I’m a huge fan of Groupon and Living Social deals. It’s pretty much the main factor in deciding where I want to go out for dinner. So last week, when I saw a deal for Ciao Bella in Little Italy, my boyfriend and I decided to give it a shot.
The Groupon offered $40 worth of food for $20. It seemed like a great deal, so without doing much research we headed down to Little Italy.
As we were walking up to the restaurant we both realized that we were wearing jeans, luckily a friendly sign on the door let us know that "casual attire is welcome." The restaurant was small--just two dining rooms and a bar--and very empty--we were just one of three tables on a Thursday night at 8 p.m. We were seated right away and within minutes we had drinks and warm bread on the table.
The menu was classic Italian. All of the traditional favorites: lasagna, ravioli, shrimp scampi, chicken marsala, gnocchi, etc. I opted for the Eggplant Parmesan ($14) and my boyfriend, David, ordered the Tortellini Alla Romano ($14).
Our meals were cooked and delivered rather quickly, probably in just about ten minutes, but that was okay because we were both starving.
The eggplant parmesan was battered and topped with a marinara sauce, and served with a side of fettuccine dressed in the same sauce. The marinara was flavorful and thick with chunks of roasted tomato...just the way I like it. I realize that eggplant is not the most flavorful food to begin with, but it really added nothing to the dish besides texture. It was a good dish, but nothing great. It felt like something I could pretty easily make myself (and I'm not the best chef).
David's dish, the Tortellini Alla Romano, consisted of meat-stuffed shells covered in a creamy, Romano cheese sauce. I only had a few bites, but it was very rich, which is likely why his portion was significantly smaller than mine. The sauce was very similar to an Alfredo sauce, and although the pasta was filled with meat, you didn't get much of a meat flavor. I personally wouldn't have enjoyed eating the entire meal, it was far too rich for my taste, but David enjoyed it.
When the waiter rang up our bill we still had $3 left to spend thanks to the Groupon, so he offered us dessert. Our choices were Tiramisu and a cannoli. We opted for a cannoli ($7) to go. For $7 I was expecting two cannolis or a pretty sizable single cannoli, but what we received was one, very small cannoli. So small, that as I was carrying the to-go bag to the car, I was concerned that they actually forgot to put the cannoli in the carryout box. It was in there, but it was not impressive. It became somewhat of a joke, making sure that we enjoyed every last bit of the $7 cannoli later that night.
Overall, I would say that considering you're getting 50 percent off the meal using the Groupon, Ciao Bella is a pretty good pick. If I had paid full price for the meal, I would not have been as happy.
There's a second restaurant in Little Italy currently featuring a Groupon Deal: La Tavola. I haven't been recently, but went last year with my parents for dinner and it was delicious. My favorite part was that they let you order half-dishes of pastas, so you had the opportunity to try more than one dish on the menu. Part of me wishes that we would have bought the La Tavola Groupon instead... but I'm glad I tried something new.