Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Taste of the New Menu at Ciao Bella

Posted By on Thu, Dec 4, 2014 at 1:38 PM

click to enlarge Ciao Bella's Piccolo Sara ($10) - JOHN KLYCE MINERVINI
  • John Klyce Minervini
  • Ciao Bella's Piccolo Sara ($10)

We’ve been itching to try the new menu at Ciao Bella for a while now. So when The Flyer got a chance to grab lunch with I Love Memphis’s Holly Whitfield, we jumped at it. I mean, come on. Wouldn’t you like to have lunch with this charming person?
click to enlarge I Love Memphis's Holly Whitfield - JOHN KLYCE MINERVINI
  • John Klyce Minervini
  • I Love Memphis's Holly Whitfield

We started with the Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup ($4 cup). And you know what? There’s something special about that soup. Here’s Ciao Bella executive chef Branon Mason:

“I grew up eating soul food,” says Mason, “so I try to incorporate that into some of my recipes.”

In the white bean soup, that meant eschewing vinegar in favor of a top-secret pepper juice. Which pepper juice, precisely? Mason wouldn’t say. But the soup was pretty tasty: warm and full-bodied, with a playful kick from its secret ingredient.

Next it was time for the BLTA&E($9). Piled high with avocado (A) and fried egg (E), this hefty sandwich also features roasted garlic aioli on wheatberry bread. This ain’t your mama’s BLT, and I predict it will be a big hit.
click to enlarge Ciao Bella's BLTA&E Sandwich ($9) - JOHN KLYCE MINERVINI
  • John Klyce Minervini
  • Ciao Bella's BLTA&E Sandwich ($9)

My favorite dish of the day was definitely the Piccolo Sara ($10, pictured at top of page). It’s a simple variation on the classic Italian flavor combination: spinach + cherry tomatoes + parmesan. But at Ciao Bella, they swap out the fresh tomatoes for sun-dried, and ditch the parmesan in favor of goat cheese.

It’s an inspired combination: wonderfully light, with lots of room for the fresh flavors to shine through. Also, as Holly points out in her recent post for I Love Memphis, it's great for carb-loading, whether you happen to be training for this Saturday's St. Jude Marathon—or you're just a person who likes carbs (:

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