Ciao! Of Cape By Brian Noto
Su Hill the long time proprietor of the well regarded Bistro Saffron and recently minted Pho 8, has hit another culinary home run with her latest restaurant concept. The opening of CIAO ristorante + enoteca not only marks an accomplishment for her personally, but also for the skilled team she has assembled for this latest enterprise.Fine restaurants do not happen overnight. The concept for CIAO was no exception, beginning nearly two years ago. A prime location, authentic Italian menu, top notch kitchen and front of the house staff had to be considered and acquired. Not a task for the faint of heart.Su knows a key ingredient for a successful restaurant is to build a stable kitchen team. Su knew precisely the person to make her chef. That position fell to Mary Job. Mary not only knows her way around the kitchen but grounds the CIAO team as she has worked with Su for over 20 years!She also wanted to provide CIAO guests with the freshest bread and a great dessert selection. This task went to Pastry Chef Terre Chriss. Terre has been pastry cheffing in Cape for years and has always been known for her creative and delicious breads and pastries. And we can’t forget the glue that has held Su’s team together for the last 11 years, her assistant, Bryan Suntrup.Su met the final leg of the team, Gabriele Ruggieri, a few months later. Gabriele, a native of Palermo, Sicily, had recently moved to Cape Girardeau and was anxious to put his culinary, management and wine skills to work. Su quickly added him as chef and manager. And why not? His first childhood memories are of his being in the kitchen at the side of his grandmother, MaMa Rita, after Sunday morning Mass.
This early passion for food led Gabriele to travel the world. He has worked with chefs and hotel managers in London, Sydney, Miami, Istanbul, Milan and Phuket and many others between. This gives Gabriele an international flair not found in a Cape Girardeau maître d’.CIAO sources their products locally as well as globally. They offer imported and house made products and take pride in the charcuterie and cheese offerings. CIAO uses a combination of fresh and imported pastas in their dishes as well as top of the line San Marzano tomatoes in the red sauces. The result is a menu that features stunning antipasti; the Carpaccio of Beef and Tuscan Pate are excellent. A beautiful insalata course. Genuine primi piatti; the Gnocchi Sorrentina and Fettuccine Bolognese are splendid! A standout secondi piatti; the roasted Cornish hen and lamb shank are marvelous! A few additions like MaMa Rita’s meatballs, truffled mushrooms and polenta round out a meal. The desserts are not to be missed. The tiramisu is as brilliant as it is authentic.Gabrielle has studied wine extensively so it is no wonder that the wine list at CIAO is as well curated as the cuisine. It features about 40 wines, all Italian of course, representing most of the major regions and their distinctive grapes. Bottle prices range from $32 for a Verdicchio or Chianti to a 2008 Brunello at $280. There is also a concise and reasonably priced by the glass program. The only exception to the Italian-only list is in the Champagne category where a Laurent Perrier Brut tops the class.Gabriele has always wanted to have a slice of the American dream even though he has happily lived and worked around the world. While working at an Italian restaurant in Epcot Walt Disney he met a girl named Casey. She happened to be at the restaurant that night celebrating her sister’s bachelorette party. The curious part is that Casey is from Cape Girardeau. But the fairy tale gets even better. The story goes that it was Casey who asked Gabriele for a date… and they were married 53 days later!Welcome to Cape Girardeau and welcome to CIAO