One Weekend – Three Meals

This past weekend we decided to eat healthy. Hey, it could happen!

So in order to lead up to the whole good for you thing, we thought we’d try out a hot new pizzeria (Ciao Ciao) that’s getting a lot of buzz.

Located on South Durango (and barely a few months old), this place is proud of its wood-burning pizza:

…unfortunately, you have to eat their better than average pies in a Hard Rock-meets-sports bar-meets-Rat Pack-meets-memorabilia atmosphere that is perfect for those with short attention spans (or dates who don’t want to talk to one another), and obnoxious to the rest of us.

If you don’t mind 23 big screens surrounding you, and sharing your table with pictures of Farrah Fawcett, and a spongy, not-smoky-not-charred-enough-crust, and a Wendy’s salad bar-level-salad, you can have a decent enough pie here….although Settebello has nothing to worry about.

Case in point: at Settebello we never leave any crust behind — so yeasty and toothsome is it. Here, we polished off the better part of two pies and left 2/3rds of the crusts on the plate. But we liked the (commercial) mozz and brightly-flavored tomato sauce they used, the sliced meatballs were mighty tasty, and the liberal oregano/herb sprinkling is a nice touch.

Back to that house salad: it looked and tasted just like the stuff they serve on airplanes — right down to the under-ripe, hothouse tomatoes (in August!), and the gelato they serve is no great shakes either…..“But it shore duz look purty Ma, with them thar oreos an candy bars all stickin’ up out of it an such….”

We asked and were told the gelato was commercially-made (and it looks and tastes like it) — but the R-J reported that the (too) brightly-colored bins are concocted in-house “….from a third-generation Italian family recipe to which pastry chef Jean Paul adds spun-sugar adornments(!)” (yawn)

BTW: this place advertises itself as a New Haven-type pizzeria in the style of Sally’s, The Spot, Modern Apizza and Pepe’s Pizza Napoletana* in that most famous of cities in The Pizza Belt. It is insofar as they don’t drench their pies with sauce, do the mottled-mozzarella thing, and sprinkle those herbs….but otherwise this place has as much in common with those four iconic pizzerias as a Red Lobster does with a Cape Cod clam shack.

After two pizzas it was on to the Go Raw Cafe (at the point of a gun we might add) to share a kale-wrapped something-or-other with a few ducks….

…and wash it all down with a durian-coconut shake. Tasting as it does of sulfuric-ally-infected, smelly feet, the durian (aka monthong) melon of Southeast Asia is so disgusting to smell (although exquisitely custard-y in texture) that they are banned from most forms of public transportation in that part of the world.

No one need worry that this part of the world will require such a ban — a chocolate malt this ain’t — but tasting one is one of those notches on your belt that any gourmand gunslinger needs to have. And short of buying a whole one (that can run over fifty bucks for a single melon), this shake is where to break your cherry.

We also had a “Mexicali” pizza, and a veggi-cotti that was wrapped in some funky, strange-ass, brown, wet-cardboard substance that was said to be of nutritional value, and that was almost as tasteless as the “living” buckwheat crust under the aforesaid pizza.

Surprisingly though, the toppings/fillings on these fake creations were tasty — utililizing liberal amounts of (fresh/ripe) tomatoes, zucchini, pesto and lots o’ lemon juice to offset the bark-like textures upon which they sat.

Then it was on to MARU:

… for some depressingly ordinary mandu (fried dumplings that tasted no better than store-bought), above-average bi bim bap (according to bi bim bap connoisseur The Food GalĀ®), and some bulgogi that appeared to have been steamed not grilled, and which had neither the caramelization or richness of the same dish at Mother’s (our favorite). (Next time we’ll insist on grilling it ourselves at the table.)

MARU’s ban chan doesn’t hold a candle to Mother’s either, but the space has been stylishly re-cast into an au courant eatery (a far cry from the low-brow Black Angus that once resided here, and a cut or three above the decor you’ll find up and down Spring Mountain Rd.), with an outdoor patio that’s also a winner.

The service, like that at many a Korean joint, is barely smiling and perfunctory…leading us to wonder how come Thai and Vietnamese restaurants always seem so friendly, while Chinese and Korean ones are remarkably less so? Is it a north/south thing? Or just that the southern cousins are pleased as punch to no longer be under the threat of these guys? Or this guy?

Our meal (for two) at Ciao Ciao was $50; Go Raw cost $44 pour deux, and MARU was $82 (tips included, with no booze ‘cept for a shot or two of soju in honor of Y.E. Yang’s defeat of Tiger Woods).


4460 South Durango Dr. Ste. #H

Las Vegas, NV 89147-8614



2910 Lake East Drive

Las Vegas, NV 89117



2025 Village Center Circle

Las Vegas, NV 89134



* ELV has eaten in all of them, and a Pepe’s pizza box lid has been proudly displayed in his kitchen for over twenty years.

6 thoughts on “One Weekend – Three Meals

  1. I worked in an upscale pizza joint for a while that has a gorgeous display of gelato out front, which they advertise is made in-house. Although it is frozen in-house in a great looking PacoJet ice cream maker, and they add their own flavorings, the base is bought. The dead giveaway is that it doesn’t melt very well due to the stabilizers (which also keep it from getting icy and allow it to look nice in the display case for several days).

  2. My wife and I went to the Go Raw Cafe the first month we moved to Vegas in 2004, figuring that we were in a new place, in the west (as opposed to TX), so we’d try something never tried. I don’t remember the three or four things we ordered, but I do remember the gag reflex from all but one of them. Needless to say, our next stop was somewhere we could have mass quantities of charred animal flesh – and it was gooooood.

  3. Went to CIAO CIAO twice. First time it was ok (didn’t like the 5 cheese pie that much). Second time it was very good (just a traditional margarita with pepperoni). For me, salad is salad …. so whatever floats your boat or finds your lost remote (ie, let the wify eat the thing and give me the pie!)

    I agree that Setebello is better, and so is Grimaldi’s on Eastern, but for a guy who lives in the far west of town, who wants to fight traffic on the 215 and eastern just for a slice all the time?? I like CIAO CIAO’s pizza. I also like sports (a lot), so having a sh*t load of TVs in HD is just up my ally for the NBA season too (GO SUNS!!)

  4. I understand this site is written from a foodies perspective and not that of a dietitian. John isn’t here to count calories and seek out atkins friendly resturants. He is here to tell us what tastes great in town and what doesn’t. I would much rather have a pizza from Setebello or some Ramen from Ichiza- but there is nothing in town that will have you feeling more energized and vibrant post workday lunch than Go Raw Cafe.

    The raw food overload can be a bit much at first, but the more you eat there the more you’ll start enjoying the food. While the 30 minutes spent consuming your food won’t provide the same sensory pleasures of Burger Bar, the following 5 or so hrs will have to buzzing. A fair trade off in my mind.

  5. Go Raw’s pretty sad. It makes me wish Native Foods would open a Vegas location… And better yet, one in Henderson near me! Go Raw’s actually just down Windmill from my house, but after trying it once I’m not that excited about trying it again. Still, I may decide one day to give Go Raw another chance just because I can be kind and forgiving. ;-)

  6. dcdubbs-

    Oh yes, and thanks for your defense of vegan food! One thing I HATE is when critics trash vegetarian/vegan cuisine just for the sake of mocking us herbivores. But as I said above, I do think Mr. ELV does have good reason to object to Go Raw. I can confirm that some of my grub there was tasteless. And since I have experience going to vegan restaurants like Native Foods in Southern California with excellent and VERY tasty offerings, there’s no excuse in my book for stereotypical boring, tasteless vegan food.

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