There are certain things in life that are small but perfectly formed. And Blackpool restaurant Ciao Ciao is one of these.
Set among a row of shops including a laundrette and hairdressers on a busy stretch of Devonshire Road in North Shore, it seems fairly unassuming at first glance.
It’s well presented from the outside but the real surprises lie inside - friendly staff, beautiful Italian food and a great atmosphere.
Ciao Ciao has been open for coming up to four years now - and it’s clear the staff have built up a great rapport with local residents in that time.
In fact, while chatting to a family on the table next to us during our visit one regular pleaded with us to keep the restaurant ‘a secret because it’s so good’.
Sorry, too late... it’s just too good not to share! We’d heard it’s worth booking ahead so we’d reserved a table for last Friday and were delighted by the lovely welcome we received, which included a plate of crudités and dips. A nice touch.
The restaurant has a cosy yet modern feel to it with a brick archway giving a view into the bustling kitchen. It’s spotlessly clean and the tables are arranged well to give the maximum number of covers without comprising intimacy. The walls are adorned with Italian-themed pictures, including the uplifting phrase: ‘When life gives you lemons, make limoncello.’ It’s clear there’s no sour taste left in guests’ mouths by the number of regulars who walked through the door, known on first name terms by the owner.
The menu is varied with garlic bread options and antipasti from bruschetta to caprese salad on offer for starters and pizza, pasta, meat and special dishes on the main menu. To start we chose to share the garlic bread and cheese, calamares and caprese salad. The garlic bread was smothered with just the right amount of cheese and was devoured within seconds.
The calamares were fresh and tender while the caprese salad was finished off with a beautifully sticky balsamic glaze.
Onto the main courses and we were spoilt for choice. The hubby went for the meat feast pizza which was topped with pepperoni, ham, chicken, bacon and meatball – the perfect combination for a meat lover. I chose the Ciao Ciao pizza which was full of fresh flavours with chicken, peppers, salami, red onion and mushrooms.
Our son had tucked into the calamares and garlic bread so just wanted some plain penne pasta to nibble on. It may have seemed like a strange request but the waiter didn’t even question it and brought the little chap just what he wanted (at no cost, I should add, which was a pleasant surprise indeed).
His older sister opted for the spaghetti carbonara, which was deliciously creamy and not in the slightest bit heavy while his younger sister chose meatball pizza and declared it as tasty as the pizzas we’d eaten last spring during a trip to Florence in Italy.
For dessert, the children shared a chocolate fudge cake and Belgian waffle with ice cream. Both were generous portions and ideal for sharing between three. And staff kept the hubby and I happy with a couple of shots of lemoncillo.
Our bill came to £76, including drinks, which is great value for a family of five. We’ll certainly be returning for another taste of authentic Italian delights. And it’s worth noting the restaurant does takeaway too!
Gazette rating: 9 out of 10