‘Watts for Dinner’: Ciao Bella! That’s amore

Will Watts

Our next dining destination Ciao Bella Ristorante Italiano. It was a weekday, around 5:30 p.m. We didn’t think much about stopping by without a reservation. The staff happily accommodated us, and I didn’t think much of it. After all, season was over.

Well, within the next 15 minutes, the place nearly filled up. I learned two things, seating us was a super kind gesture (and before you go there, we eat anonymously, so no special favors) and this restaurant is a huge success and deservedly so.

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The staff is quite large and these folks keep busy. The entire staff is very respectful. And they check on you often. I wish I could afford to hire our waiter to be my personal butler. Life would be good. Especially if I could afford a butler.

Things got off to an appetizing start with the fried calamari ($14.95). Crispy and golden brown, I’ll also note that it was plentiful. There were two of us and this appetizer could have easily accommodated four. The best part of this dish was the sauce. You can find great calamari in a lot of Marco spots, but not everybody has this superb sauce. Not too sweet. Not bitter at all. Just right! Goldilocks sauce!

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For my main entrée, I selected the spaghetti a la Bolognese ($20.95). This is my all-time favorite Italian dish. And Ciao Bella does it proud. That perfect sauce – and just the right amount – and a meat blend (that I hear contains veal) and perhaps the most-difficult-to-get-right al dente spaghetti. And it was! It so was! I almost cried. I highly recommend this dish.

And if that wasn’t enough, it comes with complimentary bread – oil and cheese are on the table and your choice of a salad (house with choice of dressing, or Cesar). I picked the house with a balsamic. Just look at the picture. So much detail. Most side salads are a few leaves of lettuce and a chunk of tomato – you know what I’m talking about. And I added some of the fresh parmesan. It’s a nice-sized dish just sitting on the table. I used it on everything. The bread and oil. The salad. The pasta. The only thing I didn’t do is spoon-feed it to myself.   

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Also, kudos! During a previous visit I dinged the restaurant for pre-serving the cheese, like it was a candle or something. What’s wrong with that, you ask? The smell can become a bit too much! But not anymore. I’d like to think I had a hand in that. But probably not.

My dining companion had one of the specials of the night, the Adriatic chicken ($25.95). It features two chicken breasts, tomatoes, arugula and artichokes, in all its Italian goodness. I was expecting the arugula to be served uncooked, but to my surprise, it was not. This was a beautiful dish with lots of healthy, delicious ingredients. The artichokes were huge!

This dish came with a side of penne and sauce, yum! He picked the soup of the night, split pea – which was both beautiful and delicious.

The serving sizes are very impressive. And the costs were very affordable, especially given the size of the staff and today’s current market conditions. You can tell a lot of thought and care goes into this restaurant. And that’s why they are packed on a weeknight in June!

Ciao Bella! Go for the amazing flavors, delight in the friendly, efficient staff. Tip big and swoon over these folks on the way out! Happy eating!

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This newspaper pays for all meals related to dining reviews. We do not solicit or accept free food. Not all dishes are featured in print, but you can find a gallery of all reviewed dishes online at marconews.com.

If you go

Ciao Bella Ristorante Italiano

  • 1000 N. Collier Blvd #6, Marco Island
  • 239-970-0505
  • ciaobellamarcoisland.com