I think many would agree that Chinatown East is an unlikely location for an Italian restaurant. So, when Mr. Ciao (@) opened last summer, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The restaurant wasn’t really on my radar as it hasn’t gotten much buzz since opening, so we stumbled upon it unintentionally.
We intended on eating at another restaurant which turned out to be closed for a special event, so we decided to check our Mr. Ciao instead since it was within walking distance.
The restaurant is brought to us by Racquel Youtzy and Tiziano Pivetta who also own Triple AAA Bar, which explains the décor. Based on the name and exterior of the restaurant, it just wasn’t what I expected inside. Upon entering the restaurant, you walk down a narrow hallway which brings you to the bar section at the front of the restaurant. The main dining room is in the back. The space is dimly lit and has a dark rustic feel to it. It just felt very…hipster!
The restaurant occupies a fairly large space which seats 70 people. We dropped by on a Friday night and we didn’t have any problems getting a seat. I noticed that there were quite a few families with young children dining, so Mr. Ciao is definitely kid-friendly!
The menu is quite extensive and dishes are quite reasonably priced with antipasti ranging from $6 to $16, pizzas ranging from $14 to $18 and pastas from $16 to $20. They also offer specials on certain days of the week: kids under 12 eat free on Mondays, half-price wine bottles on Wednesdays and “Fish Fridays”.
To begin, we shared the Involtini – eggplant rolls stuffed with mozza, bread crumbs & basil over tomato sauce ($8). One order comes with two small rolls which consisted of soft eggplant ribbons stuffed with gooey cheese sitting in a nice tomato sauce. Very enjoyable!
What sets Mr. Ciao apart from other pizza joints is their “Pizza Fritta” (aka fried pizza), which is a traditional Neapolitan-style street food. The pizza dough is flash-fried and subsequently baked with the toppings.
The four of us shared the Peking Duck Pizza – roast duck, char siu sauce, black bean, wasabi peas, scallions ($17) as an appetizer. This pizza caught our eye and we all wanted to try it but in case this was a major miss, we didn’t want to be stuck eating an entire pizza of it.
The ingredients on this pizza is a nice nod to their Chinatown location. It consisted of a crispy deep-fried crust topped with sweet char siu sauce in place of tomato sauce. Chunks of roast duck and scallions were scattered on top of the pizza and while I didn’t detect much black bean or wasabi peas, it was a big hit!
For my entrée, I tried the Cavatelli – crimini, oyster and porcini mushrooms, garlic and white wine sauce ($17). The small pasta shells were cooked to a nice al dente and the mushroom flavour was quite prominent – very earthy. All in all, it was a satisfying bowl of pasta.
Mike went for one of the pizza specials of the day, the Sopressata & Smoked Proscittuo Pizza. It consisted of the same thin crispy crust as the Peking duck pizza and resembled a pepperoni pizza. The combination was salty and spicy and overall, it was a solid pizza but I preferred the Peking duck pizza.
One of our friends’ ordered the Penne – spicy sauce, rapini, onion, smoked pork drippings ($17). The penne was al dente and the sauce was quite subtle and light. So if you’re looking for a flavourful punch, you might want to order another pasta.
Overall, Mr. Ciao is a great neighborhood spot – it’s kid-friendly, so that’s a plus (well, depending on who you ask!).Final verdict? If you’re in the area, they are worth a visit but I wouldn’t go out of my way to come here.
At a glance:
- An Italian restaurant in Chinatown East (Broadview & Gerrard)
- Specializing in deep fried pizza
- Open only for dinner; 5pm-2am every day
- Deceivingly large; dining room seats around 70 people
- Kid-friendly; lots of kids during our visit
- Same owners as Triple AAA
- Nice neighborhood spot but wouldn’t go out of my way to come here
Ratings (out of 5):
- Food: 3 stars
- Service: 3 stars
- Atmosphere: 3 stars