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Anyone try the new Italian in San Carlos that replaced Ciao Amore? Any thoughts on La Tosca?

  • m

Just noticed it tonight. Is it run by the same people or radically different? (thought they didn't pay taxes or similar)

Also, often see La Tosca, but think it looks too formal for hubby & me. BUT...my mom who is early 80's might enjoy it. Looks like they often have music. Is it too loud? What do you think of their food? Thanks!

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  1. Yes, Ciao Amore was shut down I believe by the IRS. It has been reopened as Guiliana's - Guiliana was a server at Ciao Amore. We had a chance to try it a week or so ago, however our dinner wasn't an ordinary one because the restaurant had been booked for a dinner/seminar by an investment group. One of the main organizers of the seminar was a steady customer of Ciao Amore and he really wanted to give Guiliana a chance to serve a large group of locals.

    The interior of the resto has been spiffed up but is basically the same. It's a pleasant looking space but the accoustics are still not great - it gets extremely noisy as the evening progresses - lots if hard surfaces and nothing to absorb the noise. It appears that they now have a beer and wine license but we were told that you can still do the BYOB thing without corkage (but I'd double check on that...) They also have several sidewalk tables that can be relatively pleasant at this time of year.

    As far as the food went: We were served a very nice plate of fried calamari - nicely fried including tentacles (always a plus as far as we're concerned) with a thin tomato based dipping sauce they we thought wasn't needed; a good squeeze of lemon was better. Then a large platter of grilled veggies, tomato bruschetta, salumi, and fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. Attractive, nicely plated, tasty and fresh.

    Entrees: We were given a choice of gnocchi, pasta pomodoro or grilled salmon. Not bad, not great - but again, they were cooking for a full house and serving all of us pretty much at the same time.

    I'm looking forward to returning to try more of the menu on a "normal" night.

    It's been a couple of years since we've been to La Tosca so I really can't comment.

    1. If Ciao Amore hadn't been closed by the IRS, the food police should have. Anything would be an improvement. I was even half full on Valentine's Day.
      One of those places on Laurel gets consistently good reviews, but I neven can remember which one.
      Divino on Ralston good one at lunch and once at dinner. I will return.

      1. Passed by Guilliana's (x-Caio Amore) while visiting the farmers' market tonight. Asked a couple dining outside how the food was. They replied it was better than before tho the menu is the same except for specials. Re La Tosca, we have always liked it when we have visited occasionally over the years. Mostly better than average food. Pleasant ambience and service.

        1. Giuliana's has everything that was lacking from the original: namely, a woman's touch. The decor no longer reminds one of a cafeteria (now featuring fountains, wood flooring, fresh flowers), the menu is rounded out with more delicate appetizers and salads, the sauces are the owner's family recipes, and service is friendly rather than macho. And yes, it's still a no-corkage BYO place, which was always at the heart of the matter, and one of the main reasons the place was always packed with well-heeled locals seven nights a week. It doesn't have a sign, and I hope it doesn't get one.

          The chef is the same, and most of the hearty, well-prepared food is the same, although more attention is paid to plating, and I think he even wears a cute little chef's hat now. Sadly gone is the pollo al mattone, whose long cooking time tended to irk rookies (hey, it was a half chicken cooked to order, not reheated). Those in the know called to have their mattone fired as soon as they walked in the door, and their companions did not think it rude. Replacing the mattone are regular fish specials, grilled whole and on the bone, which is certainly an acceptable substitute. Some new veal dishes here and there, vastly improved baked pastas...a very satisfying, subtle tweak to an old menu that hundreds of locals relied on and rarely needed to see. The potatoes and risotto remain fantastic.

          I would encourage anyone to visit this local owner-operated place over any of the other corporate "power Italians" in San Carlos. It's convivial, satisfying, very family-friendly but not a wipe-down "family" restaurant, and informal. With no corkage, you can afford to make it your regular. Wish they were open for lunch.

          1. I would love a nice homey neighborhood Italian restaurant in the neighborhood! But do I understand correctly that they have the same chef as before? The menu appears identical. Not a good sign! Please tell me that this really is a different place!

            My wife and I went there once on the suggestion of a non chowhound cousin (lesson learned!). I had fish which the kitchen obviously had trouble releasing from the pan, so they scraped it off and dumped it on a plate...Odd presentation, but the presentation was better than the taste. She had bolognese--bizzarely orange color, oily, insipid, tasted like a can, yuck!

            We agreed that Ciao Amore was the single worst meal we have had PERIOD in the past 15 years--that included airports, snack bars, dining halls, and gas stations.

            1 Reply
            1. re: alfatcat

              All-new sauces, many new menu items (see above), and I've never seen fish beaten up that way there. Worth a second try.

            2. I've eaten at Ciao Amore a dozen times and at the newly named Giuliana's twice. I'm actually heading up there tonight for dinner. It's "more or less" the same food as the previous venture Ciao Amore, although the decor is much improved and I expect additional changes to the menu as time passes by. The BYO is the highlight and essentially why we make the drive up to San Carlos every so often for this italian meal.

              1. Since the market next to Giuliana's closed, newcomers who are surprised at the BYO policy no longer had a wine-buying option...so she had to get a liquor license. It hasn't gone into effect yet, so corkage is still free, but when she does have the license, she apparently legally has to charge a corkage. She's setting it at an extremely nominal $5, she said.

                The food has been classed up a little bit, IMO. We've gone there once or twice a month for the last several years. Since they've reopened, they've already made a few menu changes - including friendlier stuff for kids.

                1. I created a Chowhound account just so I could reply to this thread.

                  My wife and I had been to Ciao Amore a few times and were never really impressed. The incessantly talking owner(?) always seemed to show up right when we were just about to eat, which just annoyed us to no end and really tipped the scales when it came time to decide where to eat.

                  A month or so ago, my boss told me they had changed owners and that we should try them again; we are so happy that we did! We've been back 3 times and it's been great every time. On our first night, they had a prospective new chef making some of his specialties and apparently it worked out well because the when we went back last week, they had the most wonderful specials. The differences between Ciao Amore and Giuliana's are huge....the restaurant went from being the annoying mediocre local italian place to being our favorite neighborhood restaurant. The atmosphere is nice, but not stuffy; the owners and wait-staff are friendly but not perpetually lingering; but best of all, the food is great and the corkage fee is only $5. We will definitely be returning regularly!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: phrajao

                    That's great to hear. They lost their head chef (happily, I hear) about three weeks ago, had an unworkable interim guy for about a week, and now the original chef's sous guy has taken over. Long story short, the food quickly returned to the bold, hearty, home-made fare that Giuliana's fans are familiar with, including her family's sauce recipes. Hopefully the drama is over.