My Surprise Lunch at Ciao Bello

Friday the 13th was probably one of the luckiest days I've had this summer. Although the master barista demonstration I originally came for at Ciao Bello had been delayed a couple of hours, I was surprised by an unforgettable media lunch.

The owner's son, Jeff Vallone, offered to let me sample a few dishes on their menu while I waited for the barista demonstration. How could I turn this down?

He asked me what I wanted to eat, but because I have never been to Ciao Bello before, I told him to surprise me, and surprise me he did.

First, he brought me smaller versions of the grilled shrimp and goat cheese salad, and the corn pansoti.

Two giant herbed grilled shrimp sat delicately atop a bed of mixed greens, chopped tomatoes, slices of red and yellow bell peppers, diced tart apple and dollops of melted goat cheese, all tossed in Italian vinaigrette. Each component was crisp and fresh, and I didn't want it to end. But I had more wonderful treats to try.

Three miniature ravioli with corn, Norcia black truffles and a rich cream sauce encompassed the corn pansoti. The bits of corn sweetened each bite of the fluffy ravioli, while the truffles created a savory taste -- the perfect contrast of flavors.

Next, I tried the duck tortellini. Pillows of tortellini filled with shredded duck and parmesan cheese soaked in a bath of a consommé of brandy and duck broth.

The consommé was rich and smooth, and the hint of brandy elevated the broth to new heights. Each tortellini was delicate enough to break open with the side of my fork.

If all of that wasn't enough, my surprise extravagant lunch ended with a sinfully sweet peach, white chocolate and biscotti parfait -- layers and layers of thick and syrupy peaches with creamy and silky white chocolate topped with crumbled biscotti. Each bite was smooth and delightfully sweet. I recommend digging all the way to the bottom to pull out all the layers of peaches, white chocolate and crumbled biscotti. It's so worth it.

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