Most restaurants succeed because of great food, but some manage to capture the attention of the press and foodies before it serves its first meal. Ciano is one such example.
Ciano is helmed by Chef Shea Gallante, the former chef of Cru who received 3 stars from NY Times’ Frank Bruni and NY Magazine’s Adam Platt, along with a much coveted Michelin Star. Despite the success of Cru, for Chef Gallante it was still working for someone else’s business. Over a year ago, Gallante stunned the world by departing Cru, and with a year of careful planning, Ciano made its debut last November. The concept is quite simple, there’s no nouveau culinary methods, just really fresh ingredients. This is none more evident in the Daily Market Menu.
In terms of the atmosphere, Ciano is warm, bright, and less intimidating than many of the “family style” restaurants around the city. The rustic decor, outdoor seating is inviting, and passer bys would not even suspect that the cuisine at Ciano rivals the best fine dining establishments. The name Ciano comes from the city of Montepulciano, on the mountains of Tuscany. Famous for its red wine producing vineyards, and rustic country side charm. Ciano invokes feelings of this farm house with pink and orange toned tiles and bricks, starched white linens, and a mix of new and antique farm equipments that adorn the dining room. While there’s no clearly defined dress code, Chef Gallante and his team were dressed to impress, so we might suggest that diners put on their best business casual outfits to prevent feeling uncomfortable.
As we approached the restaurant on a pleasant sunny afternoon, we could see from half a block away that all of the outdoor seating were already occupied by diners. As soon as you sit down, the kitchen delivers a few slices of focaccias. Since Ciano bakes its own ciabattas and Ppizzas, the bread is still warm when it hits the table, and has some nice coal charred edges, giving it a wonderful fragrant scent.
From the Anti Pasti section, we chose a shaved vegetable salad mixed greens, Atlantic fluke crudo, diver scallops and hazelnuts, and roasted veal meatballs.
In the hands of a top level chef, even a plate of mixed vegetables came out artistic and well seasoned. Each of the other appetizers all looked deceptively simple, but presented astonishing flavors. The highlight was definitely the veal meatballs, which were date sized meatballs sitting in a bed of creamy white polenta and herbs, truffle pecorino.
For the main course, or shall I say Secondi, the crispy skin duck breast with white asparagus, grilled sea bass, and clay pot chicken for 2 all showed traits of French cuisine. In fact, the use of “Alfalfa Hay” in the claypot chicken brought back memories from 3 years ago, when chef Bouley presented us with an seemingly identical course, albeit with a different type of hay. It seems that although this is an Italian restaurant, the non-pasta entrees all have influences from Chef Gallante’s days as Chef de Cuisine at Bouley.
For dessert, we went with the trusty Italian classic Tiramisu, which surprised us with its unique texture. Now whether this “Deconstructed Tiramisu” is superior to the classic version, is a decision that tasters will have to make themselves.
Throughout the meal, you can sense the influence of former mentor David Bouley on the cuisine. That said, Ciano skips the formal Amuse-bouches, Petits fours or complicated tasting menu wine pairings. It is this balance between high end cuisine with a relaxing, casual dining atmosphere that made Ciano a popular destination by critics and casual diners alike. Ciano may look like a neighborhood Italian restaurant, but with the culinary skills of Chef Gallante, and the front of house leadership of former Per Se manager Jonathan Gilbert, we believe it’s a matter of time before it ascends into household names for dining destinations.
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Ciano (Make a Reservation)
45 East 22St
New York, NY 10010