BY SHERI TRUSTY
In April, Ciao Bella Ristorante Italiano celebrated 10 years of bringing unique, world-class Italian food and customer service to Port Clinton. The restaurant’s longevity is greatly due to the talents of Chef Paul Matthews, who trained in Europe and brings his customers an authentic taste of foreign fare.
“I worked for some really great chefs in Ann Arbor, Detroit and Chicago, and I trained in Italy. I partnered with chefs there and shadowed them,” Matthews said. “I trained in Milan, Rome, Venice and Florence.”
When he returned, Matthews brought back the skills to recreate European regional specialties. Thanks to Matthews’ experiences abroad, Ciao Bella customers have enjoyed stuffed Biglietti, “little ticket” pasta; Vitello Tonnato, a poached veal served with a rich lemon-caper tuna sauce; and cold vinegar-marinated monkfish.
“The monkfish is one of my favorite dishes of all time because it’s unexpected and fresh,” Matthews said. “Monkfish will return to the menu this summer. We’ll reveal a major menu change in early May.”
The restaurant, which is located at 3880 E. Harbor Light Landing Dr. in Port Clinton, offers half off the price of bottles of wine every Wednesday, from 4-9 p.m. Ciao Bello’s weekly wine tasting every Friday from 4-6 p.m., is a European culinary custom brought home by Matthews. For $22.99, customers can sample four wines and enjoy the Chef Grazing Table which features small-bite foods like bruschetta, gouda cheese and Matthews’ signature pizza.
“On one of my trips to Italy, I noticed that, for a couple of euros, you could do a wine tasting, and for a couple more euros, you could have a snack,” Matthews said.
Ciao Bella is part of the Northcoast Restaurant Group. Matthews leads the kitchens of all of its restaurants, which includes Nagoya Hibachi Express, The Sushi Room and The Que in Port Clinton; and the Nagoya Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi and Basil Pizza and Wine Bar in Perrysburg. Although Matthews has been integral to Ciao Bella’s 10 years of success, he applauds the staff that surrounds him, including General Manager Allen Smith and Deanna Eddy, who serves as Marketing Director of Northcoast Restaurant Group.
“I think we’ve lasted this long because we want to be here every day. The people we have really care about what we do, and they care about doing a good job,” Matthews said. “Hospitality is in our forefront. It’s not service; it’s hospitality. There’s a big difference.”