Upon entering Ciabatta Pizza, we were pleasantly surprised to find warm terra cotta walls with faux brick painting, dark brown wood wainscoting and padded chairs in the bright, clean dining area. The heavy black and grey stone tables were set with two forks and a knife wrapped in a silky linen napkin. A friendly man whom we guessed is the owner greeted us warmly and invited us to choose our table. He quickly brought glasses and opened our bottle of wine. A server brought menus and water in transparent acrylic cups.
Confronted with so many options—pizzas, paninis, pasta entrées, hoagies—we ordered appetizers while we decided on our main dishes. A basket of warm bread with the aroma of pizza arrived, and we enjoyed the lightly seasoned bites of tomato and garlic on fresh Italian bread.
We smelled the mild sauce of the Non Breaded Wings ($4.99 for 6) as the white ceramic dish was placed on the table. Six crispy wings in a sweet, buttery sauce with just a bit of spice were served alongside fresh celery sticks and a ramekin of blue cheese dressing. We used paper napkins from the dispenser on the table to wipe our fingers of any remaining sauce.
The Chicken Quesadilla ($5.99) was not authentic Mexican, but a delicious variation. A thick grilled flour tortilla held sautéed sweet onions, peppers and chicken with just the right amount of melted cheese for us. Two plastic containers of sour cream and possibly cocktail sauce—we assume maybe it was mistaken for the salsa—completed the appetizer. A cup of homemade Pasta Fajuili Soup ($2.99) was served topped with grated Parmesan cheese. The crock held small, white beans and diced vegetables in a mild, basil-flecked tomato sauce. Like all of the items we sampled, the soup was hearty and satisfying without being heavy.
We easily could have shared the large Turkey Panini ($7.99) with a side of non-breaded, unadulterated waffle fries. The freshly made bread was grilled to a crunchy exterior. Thinly sliced turkey, Provolone cheese, tomato, red onion, bacon and Russian dressing combined to give a wonderful salty-sweet blend of flavors. We took half of the panini home for another meal.
A large Ciabatta Special Pizza ($15.99) had a doughy crust topped with homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, onion, sausage, peppers and mushrooms. Although it sounds like an overload of toppings, restraint was used to give a good blend that still let the fennel of the sausage and the pepper of the pepperoni come through. Quality ingredients and care were evident in all of the food served at Ciabatta.
Our friendly server happily packaged our pizza and panini while we watched a few minutes of the Phillies game on a television on the corner of the wall. We left the decidedly upscale local pizza place to the other families who had also discovered Ciabatta.
446 Lancaster Ave., Malvern
Hours: Mon – Thurs, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Fri and Sat, 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Cost: Soups, appetizers, $3 to $8; salads, sandwiches, $5 – 12; entrées, $8 - $16
Credit cards: VISA, Mastercard
Special Features: Vegetarian options, free WiFi, family friendly, breakfast