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Italian classics with Tony Vallone

The other night, we sat down with Tony at Ciao Bello for a few of his favorite, classic Italian dishes at what he likes to call “your neighborhood Italian restaurant.”

One of the highlights was this amazing Cacciucco alla Livornese (kah-CHOO-koh AHL-lah LEE-vohr-NEH-zeh), Livorno-style fish stew made with locally fished ingredients from the Gulf of Mexico.

At Ciao Bello, Tony has always maintained a balance of classic Italian cuisine created with locally sourced ingredients.

And while you’ll also find a number of American standbys on the menu as well (like one of our guests’ favorites, braised short ribs), the heart and soul of the Ciao Bello kitchen is authentic Italian.

Here are some of the other dishes that Tony chose especially for our dinner…

A Margherita Pizza — tomato, basil, and mozzarella — done in the Roman “sottile” (thin crust) style.

Ragù alla Bolognese, a litmus test of any great Italian kitchen. Although tagliatelle are the canonical pasta for this dish, Tony likes to do his with pappardelle which are broader. “I find they absorb the sauce better,” said Tony.

We’ve really enjoyed following Houston author J.C. Reid’s series on the Italian classic Carbonara.

And when one of the guests at dinner remarked how much she loved the Carbonara and wondered out loud if there was any chance of tasting Tony’s Amatriciana, it didn’t take long… Tomato sauce prepared with guanciale (cured pig’s jowl) and onions, served over bucatini. “It’s important to use a pasta like bucatini or perciatelli,” i.e., with a hole running through the middle of the noodle, said Tony. “Its what allows the pasta to entirely absorb the sauce.”

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