Revisit: Ciao by Villaggio

Its sale allowed for a much-needed overhaul, but Emilio Cento stayed on as chef of his streetside trattoria.

Maintaining a restaurant, especially one housed in a historic storefront dating to the 1880s, is often a labor of love. No one knows this better than Emilio Cento, who, after satisfying Zionsville’s Italian food–lovers for nearly a decade at Il Villaggio, sold the building this spring to local investors Eric Bretzman and Shelley Steiner. But Cento stayed on as chef of his streetside trattoria, and the sale allowed for a much-needed overhaul, including leveling the well-worn floor and restoring the roof, which features a terrace overlooking the town’s Lincoln Park.

Renamed Ciao by Villaggio, the refreshed eatery retains Cento’s subtle twists on Italian standards such as manicotti, lasagna, and chicken cacciatore. And while he may use a heavy hand in stuffing pastas or crusting cutlets with a quartet of rich cheeses, diners will note the sherry that lends an earthy, sweet undertone to the Pollo Villaggio dressed up with prosciutto and provolone, or the bracing balsamic vinaigrette on the Spiratosa salad. Among starters, the Arancini—pan-seared, Parmesan-crusted domes of risotto with a zesty filling of sausage, peas, and Gorgonzola—are surprisingly airy. Pasta carbonara comes with a lighter egg-and-cream sauce than some versions. And the tiramisu (pictured) makes for a dense, creamy finale at a time-tested address spruced up for many meals to come.

40 S. Main St., Zionsville, 317-733-3600, ­

Photo by Tony Valainis

This article appeared in the November 2013 issue.