Always Play Nice, You Never Know Who’s Coming to Dinner

Updated: Dec 26, 2019

Ciao Italian Bistro and Wine Bar has Good Food, But Very Little Class




During my recent travels, I was in search of some fine dining on my last day in Michigan. I got my fix for the traditional Coney Island (be sure to read about Mega Coney in my next blog) White Castle and Better Made Potato Chips. This time I was on a mission for some authentic Italian cuisine. I found just the place. But, there was more to this venue than satisfying pasta. While the wine bar and bistro held high recommendation, I was extremely sad as the atmosphere was awkward. I also found some of the worst customer services I’ve encountered. Read on, for this exclusive and well-deserved 'roast' of one of Fenton's, most noted establishments.




Remember This Lesson, If You're in the Food Industry

My credibility dates back since the 1980s as a food server, bartender and restaurant manager with a 5-star establishment. Even though I didn't make arrangments ahead of time to review this restaurant, I wasn't given service de' excellence. I'm not sure if they assumed I was there to get a freebie or was some con-artist whackadoo. (By the way, the bartender was given a $20 tip on a $50 tab proving their insecurities wrong) More importantly, let this article be a lesson on what NOT to do with guests, especially restaurant reviewers.




It All Started with 5-Forks and Sparkling Ambiance

I started at a 5-fork rating, hoping to be generous as the décor was absolutely stunning. Beautiful interior designing seems to twinkle with the elegant holiday lights. I asked the bartender who was responsible for the clever ornamentation where she mentions an employee who works at one of the other 3-locations as their interior designer. The subway tile backdrop behind the bar makes an eye-catching statement with a sparkling pomegranate-red backsplash. Blending well with the masonry, was snow-white granite embellished with glitter flakes. The dark atmosphere helped create a contrasting glow making the contemporary white leather square backed chairs "pop." The ambiance was friendly and chic topping it off with the illumination. However, the warm dining room doesn't make up for the cold service.




The Bartender Almost Got Me To Throw in an Extra Fork

I explained to the bartender (kindest of everyone) I had been in town due to my father’s health. At first, she seemed to be caring and kind, giving me immediate attention. I also told her I write restaurant and food reviews as a blogger. She seemed very receptive. However, things got a little weird when she told the co-workers who I was and what I was doing there. Technically I was a patron where I was looking to get away from the stress of my visit.


Here's Where It Went Downhill

On a side note, I normally am comped free meals but this time I wasn’t expecting anything as this was totally off the path of my mission. But, there seemed to be some tension in the air from the staff. Little did they realize, I could hear the cooks who were in ear-shot of the spot where I was sitting. At one point, I took a photo of the rolls and heard the cook sarcastically remarking:

“Oh my God, she’s taking pictures of her food.”

Perhaps he’s never read a restaurant review or a book for that matter? On the contrary, his loud voice carried into the dining room where I found his remarks to be unnecessary and rude.


Message to the chef or cook: Taking pictures plays a major role in just about any food critic, journalist or blogger's work. Duh!


Either way, the employee's disposition was a huge turn-off and the sarcasm was showing his education's best. Instead, I continued working and was hoping no one spat in my food. Sadly, the behavior was causing me to feel uncomfortable and nothing I would expect from such a classy venue. Just as I was thinking, of taking my business elsewhere the food came saving me from dropping a 1-star rating on their Yelp or Facebook page.



A Fork in the Road with Salad Greens, Traverse Gorgonzola!

The bartender served a nice mix of greens which was the main ingredient for the Traverse Gorgonzola Cheese Salad. The dressing was light and didn’t overwhelm the other flavors. The taste, a slightly tart vinaigrette, with an excellent light olive oil. I loved the raisins and pine nuts garnishing with sweetness and crunch.



Mixing the Oil and Cheese

The dinner rolls were delightful, but not enough cheese in the dipping oil. I’d rather the servers don’t blend for the recipient. The parmesan almost seems non-existent and sadly there was no one around for me to ask questions. At this point, I was unsure where the bartender went after dropping the goods. I'm not being oversensitive when expecting to have service and attention, it's part of the territory. Perhaps the next paragraph explains the lack of relevance for excellence?




The Owner Sets the Pace for the Rest

One of the owners did come by to ask if I were okay which seems protocol. However, he abruptly left me hanging while I was trying to ask important questions to cover a story. He seemed completely disinterested in me, rudely walking away to answer the phone, never to return. His exit was less than polite as he didn’t apologize or excuse himself to recover his poise. Between "Mr. Manager" and the cook compelled me to leave a 3-fork rating, I'll admit, I’m being generous here.



A Savory Moment with Stuffed Ravioli and Steak Medallions

Regardless of the way I was being treated, I made the decision to go with a Gorgonzola Stuffed Ravioli topped with Steak Medallions. The pockets of pasta were cooked to a perfect L’dententa, not too hard and not too soft. The meat was a little on the tough side and I needed to add salt and pepper, but other than seasoning everything was presented well and flavored almost to perfection. I finally felt there was a possibility of raising the bar with my rating. But, the food couldn't outweigh the neglectful staff.


Was the Chef Being Shy or A Snob?

Another event that was amusing, was giving my compliments to the chef, for the Ravioli. The bartender offered to get the man responsible for preparing my food, for an interview. Upon her return, she explains he'd left for the evening. Another disappointment. Not sure if he was either shy or the bartender was playing gatekeeper. Either way, I would have enjoyed learning more about the choices in his recipes and give this establishment a better rating. That wasn't going to happen with this horrendous treatment. I feel it's necessary for dishing out low marks so they can improve.




The Wine Receives a Low Rating, And Not From Me!

I was foiled to learn the wine critic's rating on this nice malbec was only 2.5 stars. After my research, I found this red to originate from Mendoza, Argentina.

The Aqua de Piedra Malbec has a firm silky blend, light leg and tons of aroma. While the bouquet was strong, the flavor wasn’t. Quite frankly, it was a semi-dry grape where I couldn’t help but get excited. I'm not sure why the wine snobs rate this with such a low score? I found the rich black fruit to be sweet, without a bite.


Wait, Where Did Everyone Go?

While the restaurant didn’t appear to be overly busy, my bartender seemed to disappear for long periods of time. Service continued to diminish at this point. I felt her inquiries about my satisfaction insincere where she appears to be almost as uncomfortable as I. Nonetheless, I felt a need to sweeten things up by ordering some fresh cannolis.



The Wait For the Cannoli is Worthwhile

I finished the meal with another Michigan stand by which was cannoli and a cup of coffee. The cannoli took almost 10-minutes to bring to the table. Not sure if they ran out? The slow service was frustrating either way.


The Fork in the Road

As much as I’d like to drop 5-forks for this nice little bistro, I’m not excited enough to go past a 3-fork rating. The service should have been better and was the biggest disappointment during my trip. I loved the food, but the atmosphere was so uncomfortable, I couldn’t wait to leave. No customer should ever feel this way.


If you’re in the service industry, bear in mind to always play nice as you never know who’s coming to dinner. There's no excuse for the treatment from the owner and cook. If you're passing through Fenton or live there, eat and dine at your own risk as this bistro offers very little class for such a classy establishment.


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