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‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Craving Italian? Ciao Bella is the real deal

Will Watts
Correspondent

Craving Italian? Our next dining destination is one of my favorites on Marco Island, Ciao Bella Ristorante Italiano. On the night we ordered, the staff were wearing masks, and there was a great mix of occupied to unoccupied tables. But like many places on Marco Island, the bar failed the social-distancing test with unmasked customers at nearly every seat.

We start with the antipasti or appetizers, picking the “Mozzarella en Carrozza” ($9.95), fried mozzarella over marinara sauce, and the eggplant rollatini ($10.95), eggplant slices stuffed with ricotta and topped with mozzarella and marinara sauce.

If you like cheese sticks, consider the “Mozzarella en Carrozza” a level up (or two, or three). Imagine a giant cheese stick in the shape of toast and cut into triangles. Amazing! And the sauce? Just the best! Drooling!

The eggplant rollatini is a tasty treat too! It reminds me, in flavor, of one of my favorite Mexican dishes, chile relleno. My only regret is that I didn’t have more!

For my main entrée, I had the gnocchi gorgonzola ($19.95), featuring potato pasta in a sauce of cream, butter and gorgonzola cheese. This dish is decadent and delicious, one of the best dishes featuring gnocchi that I’ve ever had. That being said, I felt like it was missing something. Given the strength of the cheese (it has bite … think blue cheese), I feel like adding a veggie into the mix might be one way to go. But that’s just an observation, not a complaint. I highly recommend this dish. I will order it again and perhaps pick a side of veggies to go with it.

This entrée came with a soup or salad choice. Typically, a restaurant will just give you a small salad or make you order the salad separately at an additional cost. Not Ciao Bella. The salad is plentiful. Like you’d make at home. And the balsamic we picked was pure perfection.

My dining companion selected the stuffed shells ($19.95) as his main dish. It features giant shells filled with ricotta and topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. A true mark of a great restaurant, turning such simple ingredients into a masterful dish. I highly recommend this entrée.

For dessert, we picked the homemade tiramisu and the homemade New York cheesecake ($7.99 each). Usually when I see the word homemade in a restaurant menu, I laugh. Obviously if comes from a restaurant, it’s not homemade. But I mention it today, because I now understand why they use this term. These dishes do not taste like they are not made elsewhere, and brought in. Both items look and taste authentic and real. In other words, homemade. Kudos!

In addition to the high quality, Ciao Bella is one of the more reasonably-priced sit-down restaurants on Marco Island. Hello Ciao Bella, we see you!

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This newspaper pays for all meals related to dining reviews. We do not solicit or accept free food.

If you go

Ciao Bella Ristorante Italiano

  • 1000 North Collier, Marco Island
  • 239-970-0505
  • ciaobellamarcoisland.com