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Ciro & Sal’s has cozy fireside dining in the off-season

Laurie Higgins for the Cape Cod Times

Ciro & Sal’s is a Provincetown icon of a restaurant. We’ve been a few times in the summer and even celebrated an anniversary there. But we haven’t been back in years and we’ve never visited in the off-season or since the new owners took over.

Theater tickets gave us the perfect opportunity. The show began at 7:30, so we arrived shortly after Ciro & Sal’s opened at 5:30.

We were the first people in the restaurant, so we got a prime table in front of a roaring fire on the street level of the mostly underground main dining room. The atmosphere is divine if you love intimate restaurants. The tables are angled in such a way to give each party a sense of privacy, yet also feeling of connection with other diners.

On the ceiling, yellow light bulbs illuminate baskets, cheese graters and colanders. Straw-covered Chianti bottles hang in groups of three. The floor is stone and tables are dark wood. It is the perfect atmosphere for an Italian meal and service was very friendly.

The food was a little harder to cipher, starting with the bread that came almost immediately after we sat down.

There are three things you expect from a high-end Italian restaurant: great bread, fresh grated parmesan and really good sauces. The bread on the night we visited was stale and not the kind of bread that is good even fresh. The parmesan that arrived in a bowl with the bread was of the sort that comes in a can with a green label that we haven’t bought in years. It put us on alert, but the dishes we tried were very good.

We started our meal with shared appetizers. The Carciofi alla Romanelli ($13) was a flavorful plate of artichoke hearts given a really nice treatment. They were sautéed in garlic and then tossed with pieces of prosciutto and topped Italian-flavored bread crumbs and parmesan cheese and broiled. It was delicious.

The house salad ($5) was less impressive. It consisted of big chunks of iceberg lettuce drizzled with the housemade vinaigrette. The iceberg was extra crisp, and the dressing had a lovely flavor with a punch of oregano. As a big fan of creative salads, it was hard to embrace one that was just iceberg, even though I love a classic wedge salad.

All of the fish dishes on the menu can be prepared with cod, salmon or flounder, which is a nice touch. For my entrée, I ordered the Brodetto di Pesce from the specials page and chose cod. My meal came in two delightfully presented plates. The main dish was a modestly sized piece of cod, topped with chopped and sautéed kale. Three clams rested on the edge of the plate, and a fourth was centered on the side of linguini, which was topped with the same sauce.

The sauce consisted of chunks of canned tomatoes, white wine, and basil. It was a quick sauce, rather than a slow simmered one, which gave the mild fish a nice acidic balance. The sautéed red onions on top indicated a chef who was working to put in the extra touches.

My husband ordered the nightly veal special and got a bargain because Thursday is “Veal Night” at Ciro & Sal’s, with 20 percent off every veal dish. His $30 entrée of veal medallions in a brandy demi-glace only cost $24 as a result.

The three small medallions of veal were very tender and perfectly cooked. The sauce was equally well prepared. His dinner came with a side of the house Burro e Framaggio  pasta. The pasta was linguini tossed with butter, fresh parsley, garlic and parmesan. It was simple and comforting. His vegetable was also nice: sautéed kale, red cabbage and grated carrots.

We splurged on dessert and weren’t sorry, despite the price ($20 for two). Our server steered us towards the housemade desserts. The chocolate mousse was light and not too sweet. It had small bits of chocolate that offered extra chocolate flavor and a nice texture contrast to the creamy mousse.

The tiramisu was perfect, with layers of light cake that were evenly saturated with a deliciously dark espresso. The cream filling and topping were equally impressive. We are fussy about coffee and Ciro and Sal’s is excellent. They serve “Wicked Joe” organic and fair trade coffee roasted in Maine. It was a wonderful complement to our dessert.

In the end, we both decided that it was good Italian food, but overpriced. For the same price or less, we’ve had better Italian meals at several restaurants on Cape Cod that offer more creative choices like housemade pasta and homemade bread. That’s not to say we won’t go back. The atmosphere is lovely and we enjoyed thoroughly our meal.

 If you go: Hours: serving dinner from 5:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Ciro & Sal’s

4 Kiley Court, Provincetown



© 2024 Ciro & Sal's. All Rights Reserved.

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