How much you like Ciao Vito depends on how challenging you want your meal to be. If the answer is "I really have enough to deal with without enduring the chef's mission statement," then this comfortable and polished Italian gem is for you. The tall, tufted banquettes are easy on the arse; the servers are gracious, friendly and conversant on the nicely priced wines from Italy and the Northwest; and, through some magic of acoustics yet unknown to other restaurateurs, vintage jazz and conversation float as lightly through the room as feathers. There's an easy intimacy that appeals to retirees driving in from the Pearl, parents with well-behaved children in tow, and young couples playing footsie at the open kitchen's bar, flirting over a Giro d'Italia (gin, Campari, muddled lime and a splash of soda) and a generous plate of fresh-fried calamari. Sound unreal? In truth, the calamari needs salt, and the accompanying lemon aioli tastes like little more than jarred mayo. Sugo of pork with crispy polenta and Parmigiano-Reggiano is a gorgeous dish, until you bite into it and wonder, "Where's the salty smack of cheese, the tang of tomato?" Pan-fried razor clams are equally muted. And that's when you realize that the flip side of not being challenged is that there are few epiphanies—the exception being Vito Dillulo's tiramisu, a cup of creamy wonderfulness with a big hit of Marsala. (NR)
Signature Dish: Ciao Vito is known for crispy and flavorful polenta, which unfortunately sometimes arrives puffy and bland.
Standouts: Hello, tiramisu!
Regrets: Please, pass the salt.