With a scattering of lively paintings throughout the restaurant accompanied by a mix of funky but unobtrusive tunes, Ciudadano's vibrant local art sets the tone for an evening of delicious, classic Italian fare.
Photo by Beth Costigan
Stumbling across the restaurant on a street dominated by old apartment blocks and car dealerships is a pleasant surprise. In the afternoon the restaurant is more of a laid back café, but when night falls, crowds are drawn into Ciudadano’s gorgeous wood and brick interior, featuring bold, colorful paintings from local veteran artist Jose Santos Guerra.
At odds with the warmth of the setup, the service is slow and not particularly friendly – but ask your waiter about the artwork and you might get an impassioned explanation of the Pintura Primitiva style on display. The back room is adorned with more interesting artwork and lounge seating in an upstairs enclave.
Owner Jose Luis Merino, 31, trained as a chef and devised his menu after traveling in Italy. The ravioli de cangrejo (crab ravioli, CP$5,300 or US$9.05) is the pride of Merino’s kitchen, with stuffed squid ink pasta in a rich, creamy sauce made with shrimp flambéed in cognac.
But what really stands out here is the authentic Italian-style pizzas on thin crusts, made with quality ingredients used in moderation. While they are pricey (around CP$3,000 each), it would be worth sharing a pizza and a couple of piscos with friends if you’re on a budget.
The Ciudadano house pizza (CP$2,700) is the perfect example of a simple yet satisfying combination of flavors, with bubbling hot mozzarella and basil pesto on a still slightly soft base.For something a tad more elaborate, Siciliana pizza (CP$3,100)
combines choritos (sausages), tomato and pimientos (peppers) to form a spicy and salty flavor.
The bar, nestled in the back of the restaurant, concocts a tasty selection of cocktails including fresh pisco sours and ginger martinis with a bite. Though a fair selection of local and imported beers is offered as well, the drink menu's major drawback is that wine is sold only by the bottle.
A trip to Ciudadano probably won’t make for an inexpensive night out and you should expect a bit of a wait, but Merino has succeeded in creating a warm, chatty atmosphere to splash out and indulge in crisp cocktails and a generous Italian meal.
Seminario 400 (at Santa Victoria)
Phone: 248 9548
Metro: Santa Isabel