Formerly an antique store on the edge of SoHo, “Ciccio Bar & Alimentari” gutted this tiny basement and redecorated it to open a brand spanking new Italian food & wine bar. SoHo is already full of amazing places to eat, let alone an abundance of Italian restaurants. Moving into this turf is risky business (pun intended), but it seems that “Ciccio” is up for the challenge.
A very small restaurant tucked away on a busy street, it’s a surprising retreat from the very noisy city traffic above-ground. You would barely know there was a subway and a major roadway if not for the view of them from the large windows by the front-end. This is chef Giacomo Romano’s first solo-venture, but all signs point to what could be a good beginning to having a new home in SoHo.
The meal starts with a plate of freshly made focaccia bread, topped with tomatoes and accompanied with olive oil and a dash of balasmic vinegar. The bread was firm and airy, just the way a good focaccia should be with a light taste and texture but the strength to support dipping when necessary (and it became necessary in two paragraphs from now).
The last time we reviewed Pappardelle al Cinghiale, which is freshly made pasta with a wild boar ragu, was from “Mezzo Giornio“. While I do not want to compare the two restaurants much, you may recall my complaint from that other review about the overbearing use of black pepper. The version at “Ciccio” was peppery, but nowhere near as uncomfortably burning like “Mezzo” had, really just the perfect hit of the spice to heat it up.
The very broad and long sheets of velvety Pappardelle were wonderfully cooked, topped with an ample amount of their flavorful and thick gravy. The shredded strands of boar melted into the rich tomato sauce, which was sprinkled liberally with pecorino romano cheese. It’s simply a very meaty and well-balanced ragu that will remind diners of a big Italian family dinner. I was grateful that I saved some of my focaccia bread to scoop up what was left on my plate after the pasta had disappeared.
Here is a point of reference for the length of the noodles, and as you can see they are quite long and a good density as well. I love fresh egg pasta for a variety of reasons, the main one being that is super quick to cook. I can safely say that my experience here was the fastest time I have ever had between ordering my food and receiving it. It may have also been because I was the first person there for dinner service, but if they can keep up that speedy service when it gets busy without sacrificing quality, this is going to be a food bar to be reckoned with.
While it might not be the fanciest looking version of Tiramisu you have had, the version from “Ciccio” was packed full of flavor. Using the classic recipe for it, this was a grand heap of the Italian coffee-based dessert, and had me running laps around the East Village afterwards (readers will learn that I rarely drink soda, let alone coffee, so it does not take much caffeine for me to start bench-pressing yellow taxis). Chocolatey, creamy, and full of good coffee flavor, the tiramisu was a mess to look at but a treat to devour.
My only nitpick about the restaurant as a whole would be that some of the food could use some work on their presentation, so that their appearance could match their taste, but those are kinks that can be remedied fairly quick once the place is off the ground and more established. Right now, it’s more of a homestyle restaurant, but I would love it if the look of the food was as good as the flavor.
“Ciccio” is Italian comfort food done right, with a great vibe for a very quiet and earnest meal. There are few frills or fancy eye-candy when it comes to the meals, relying on the natural beauty of the food to do the talking. While I do wish there was a bit more to the simplistic plating, it works for them for now. I can see this becoming a mainstay in the area as a good neighborhood restaurant that would right in with the rest, but I would like to see it become much more than that, and will keep my eye on this new joint as it grows and matures.
“Ciccio Bar & Alimentari” is located on 190 6th Avenue in SoHo, NYC.