Ciao Ciao is a new Italian-American bar-restaurant on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo that marks a new era for co-owners Maurizio Conti, Vito Semeraro and Paolo Tagliaferri.
The three men have been co-owners of Romeo & Juliet’s Café since that business opened its doors just down the street in the late 90s. Although the men have helped open other locations of their successful café, Ciao Ciao is a major departure from the proven formula.
According to general manager Tommy Sheedy, the success of Romeo & Juliet’s gave the co-owners the freedom to pursue something they’ve always wanted.
“Romeo & Juliet’s are amazing Italian bakeries and restaurants, but the owners always wanted their own bar,” he says.
The new Ciao Ciao isn’t a standard bar-restaurant. Instead, the decision was made to go for a lounge format. The decor is clean and the layout is simple. At the far end of the restaurant, curved banquette seating and mid-century modern couches are there for vibing. It’s perfect for group seating, or for casual encounters with other customers. The back room is a bit more classic Buffalo, with some dart boards and classic arcade video games.
“The lounge concept only exists in a few places in Buffalo,” Tommy says. We want people to feel comfortable enough to hang out for a couple of hours and have a couple of cocktails.”
Those cocktails are mostly of the classic variety, including an Aperol spritz, daquiri, Old-Fashioned and Negroni. There are also a few signature drinks. The Saranac was one recent drink on the menu that featured bourbon, lime, raspberries and sugar. Another drink called A couple, Two Three featured rye, green tea, vanilla, lemon and apple cider. Non-cocktail bar drinks included a short wine list and four kinds of draft beers on tap.
“Approachability is what we’re trying to accomplish more than anything else,” Tommy says. “People can read the cocktail menu and all the ingredients are spelled out. And then we make the drinks exactly as they’re supposed to be made, so they taste exactly the way people expect.”
“The staple of a good cocktail bar is consistency,” he adds. “Every drink should be the same, no matter who made it. The first time you have a cocktail at the bar should taste exactly the same as the last time you had it.”
The early food menu was partly based on what worked over at Romeo & Juliet’s. For example, you can’t go wrong with a crowd-pleaser like lobster ravioli with vodka blush sauce ($17). However, recent specials have showcased a more modern approach, including a chicken Cordon Bleu panini and a puff pastry strawberry shortcake with house-made whiskey caramel.
Tommy says he expects the evolution of the food menu to continue as the lounge forges its own distinct identity.
“We want the lounge to stand on its own and we want the chance to be creative” he explains.
Hours at time of publishing (Subject to change): Wednesday and Thursday 5 p.m. – 12 a.m., Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. – 2 a.m., Sunday 12 p.m. – 8 p.m., Monday and Tuesday CLOSED
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