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  The first floor of Ciao Bella Restaurant in HCMC

It was a Monday evening but the weekend atmosphere lingered. We decided to have a light dinner at Ciao Bella on Dong Du Street.

Ho Chi Minh City's newest Italian restaurant was quite full. We entered and saw the relaxed ambience, bringing the phrase la dolce vita to mind.

The two-storied place has photos of some famous Hollywood actresses on the wall. The lighting is warm and there are candles on each table.

"Very Italian style," my Italian friend said.

"The tables are small, so friends and couples can feel even closer to each other."

To our surprise, there were two glasses of champagne with pink rose petals on the table, waiting for us.

As we sat down, a waiter came and offered us bread, different sauces made from beans, herbs, and nuts mixed with vinegar and fried garlic.

We ordered a forest pizza (VND180,000).

"We have to be very careful or else we might eat too much bread," my friend said when she saw the waiter bring a refill.

Then came the pizza. It was large and tempting with forest mushrooms, leeks, fonduta, and truffle oil. The waiter added more parmesan cheese to it.

The thin crust pizza had a unique combination of toppings, and was one of the best I have ever had. However, being a cheese person, I wished there had been a bit more fonduta on it.

The starters list has an interesting selection: there is crostini (liver mousse mixed with wild mushrooms and melted fontina VND155,000); fritto misto (crispy squid and zucchini with rosemary, garlic and lemon VND170,000); asparagi (warm asparagus with poached egg and parmesan (VND135,000); crespelle (crispy pancakes filled with leek and mushroom; and lamb ragu topped with pecorino fonduta and fettunta VND150,000/160,000).

The salad corner offers an option of five dishes ciao bella (gorgonzola, fresh mushroom, bacon, walnuts, spinach, chopped egg, balsamic vinaigrette VND155,000); insalata de barbatiole (beetroot, goat cheese, mixed leaves, walnuts- VND155,000); fagioli e tonno (white bean, red onion and tuna salad VND135,000), Caesar (romaine, garlic and anchovy dressing, croutons, bacon and parmesan VND140,000); insalata di pomodoro (romaine, tomato, red onion, balsamic vinaigrette VND120,000).

CIAO BELLA

11 Dong Du Street, District 1, HCMC

Unlike other Italian restaurants, Ciao Bella offers a pasta menu with smaller, half-sized portions. There is spaghetti pomodoro (spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce VND85,000/160,000); tagliatelle al ragu (handmade pasta with beef and pork ragu and mascarpone (VND90,000/165,000); fettuccine salmone (smoked salmon and leek with garlic cream sauce-VND110,000/190,000); and tortelloni alla nonna (pasta filled with beef cheek and topped with prosciutto, peas, cream, and pecorinol VND120,000/235,000).

There also offer salami and cheese; piatti; and expansive pizza menus.

The drink menu has cocktails, prosecco of the day, juices, smoothies, coffee and tea, and Italian wines.

Before we left the waiter gave each of us a bracelet of fresh jasmine flowers.

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