This handsome new space has made a considerable investment in an imported Italian wood- and gas-fired dome pizza oven, gussied with forno bling and boasting a digital readout of deck and air temperatures. If there had been a Lazy Susan in the Inferno, it would look like this, but instead of crispy little pagans this one turns out salt-baked pompano and bubbling pies. It's a comforting hearth and anchor to a space that has the dark, solid feel of a nightclub in a sexy library.
Unique to Cibo are its cecina, a baked Tuscan flatbread appetizer. Somewhere between a thick, tender pancake and a savory clafouti, chickpea batter is studded with eggplant or meat, and baked until the surface is a golden lunar landscape. Sweet, clove-scented sausage and rich Taleggio keeps the mild bread interesting in one version, while a more traditional one is simply spiced with black pepper. They range from $8-12.
There are just a handful of starters, but they are safe bets done well. The arancini is the size of a baseball, deep-fried to a thick exterior crisp and presented cut in half, so the golden, saffron-scented Arborio rice, salty minced filling, and melted mozzarella present attractively. It's a fair size for $6, and good to share. The salt cod fritters with olive relish and lemon ($7) are also a solid value. Tightly battered and fried crisp, the intact hunks of fish have the look and texture of the British Tourism Board's finest stock photo of fish 'n' chips.
The pizzas ($10-14) are good Neapolitan style, but I wish the sauce were less salty and applied with a lighter hand, because while the thin crust is blistered, scorched, chewy, and nutty, the buttery mozzarella already provides ample moisture without needing help.
Mains are where things go from good to great. If there is one takeaway from this review, it is to get the simple, roasted Basta chicken—a fragrant, juicy, crunchy-skinned and rosemary-salted masterpiece I would follow anywhere. One could quibble with the fact that Cibo finishes their air-dried roast bird in the deep fryer, but I honestly don't see the point of arguing technique when the result is a golden bird whose wing tips and ribs crackle like straw. At only $12 with white beans and sautéed pea shoots, it's also a remarkably affordable piece of perfection.
Cibo is affordable enough to be a weekly mainstay, yet the quality of the food and experience elevates the feeling of visits to special-occasion status. Even at this early stage, it's clearly one of the stand-out openings of the year.- CHRIS ONSTAD