At Cibo, clockwise from bottom: grilled lamb chops, penne with sausage and winter greens and the roasted beet salad with arugula. Photo by Michael A. Foley/Rycus Assoc.
By my reckoning, there are five great cuisines. They are, in no particular order, French, Moroccan, Thai, Chinese and Italian. (Let the debates begin!) I’d describe each, respectively, as glorious, beautiful, intense, interesting and satisfying.
Speaking of the latter, great Italian food can nourish the body and the spirit. The folks behind Cibo are working hard to capture that essence. It’s a joint effort between two Italian families, one that used to run DaVinci (gone and still lamented, at least by its regulars). While their aim is high, they fall a bit short. Don’t get me wrong, though. This is a good restaurant and I commend them for trying.
I also commend Cibo, which means “food” in Italian, for its housemade gnocchi. The little pillows of flour and potato are just right. And the sauce choices are a hearty venison ragu and an even heartier beef braciole-tomato.
Cibo plans to change the menu seasonally, along with daily specials. One item I hope stays for a while is the penne with sausage and winter greens. The garlic- and fennel-laced Italian sausage and the slightly bitter greens were a lovely match. Spaghetti carbonara was appropriately rich and given some zing with plenty of fresh cracked black pepper; it was good, but I have to report the pasta was a step or two past al dente.
Other main dishes of note included a big veal chop, New York strip and a simple grilled fish (salmon or trout; the salmon was perfectly fresh) with a touch of lemon and olive oil. Maybe the best of the lot were the tasty marinated grilled lamb chops, which came with a lovely dried fruit mustard compote to cut the richness of the meat.
Before the pasta or main dishes, there were several worthy “antipasti”—a decent selection of cured meats and cheeses and a slice of eggplant rolled around bread crumbs, raisins and pine nuts (topped with a tomato sauce). And the freshly sliced beef carpaccio was enhanced by a touch of garlic mayonnaise and shaved Parmesan. The only off note was the fried capers; they were too salty and bitter.
There were salads, too, including the now familiar grilled Caesar (the Italians have been grilling lettuces forever—try it) and a delicious roasted beet version with arugula. Unfortunately, the apple and Gorgonzola salad suffered from too much vinegar in the dressing. I loved the inventive “contorni” (side dishes, so to speak). The selections included creamy roasted garlic spinach and Swiss chard with guanciale (unsmoked bacon usually made with jowl meat; it’s yummy).
Desserts were yummy, too, from an excellent cannoli to a triple chocolate torte that was beyond rich, but who cares? The well-chosen wine list featured several thoughtful selections by the glass.
Service was efficient and certainly pleasant, with the owners prowling about making sure everything was satisfactory. It doesn’t feel like a storefront space, with warm woods, a gas fireplace in the gathering area near the door and a partially open kitchen at the back. It’s a lovely modern décor and a little bit romantic, despite the flat screen TVs in the bar area.
4740 Reed Rd.
Atmosphere: Modern and somewhat romantic.
Recommended dishes: Gnocchi, penne with sausage and winter greens, grilled fish, lamb chops, Eggplant Involti, roasted beet salad, grilled Caesar salad, side dishes, cannoli.
Price range: Salads and antipasti $7-$14; pastas $16-$18; meats/grilled fish $16-$29; desserts $3-$6.
Hours: Monday through Thursday 5 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday till 11 pm; closed Sunday.
Service: Pleasant and efficient.
Rating: *** 1/2