Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ciano: The Food Shines

I'd been hearing about Shea Gallante's new restaurant, Ciano, for weeks. Email newsletters, Twitter updates, NY Times' Diner Journal articles... everything promised delicious, non-pretentious food in the Flatiron District.

When I logged onto Open Table, my go-to source for restaurant reservations, I was excited to see one single 8pm reservation left for Ciano's opening night, November 5th. The menu looked fabulous, and the restaurant seemed very promising.

As soon as Patrick and I stepped in the door, I was impressed with the warmth of the restaurant and the inviting decor: low lighting, candles, bustling but not too loud. After waiting a few minutes, we were shown to our table, a cozy two-top, and our meal began.

Right off the bat, we could tell the waitstaff didn't quite have their act together. But, we both realized it was opening night of a new restaurant, and we'd be patient. We ordered two glasses of wine and started to look over the menu.

Immediately, we both decided we had to try the veal meatballs. When our waiter finally came over to our table after waiting about twenty minutes, we were told they were out of the meatballs. No problem, we ordered the Scallops with Brussels Sprouts.

After waiting about another twenty minutes, the waiter came back over to take our dinner order: we decided to share both the Pappardelle with Duck Ragu and the Slow-Roasted Lemon-Rosemary Chicken.

When our scallops came to the table, I was impressed with how delicious they looked.
At this point, we were starting to get slightly annoyed at how impossible it was to get our waiter's attention anytime we needed anything, but then we tasted the dish. The soft, tender scallops were bursting with flavor, and the Brussels Sprouts added the perfect texture and taste to the dish. We both let out a long "mmmm" as we attacked the dish until there was nothing left. "Okay," I thought "maybe they have some work to do on the service front, but this food is GOOD."

After another very long wait, our main courses arrived to the table. The delicious smells were overwhelming, and the presentation of the food was beautiful. Patrick ordered another glass of wine and we started to dig in. At first we ate slowly to wait for his wine, but minutes ticked away and it never showed up. When we finally did get the waiter's attention, he assured us the wine was "being poured." We continued to eat, but the wine never showed up. We were finished with the food before the waiter came back to the table, at which point Patrick pointed out that his wine had never shown up. The waiter apologized, and we canceled the wine order.

In spite of the wine debacle, I must say, the food was incredible. The pappardelle was perfectly-cooked al dente, the duck ragu was absolutely delicious and the chicken was quite honestly the best roasted chicken I have ever tasted. Juicy, tender and flavorful, the skin was crispy and the taste was amazing. We finished every last bite, and agreed that the food was fabulous.
Now, we all know how I feel about dessert, but the salt from the meal actually left me craving a taste of sweet, so we thought we'd look over the dessert menu. We asked our waiter to bring some over, and he said he'd be right back with them. 5 minutes passed. 10 minutes passed. 15 minutes passed. The waiter was nowhere to be seen. Before we knew it, another waiter brought over our check, and told us to have a great night. I guess that was the end of that!

We paid the bill and still left a nice tip, because we were sure the waiter was trying his hardest and we realize that opening night is difficult.

Because the food was SO good, I decided to give my feedback to the restaurant on their Facebook page. I wrote that I was disappointed in the service, and waited to see if a response would come from the Ciano team. I only half-expected to hear anything.

Well, let me tell you, not only did they write back promptly, but I heard directly from Shea Gallante himself! He wrote me a personalized, long Facebook message apologizing for the service, assuring me that it was the pains of opening night, and letting me know that this is not the experience his team is striving for. He wanted to know what he could do to make me happy.

Mr. Gallante, you've already done it. We were initially upset with the service, but I do understand that opening a restaurant is difficult, and the service shown on opening night doesn't necessarily predict how the service will be moving forward. Your food was absolutely delicious, and your personal response to me made up for the service we received on opening night. We will be back to Ciano to again eat your amazing food, and we will certainly give the waitstaff another chance.

Chefs and restaurateurs, take notes from Mr. Gallante. He knows what he's doing in the kitchen, and he knows how to treat his patrons.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

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