As the temperature climbs into three-digit combinations, locals are looking for a little relief from the heat. Chef Jeffrey Owen of Ciao Baci had this in mind when he created the restaurant’s new summer menu, now available.
Owen says summer time inspires him in various ways, especially where food is concerned. “When we do our summer menu, I start to think of cuisine that’s more equatorial, hot-spots around the world like the Caribbean,” he says. “We also play on a lot of themes like family backyard barbecues and Fourth of July inspired food.”
Owen also wants to highlight the state’s produce in his menu: “We’re focusing on a lot of Arkansas products,” he says. Plus, this year he embraced the growing season on a hands-on level by starting a small restaurant garden. The trial-run has proved pretty successful so far, as the bounty has been plentiful, including cucumbers, peppers, basil, sweet potatoes and more.
Like Ciao Baci’s newly minted fresh garden, the summer menu is full of delectable surprises and varied options. If you’re feeling a little overheated, perhaps try the Summers Melon Salad. If it sounds like something you’d find at a family event, you’re only half right, as there’s a twist. Owen says, “It’s got goat cheese, a little bit of pickled rind, and we’ve got fresh mint and chipotle peanuts which gives it a little crunch.” Also, don’t miss the Smoked Egg Salad topped with bacon atop Rye toast. It’s heavenly.
If you’re looking to try an exciting main dish, Owen suggests the Pasta Ellery. Named for his daughter, the squid ink taglioni is done in a carbonara style, exhibiting peas and local shitake mushrooms with a garlic sauce, and it truly packs in the flavor. “We take the egg yolks and instead of adding it into the sauce we cure them … and turn it into almost an egg yolk aioli, which then gets smeared around the edge of the bowl so you can drag your pasta through it.”
If you’re not into pasta, don’t miss the fried chicken option, done up with kimchi slaw, a chili-peanut glaze and hot mustard potato sauce. You’ll want to have a drink on hand to accompany this simmering dish, as Owen says, “Sometimes I like to throw in a little more spicy food.” But he’s prepared to cool you down, as well. Try the Spice Rubbed Pork dish that is the perfect combination of seasonings amidst cooling cucumber cream to keep you from scorching.
If these descriptions don’t make you hungry, I don’t know what will. Get out to Ciao Baci to give the new items a try for yourself. Check out the menu in full, below.