“When it comes to baccalà,” says Tony Vallone, “it’s all about patience.”
Salt cod, or baccalà as it is called in Italian, requires prolonged soaking in order to purge the delicate fish of its salt before being cooked.
“So many restaurateurs try to hurry the process or don’t take enough time to allow the salt to be purged properly. You have to be patient: otherwise the salt content will make the dish be too salty and it will upset the balance of flavors.”
Ciao Bello’s Mezzaluna (half moon) ravioli are stuffed with patiently soaked baccalà.
“It’s that patience that makes the baccalà so creamy and delicious,” says Tony.
What could be more classically Italian than Linguine alle Vongole?
Long noodles tossed with freshly harvested cherrystone clams, gently sautéed in white wine.
At Ciao Bello, Chef de Cuisine Bobby Matos uses only the freshest seafood available (purchased from the same purveyor who supplies seafood to Tony’s flagship restaurant, Tony’s).
From Venice (in the north) to Naples (in the south) and all points along either coast of the Italian peninsula, Linguine alle Vongole (pronounced leen-GWEE-neh AHL-leh VOHN-goh-leh) are served as one of the great classics of Italian cuisine — from the five-star dining establishment in Venice and Naples to the most humble, however delicious, <em>trattoria</em> on either coast, somewhere in between…
In this world, there are meatballs and then there are Tony Vallone’s FAMOUS meatballs…
At Ciao Bello, Chef Bobby Matos uses Tony’s family recipe for the meatballs.
They are served over creamy Parmigiano Reggiano polenta in a cast-iron pan.
The most incredible thing about this dish is its combination of flavors and textures: the delicate meatballs crumbles gently over the creamy polenta and the flavors and textures come together in a symphony of deliciousness!
Pan-roasted Salmon Filet.
Served over local Texas pea and cherry tomato salad, lemon emulsion.
At Ciao Bello, Tony Vallone and Chef de Cuisine Bobby Matos use locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, as in this dish, for which locally grown Texas peas and cherry tomatoes are used.
In a day and age when more and more of our guests are asking for seafood and fresh fish, the pan-roasted salmon filet is one of the most popular among our patrons.
One of the things that Tony loves about this dish is how it can be paired with either a white or red wine.
Scott’s favorite pairing? The Occhipinti 100% Frappato from Vittoria (Ragusa, Sicily), a red wine with just the right lightness to match perfectly with the delicacy of the salmon.
When it comes to pizza, everyone has an opinion.
New Yorkers will tell you that New York-style “pizza by the slice” is the best. And who hasn’t enjoyed a reheated slice of pepperoni pizza on a Lower Eastside street corner after a late night of club going?
In Chicago, it’s all about the “deep dish.” Oversized appetites love oversized pizzas and even though the Chicago style is among the farthest from the dish’s authentic Italian roots, we say: when in Chicago, do as the Chicagoans do…
From Brooklyn to Santa Monica, the so-called “pizza wars” have consumed restaurateurs and restaurant-goers alike. These days, it seems that folks are so busy arguing about their pizza that they have forgotten to take time out to enjoy it!
At Ciao Bello, Tony Vallone prefers to serve classic Roman-style pizza — the sottile (soht-TEE-leh) thin-crust classic of the Eternal City (above). This is the type of pizza you will find in the famous trattorie (traht-toh-REE-eh, plural of trattoria, traht-toh-REE-ah) of the Trastevere (trahs-TEH-veh-reh) district of Rome, where locals and tourists and young people and families all share a common love of this Italian classic dish.
The toppings range from the classic like the Margherita (mozzarella, tomato, and basil) to the exotic like the Fresca al Solare (above, goat cheese, Asian pear, roast garlic, truffle oil, and arugula).
Photo by Jessica Matos.
“For Italian food to be authentic,” says Tony Vallone, “it must be a balance of the classic and the creative.”
Ciao Bello’s Black Truffle Macaroni and cheese is the embodiment of this approach to great Italian cuisine.
The origins of the American classic macaroni and cheese can be traced to the baked ziti and other baked pastas of Southern Italians who came to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. When they didn’t find the soft and easy-to-melt bufalo’s milk mozzarella in their adopted land, they improvised by grating cow’s milk hard cheeses, like American cheddar.
Tony gives this interpretation of the beloved standby added flair and panache by grating Umbrian black truffles (when in season) from Italy into the mix.
Black Truffle Macaroni and Cheese. Photo by Jessica Matos.
Dessert at Ciao Bello is a true family affair.
From favorite Italian stand-bys like pan di Spagna (literally, “Spanish bread,” golden sponge cake, dusted with slivered roast almonds), to Tony Vallone’s personal recipe for the classic Italian semifreddo (semi-frozen cream and espresso, topped with whipped cream and gently roasted coffee beans to impart a hint of bitterness), there is a dessert at Ciao Bello for everyone — from toddlers to adults.
Don’t forget to ask your server about dessert specials: Chef de Cuisine Bobby Matos and Tony always deliver something that will surprise and delight your party!
Italian Sponge Cake (Pan di Spagna) dusted with roast almonds. Photo by Jessica Matos.
From Venice to Naples to Palermo, the Italians’ passion for great coffee is unrivaled.
All of the coffee — whether traditional Italian espresso or classic Americano (as it is called in Italy) — is sourced exclusively from top purveyors of African and South American beans.
The key, Tony says, is not just the provenance of the beans themselves but rather the artistry with which they have been toasted and the preservation of freshness.
Once you’ve had the classic Italian espresso at Ciao Bello, you’ll never go back to the coffee house chains — we promise!
Photo by Jessica Matos.
Chef de Cuisine Bobby Matos’ Watermelon and Tomato salad combines classic elements of traditional Italian cuisine with seasonal, local ingredients.
In the U.S. we have been brought up to believe that a tomato is a vegetable.
In fact, the tomato is a fruit (because it has seeds).
However unexpected, it’s the perfect match for Texas summer watermelon.
The dish is one of the most popular this summer at Ciao Bello.
All of the pasta at Ciao Bello is prepared in-house on a daily basis, with supervision by Tony Vallone himself.
Pansotti (singular pansotto) comes from the Italian pancia meaning belly: little “bellies” stuffed with a blend of traditional Italian cheeses.
Pansotti stuffed with Ricotta and Parmigiano, tossed in a light sage cream sauce and garnished with lightly fried sage leaf. Photo by Jessica Matos.