For years a friend of Tony Gambino's greeted him the same way: "Ciao bello," he called when he said hello, and again when he said goodbye.
One day, when Mr. Gambino was looking for a name for his restaurant, he heard his friend say hello in the usual way, but the phrase started to echo in his mind.
"Ciao means hello or goodby and bella means beautiful. But he always used to say bello, which means, I guess, handsome. It's masculine. So I said, you know that's a great name, Ciao Bella, hello beautiful, using the feminine. So we figured, well, it's a good name, so I went with it."
Ciao Bella, which Mr. Gambino owns along with his wife Cheryl, is one of the newest restaurants in Little Italy. Mr. Gambino is not only the owner but also a chef, sharing duties in the kitchen with Dino Jones, who is just out of cooking school. They prepare dishes from both Northern and Southern Italy with Southern Italian dishes that Mr. Gambino learned to cook from his mother, who was born in Palermo.
There is a wood-burning pizza oven in the bar and an assortment of pizzas are on the menu, including New York style and Sicilian style.
The menu also includes hot seafood antipasto, shrimp in wine sauce, tortellini in broth, minestrone, seafood salad, veal parmigiana, veal marsala, stuffed flounder, shrimp marinara, chicken cacciatore, mushrooms sauteed in garlic, Maryland crab cakes, rigatoni al forno, meat or cheese ravioli, lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, cannoli and rum cake. Spaghetti, linguine and shells are available with a choice of five sauces.
There are two dining rooms, one large room and a smaller room that holds the bar, the pizza oven and about five tables. Together they seat about 75 people. There are working fireplaces in both rooms. Cheryl Gambino manages the dining room while her husband is in the kitchen.
Tony Gambino has been in the food business for about 30 years with carryout and pizza shops and a food manufacturing plant, but this is his first sit-down, white-table-cloth restaurant.
Ciao Bella is located at 236 S. High St. in Little Italy. The hours are 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sundays. The kitchen closes half an hour before closing on each day except Fridays and Saturdays, when it closes at midnight. The telephone number is 685-7733.
No Da Ji, the Korean restaurant which was located on Maryland Avenue for many years, has moved to Charles and 25th streets, the former location of Love's Restaurant.
There are now a sushi bar and a new menu of Korean, Japanese and Chinese dishes.
The address is 2501 N. Charles St. The hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week and the telephone number is 235-4846.
This Saturday the 1840 House will present a demonstration called "Possets and Potions," an exploration of 19th century beverages.
Preparing switchels, syllabubs, ginger beer and other popular drinks of 150 years ago was not such a simple matter and often involved cooking over the open hearth.
The program will be led by Sue Latini, the museum's open-hearth cooking expert, and by herbalist Barbara Fabula, who grows over 65 different kinds of herbs at her farm in Freeland.
The demonstrations are being given at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. and are free with admission to the museum.
The 1840 House is located at 800 E. Lombard St., one block north of Little Italy in Museum Row. For more information, call 396-3279.