Restaurant Reviews

Ciao, baby

One of my dining companions called Ciao Marco Italian "fast supper," a word play on fast food. Which is odd, because though the service is pleasant here, it isn't necessarily fast. And though the prices are reasonable, it isn't necessarily a value. In reality, Marco is "easy supper" -- easy on the kitchen, not necessarily on the diner. There's very little in this crisply comfortable space that strikes a robust chord.

Walls are spiced up with glass bricks, splashes of bright red paint, and contemporary paintings. But the food is, well...maybe fast supper is a good description. Artichoke Italiano ($4.95) is little more than a brood of canned artichoke hearts dusted with breadcrumbs and drowned in butter and garlic, though the latter is barely perceptible. Mozzarella and tomato salad ($5.95) seems even more dashed together. Tomato slices blanketed with slices of mozzarella are capped with little guacamole-like swirls of green goop that's allegedly pesto, but tastes more like peanut butter.

Gnocchi ($8.95) comes bathed in a terrific marinara -- rich and vibrant (there's a choice of marinara or Alfredo sauce). But the gnocchi is gummy, stiff, and hard.

Perhaps the most perplexing composition was the chicken veggie sauté ($7.25), which, despite an application of pesto, came across like steamed cardboard or warm wet carpet. There was no discernible flavor, just limp textures: dry chicken, overcooked pasta, lumbering pesto, and tired scraps of broccoli, peppers, and squash.

Veal piccata ($11.95) came across the same way, though maybe with a more approachable cut of cardboard. Laid over a tangle of adequately prepared angel hair pasta and pocked with large capers and mushrooms, the dish offered little that was engaging. Lemon was barely perceptible. The veal was dry and chewy with an off taste, like it had worn out its welcome in the freezer.

Elevating things a bit was the manicotti ($6.75), two pasta sheets rolled over a cheese core. The pasta was firm and tender, the cheese creamy, and one roll was smothered in a smooth Alfredo, while the other was doused in a fairly good marinara.

Cardiac pizza by the big slice ($4.75) was deliciously crude and vulgar. A moist, crisp crust is jammed with hamburger, sausage, Canadian bacon, smoked bacon, and pepperoni.

Desserts, key lime cheese cake and Amaretto cheese cake ($3.75), were fairly good, so you should eat this first, life being unpredictable and all.

Marco was opened by Marc Serrao, the brains behind Vitto in Oak Cliff, which once had an extension on Oak Lawn. This one doesn't have Vitto's verve, but maybe with some time, Marco's fast supper will get a little racy.