pictures to share.   Let's skip ahead to the Ravioli Con Carbonara.  This tasted great, but was served very inconsistently.  An important part of this dish was the Hen Egg.  Part of the joy of eating it is breaking the egg and enjoying the runny-ness of it mix together with the rest of the dish.

It felt like we were playing a game of "What's Different?".  My egg was served perfectly in tact.  Hubby's egg was served broken and runny.  Did the kitchen run out of eggs? I don't think so... I was shocked they let that kind of glaring inconsistency out of the kitchen, and also surprised the server had the nerve to serve inferior presentation.

My version of the Ravioli Con Carbonara
Playing along, trying to make my dish look like the hubby's. There we go, now both of ours are runny!
Aside from that, the final pasta course, Gnocchi al Sugo, was delicious and our favorite of the night.  The Berkshire Pig was very nicely cooked.

Gnocchi al Sugo
Now let's shift back to the service.  Since with a tasting menu you're getting course after course, it makes it difficult to remember what you're actually eating with each new plate.  So we asked the server for a copy of the tasting menu.  Twice.  It seemed to be a trend that the second time's the charm!

My biggest issue with the service was evident when we were served dessert (Cannoli with Riccota, Pistachio and Chocolate Chips).  Hubby has a nut allergy, which we pointed out to the server upon ordering.  In fact, we specifically reminded him the dessert contained nuts so he was fully aware.  When the dessert arrived, our plates looked exactly the same (strange!), so I reconfirmed with the server that Hubby's plate did NOT contain nuts.  Well, it did, so I reminded him about our conversation earlier.  Second time's the charm again!  Off he went to muster up a substitute.

When he came out with a bowl of sorbet, we were both shocked.  Sorbet!  I'm still shocked that is their idea of a replacement.  I imagine a nut allergy is quite common so they should have a suitable alternate in place.  I did enjoy my dressed-up Cannoli, and hubby enjoyed his scoop of sorbet. 

Our server was forgetful and inattentive.  When ordering the tasting menu at high-end restaurants, you expect the best of the best.  And you expect to walk away full and satisfied (if not stuffed!).  I did not get that from Ciano, especially for the price.

And so, here we are... it had to happen eventually! This is my first:

Piggy says no!

Piggy KL

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