Archive | January, 2012

Ciao Italian Kitchen (Say Hello to More Italian Food)

23 Jan

Continuing with our exploration of new Italian places we finally tried out Ciao Italian Kitchen last week. Ciao is located on the north side of the swanky Waterfront development right off of Webb. The same location fostered restaurant failures such as Piztros and at least one other venture. The restaurant is conveniently located right next to the New Balance store in case you are looking for quality footwear after a satisfying Italian meal.

Ciao was doing a decent lunch crowd when we ventured in on a Sunday afternoon. The inside is spacious and open with large windows offering views of the lovely Waterfront property. In case you have some restless children with you, all the tables are covered with white paper with several crayons provided for cheap entertainment.

Once seated our friendly waitress rattled off some drink specials including an Italian Sangria. This sounded like an appropriate drink for a Sunday afternoon, so several of us in the group indulged in what was a rather refreshing beverage. The menu a Ciao was daunting to say the least. It included pizzas, calzones, salads, and innumerable pasta dishes.  While we poured over the menu, several small loaves of crusty bread were served with the obligatory olive oil for dipping. While waiting for the rest of our party to arrive we decided an order of toasted ravioli was needed as an appetizer. After a few minutes wait we were enjoying large raviolis that tasted as good as they looked.

The raviolis were popular and  proved an illusive subject to photo. Note the Sangria in the foreground

For our entrees I ordered the Pasta Puttanesca and Steph decided to try the Pasta Del Mare.  Both of us received generous portions of pasta. The Puttanesca was a bowl of spaghetti with a red sauce that was slightly spicy. There  were also slices of sausage, chicken, and a large meatball. I really enjoyed my dish. The spaghetti was not overcooked and had been properly mixed with the red sauce. My meatball was alright and the sausage had a good kick to it.

Pasta Puttanesca

Steph’s pasta dish was alfredo based with an abundance of seafood. I thought the alfredo sauce was a bit bland, but on the other hand it was a bit lighter than some alfredo sauces, so it worked with the lighter nature of the scallops, shrimp, and calamari bits. Steph would have liked larger scallops, as the “mini” ones were a bit tough and chewy. If you are squeamish about eating calamari tentacles you should probably avoid the Del Mare because it was full of chewy tentacle goodness. Everyone else in our party enjoyed their selections at Ciao.

Pasta Del Mare choc full o’ tentacles

Of the three new Italian restaurants we have tried Ciao is the most family friendly and best bang for your buck establishment. If you are looking for a good traditional Italian meal that will leave you satisfied this is your place. While the food is not as high end as Bocconcini or Luca  it sure beats Olive Garden, unless of course you really need never-ending salad and bread sticks laced with crack.


Ciao Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Garcia’s Tacos

16 Jan

Another week and another hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint. It’s actually been awhile since we have reviewed a Mexican restaurant, so it worked out that Steph and I both had the hunger for south of the border fare. Garcia’s is a real small place located on Market, just south of 21st St. Luckily they had a nice yellow sign outside to draw your attention to what is mostly a stretch of run down buildings along the east side of the street.

The Yellow Sign Directs You to Tasty Goodness

Inside you will find a small, clean dining area with perhaps 8 tables available. The staff is small, consisting of two waitresses and one cook, but very friendly. Since it was our first time at Garcia’s our server offered several suggestions to us. The menu at Garcia’s is small, so small that it is actually just displayed on the wall. And just in case you are easily confused with Mexican cuisine several cartoonish-like pictures accompany the menu mural. What tasty selections are plastered on the wall you ask? Well, there are tacos of course, tostadas, burritos, enchiladas, tortas, as well as menudo soup. With each menu item you have your choice of several meats including  carne asada, barbacoa, chicken, and pork.

