Italian cuisine has for a long time dominated the New York dining scene, and you can see in all permutations of regional influences, authentic/traditional vs. modern variation, etc. across different places in the city. I’ve been attracted to high-end, more modern places like Del Posto and Marea as well as low-key places serving version of Italian food that is more faithful to the country’s culinary tradition. It’s with the latter places where I tend to find a lot of unexpected pleasure from (although I still love all the great Italian fine-dining establishments), especially where a restaurant is relatively unknown in the dining circle and set up more like a neighborhood place than a destination for diners all across the country and beyond. Ciccio has long been on my list to have that gem potential, but has long evaded my reach until I finally decided to show up with two other dining companions on a recent weekday night. Overall, it is a nice neighborhood restaurant where I found most of the dishes to like.
The food at Ciccio is straightforward Tuscan food. I have yet to visit Italy (hope that happens soon!), but you can tell that this restaurant isn’t putting any magic touch but simply trying to adhere to the elegant simplicity of the region’s culinary tradition, with focus on ingredients and execution instead of some fancy plating. Burrata with roasted tomatoes and arugula pesto was a pleasant appetizer, with silky smooth texture of the cheese that would surely whet your appetite. I was also very impressed with gluten-free chickpea crepe roll stuffed with eggplant, mozzarella and cherry tomato. It sort of looks like a healthy version of Mexican tortilla dishes, and tasted delicious, with all the fresh ingredients working harmoniously with one another.
The pasta dishes were also quite solid. Risotto with Portobello mushroom, artichokes and fontina cheese had the rustic touch that would do well anywhere at other Italian restaurants even though the flavor itself wasn’t overly salty or heavy. Gluten-free house-made gnocchi with brussels sprouts and parmigian cream was also surprisingly moderate in flavor to my liking, and the texture of the gnocchi was spot on. The only letdown during the meal was the porchetta dish of roasted pork served with roasted red beets, sautéed kale and white wine sauce. We were debating whether we should get a third pasta or an entrée, and I insisted on getting the pork just because I wanted to see how the kitchen puts together this classic Italian dish. Well, the flavor of the dish overall was nicely balanced but the texture of pork was tougher than I had expected. For dessert, a classic tiramisu was absolutely moist and delightful and it was gone among three of us in minutes.
Getting a reservation at Ciccio doesn’t seem too difficult and it was half full on a weekday night. The restaurant has a full bar with a lot of affordable Italian wine selections, so either get a bottle or try a few glasses to complement your meal. You can tell that this is a place that really strives to make you feel you’re at a quiet restaurant somewhere in Florence; all of the servers and staffs seemed to be Italian, and I really liked the cozy and welcoming atmosphere of the dining space that is perfect for a date night. Ciccio is one of those places that deserves to be on more people’s radar for authentic Italian dining experience.
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
Address: 190 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (646) 476-9498