If you haven’t been to Ciao, go. Just go.

This place is nice.. super classy.

I visited for the first time last month and has a wonderful experience thanks to our server, Leah – oh, and some awesome food!

After dining there, I arranged a meeting with manager Ellen Garrett to get the details on some of the dishes and how they’re prepared in order to help you get the most out of your visit while still staying on track with your nutrition!

(Alert: read the whole article because there’s a secret at the end)

 

Let’s talk appetizers.  

Just two of the appetizers are fried (Ravioli and Crab Cakes), which is nice, but that doesn’t mean all the rest are equally as healthy. For example,  the escargots are baked in butter in a pastry crust. If you add up the calories, it’s probably more than the ravioli. However, because fried foods have a high proportion of Omega – 6 fatty acids (not inherently bad as long as you’re getting a proper ratio of Omega-3:Omega-6 fatty acids, which most people are not) and CAN have a high level of trans fat and lead to obesity, heart disease and plenty of other bad things, I opt for the non-fried foods regardless of the calorie count.

You’ll be happy to hear that there are a couple appetizers that WILL fit your diet, though.  The Seared Ahi Tuna is one of my top picks. You’ve got your protein, a little fat in the light ginger-sesame dressing, and very few carbs from the greens. (carbs aren’t bad, but too many can be.)

And check it out:  If you’re on a diet, gluten-free AND vegan, well,  I’m sad for you.

Just kidding.  If this is you, then order the Cannellini Dip. It meets all the criteria and is quite tasty, too!

 

Now for salads.  

A salad + an appetizer can make a good pair. Normally I would caution against a Caesar because many restaurants use a very creamy dressing, and a lot of it. Ciao’s dressing is more like a vinaigrette though, which means it’s lighter.  The stacked Caprese is another excellent choice, and because there’s no lettuce, it feels less like a salad and more like a meal!

The Pear-Walnut, as you’ll see,is a yellow-light item, mostly because of the glazed walnuts – but you can easily give a few away to a table companion if you want to skip the sugary goodness.  Watch the House Salad, though. A combo of creamy dressing, cheese and meat make it less of a healthy option.

From the “House Specialties” section, my pick is going to be the Barolo Braised Short Ribs.  There is one caveat, though, and that is that you substitute some veggies for the polenta – more on that later….

 

Moving on to the pastas (you’re gonna like this).  

The first thing to love is that the portions are not ridiculous, but quite reasonably sized.  You can also have gluten-free pasta if that’s your thing, What to order? Your best bet for healthy eating is the Penne Inverno – and add some chicken or shrimp, and if you’d like more  or a different kind of vegetables in it, (like zucchini or spinach) all you have to do is ask!

Here’s another thing to consider – you COULD opt out of pasta all together and instead, have the sauce and meat served over veggies.  Weird, I know. But possible.

 

And finally, the “Secondi”, or Main Courses.  

Here, you have quite a few options:  The Sea Scallops, Butter Brushed Salmon,  and the Chliean Sea Bass are great choices.  The Chicken Piccata is a close second – the reason being that “scallopini” means thin cuts of meat that are sauteed or fried, and you know I feel about fried.  Ciao’s version, however, is a little lighter than most, so you’re still in the game. The pork Tenderloin Marsala also earns a Yellow Light rating. If you’re wanting to eat light, you probably want to avoid the Chicken Parmigiana because of the high fat content.  

As far as desserts, well, there’s really no “healthy” option, but if you’re doing everything else right, it might be worth sharing one with a companion. 🙂

 

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  1. All of the entrees (except for the pastas) are served with either gnocchi, potatoes, polenta, pasta and risotto.  I recommend asking to substitute these for some vegetables. You can choose Brussels sprouts, carrots, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, sauteed zucchini (spinach and zucchini are not on the menu, so you’ll have to ask.) Depending on the time of year, there could also be additional choices.  
  2. The staff at Ciao is very receptive to your special requests, so don’t be afraid to ask!
  3. THERE IS A SECRET DISH AT CIAO!  It’s not on the menu but a select few already know about it.

All you have to do is order the “Secret Dish” and you’ll get your choice of protein (shrimp, chicken, scallops) cooked with just wine and a seasoning of your choice (no butter or oils, although I’m sure they could be added in if you wish) in a stir fry with tons of veggies! This is an excellent option for anyone paying close attention to their nutrition or who has specific weight loss goals.  

TIP: Don’t even look at a menu so you won’t be tempted to change your mind!

And now for the GREEN LIGHT / RED LIGHT breakdown!

 

GREEN LIGHT = Go for it!!

YELLOW LIGHT =    Maybe for special occasions..

RED LIGHT= Don’t do it!

 

APPETIZERS

GREEN LIGHT:  

  • Cannellini Dip
  • Seared Ahi Tuna
  • Steamed Mussels with Red Sauce

YELLOW LIGHT

  • Shrimp Toscano
  • Ciao Meatballs

RED LIGHT:  

  • Baked Escargot
  • Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Maryland Crab Cakes

 

SALADS AND SOUPS

GREEN LIGHT:  

  • Stacked Caprese
  • Caesar Salad

YELLOW LIGHT

  • Pear Walnut

RED LIGHT

  • Ciao House Salad

 

HOUSE SPECIALTIES

GREEN LIGHT:

  • “The Secret Menu Item”
  • Beef Braised Short Ribs

YELLOW LIGHT

  • Italian Shrimp and Grits
  • Frenched Pork Chop
  • Italian Chicken Crepes

RED LIGHT:

  • Pan Seared Duck Breast

PASTA ENTREES

GREEN LIGHT:

  • Penne Inverno

YELLOW LIGHT

  • Farfalle Shrimp Pistachio

RED LIGHT:

  • Seafood Ravioli
  • Quattro Formaggi
  • Spaghetti Bolognese


MAIN COURSES  

GREEN LIGHT: *Sub veggies for risotto or polenta

  • Chilean Sea Bass
  • Sea Scallops
  • Butter Brushed Salmon

YELLOW LIGHT *Sub veggies for potatoes or linguini suggested

  • Tenderloin Marsala
  • Chicken Piccata

RED LIGHT:

  • Chicken Parmesan

 

~As always, enjoy the food, enjoy the

company – and tip well!