Chips and salsa were quickly placed on our table as we mulled over the menu board. The chips were fresh and warm and both salsas were good. The red salsa was the milder of the two and had a rather unique taste. It was pureed and had a vinegar taste to it. Although different from most salsas, we both liked it. The second salsa had a bit more kick to it and featured tomatillos and cilantro.  Steph decided to go with a basic carne asada taco meal and I went with the torta meal with pork. With only a few other patrons in the restaurant our food came out very quickly. My torta was large with plenty of pork and lettuce inside. Although I would have liked a little cheese on my torta, the abundance of delicious pork made me very happy. Steph’s tacos were of the authentic variety and consisted of flat corn tortillas with carne asada, lettuce, and tomatoes. Notice that they were not smothered in cheese like many places like to do. Both of us enjoyed these simple yet satisfying tacos. Our dishes were also served with ample portions of beans and rice which were good as well.

Tasty Pork Torta

Carne Asada Taco Sans Piles of Cheese

So what could top off this great lunch you ask? How about the fact that it only cost us about $14 and both of us left stuffed. Garcia’s is a friendly place where one can come to enjoy a simple and cheap good eat. Unfortunately Garcia’s has limited hours and is only open till 3 pm daily. But that still gives you plenty of time to drop by for an enjoyable lunch off the beaten path.







Garcia's Tacos on Urbanspoon

Bocconcini (Home of the Pork^2 Dish) CLOSED

7 Jan


2011 has been officially dubbed by many experts of the Wichita dining scene as the year of the Italian restaurant. After years of lacking many solid options for people to get their carb and tomato sauce fix, almost overnight Wichita had just added 4 new Italian places. Bocconcini was one of the first to open, taking over the vacant Sugar Sister’s location at Central and Oliver. They were an instant hit and actually had to close for several days to streamline their operation due to the high demand.

The day we stopped by was no different, as we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table for 5 to open up and unfortunately there are not many large tables. If you have a party over 4 I would highly recommend getting a reservation or you run the risk of getting stuck in the queue for a bit. The dining area is largely unchanged from the Sugar Sister era although a 4 seat bar has been built and it seems more tables have been added to the open dining room, which can create some noise issues if you are there during a busy dinner or lunch crowd.

The menu offers all your favorite Italian dishes from homemade TR(toasted ravioli of course) to chicken alfredo, but also has some more unique dishes including a salmon sandwich and homemade seasonal ravioli. There were many dishes that caught my eye, but one dish in particular took my breath away, the Pork Saltimbocca. There was no way I could pass up a “thin sliced pork tenderloin wrapped with prosciutto”. Mmmmm pork wrapped in more pork. Steph decided to try the seasonal ravioli, which at this time of year happened to be filled with winter squash and served with a light white sauce with zucchini.

The lovely winter squash ravioli with garlic toast.

My dish was a delightful plate of salty goodness. The pork was tender and although a bit overcooked it was wrapped in prosciutto so I wasn’t complaining. Served with polenta and a marsala sauce it was good stuff. Steph really enjoyed her ravioli dish, so much so that I barely got a sample. You could certainly tell that the ravioli was homemade. I was also able to sample some of the home fries that my sister had ordered. Booconcini’s fries consist of  large chunks of roasted potato that are drizzled with a garlicky olive oil. The are certainly worth a try.

Sweet delicious Pork^2 dish

Overall we enjoyed our visit to Bocconcini, although I would have liked a side salad or perhaps some garlic toast to come with my pork dish to add a bit more food for the price. This is probably not the best place to take a large family,  but is good if you are looking for a nice “upscalish” option for lunch or dinner. The menu is top notch and offers alternate options to the old tired Italian dishes.

Note: Unlike some Italian places there is no never ending bread basket at Bocconcini, so if you are expecting that keep going go to Olive Garden.

Just in case you were struggling with Bocconcini’s name here is the pronunciation and translation: boh-kohn-CHEE-nee, which means small bites. Bocconcini are also small nuggets of fresh mozzarella cheese. Mmmm nuggets of cheese.

Bocconcini on Urbanspoon


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