Have you ever been to a restaurant where you were told what you were “allowed” to eat? Or ordered salmon which arrived at your table raw but the kitchen refused to cook it again properly? And then the owner publicly insulted you and your guests in front of the entire restaurant? Me neither. Until I had the extreme misfortune of dining at Ciao Bella.
I made a reservation for eighteen people at 7:00 pm on a Saturday night. At around 6:00 pm, Mario the owner called me, and I confirmed my reservation numbers. My guests started arriving at the restaurant at 7:05 pm, and I myself arrived at 7:15 pm. The place seemed cozy; there was live piano music and the atmosphere was friendly. I sat down and prepared myself for an enjoyable evening with my friends.
The first red flag came when the server informed me that, due to the party’s size, the restaurant expected us to each order a preset four course menu. This was a complete surprise to me as I heard nothing about this requirement when I made the reservation, and Mario did not mention anything when he called me earlier. Under any other circumstances, I would have left as I generally go to restaurants to eat what I like, not what they’re willing to serve me. But most of my guests were already seated so we decided to stay.
The theme of the set menu was “Lobster Festival”: lobster salad, lobster bisque, salmon or lobster cannelloni, and tiramisu or cheesecake. It all looked good on paper but the food was VERY subpar. The salad was just a small ordinary house salad with some boiled lobster chopped up and sprinkled on top. The bisque was also disappointing: a shallow dish that was basically Campbell’s tomato soup, except topped with lobster sprinkles yet again.
But the main course was truly unbelievable. My girlfriend was served a Coho salmon filet that was completely raw in the middle; when she notified the server of this, she was told that this was simply how the kitchen cooks its fish. They could make her another piece of Coho yet it would be just as raw as the first one. Now I understand that some dishes such as Ahi tuna or tuna tataki can be consumed raw, but judging by the slightly “off” smell of the fish, this Coho salmon was clearly neither sashimi-grade nor properly prepared. My girlfriend wisely chose to leave the fish alone for fear of food poisoning, but to add insult to injury, Ciao Bella wrapped up the disgusting fish and gave it to her at the end of the meal, instructing her to cook it herself for breakfast the next day. We had never witnessed such an arrogant kitchen.
My other guests ordered the “lobster and baby shrimp stuffed cannelloni”. However, they had to stop eating as they started finding sharp fish bones inside the pasta. Now why on earth would there be fish bones inside cannelloni? Turns out the chef used a mixture of lobster, shrimp, and halibut as stuffing. Which is not a problem, except for the fact that that was not written on the menu. Furthermore, the kitchen didn’t even bother to spend a few minutes removing the bones from the fish! Thanks to their sheer laziness, the pasta dish was full of bones and pretty much inedible.
The food service was painfully slow, and by the time dessert was served, we had been trapped at Ciao Bella for three hours. When it was finally time to get the check, Mario the owner confronted me with his displeasure. He explained to me that every table costs him money, and that my party had cost him dearly because we arrived late, four guests did not show up, and some people decided to share the four course menu. He berated me for dishonoring my reservation and told me sternly that my missing guests were, and I quote, “socially irresponsible”. He said all this loudly in front of everybody in the restaurant. I have never experienced such insulting disrespect in my entire life.
Apparently nobody informed Mario that the world does not always work the way he wants. People get to places late because of traffic. Guests sometimes cannot attend due to unforeseeable circumstances. And not every person can eat whole four courses in one sitting (no matter how mandatory it is.) But obviously all Mario could comprehend was that night’s meager lost profits. Which is ironic since what he really lost was the combined future business of myself, my guests, and all of their respective friends and family. And now that you’ve read my account, I hope you won’t give Ciao Bella your business either. After all, what person in their right mind would pay a restaurant to tell them what to eat, put up with awful food, and then endure verbal abuse from the owner?
In conclusion, Mario truly taught me a lesson in social responsibility. I am now tasked with the responsibility of telling every single person I know to avoid Ciao Bella as if their life depends on it. And based on their uncooked fish and bony cannelloni, that may very well be true.