Bar Cicchetti in downtown Columbus offers exceptional food and service


G. A. Benton

How is Thanksgiving shaping up?

Our annual Overeating Celebration can be a glorious occasion. Yet the holidays are also notorious for bringing a myriad of logistical challenges, such as daunting kitchen projects and food-related messes, which can lead to or exacerbate family drama.

Well, it’s not too late to cut the bait and let the professionals do it all. Step into an impressive new Italian restaurant opening on Thanksgiving Day and located in a downtown landmark: Bar Cicchetti, operating inside the beautiful and historic Westin Great Southern Columbus hotel. The highly successful restaurant has a top owner – serial restaurateur Fabio Viviani, a celebrity chef and beloved alumnus of “Top Chef”.

Although Bar Cicchetti boasts an old and grand architectural setting, its dining room is a relaxed, modern space that is almost bright like a café, largely outfitted in shades of brown and beige and whose main distinguishing features are the windows offering cinematic views of the cityscape. A smaller, darker attached bar is cozier and quieter; both rooms provided excellent service.

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Traditional cicchetti (chee-KET-ee) – Venetian dialect for cheap tapas-style snacks – aren’t actually featured at Bar Cichetti. In fact, most of the dishes are expensive and rather substantial. How much does it matter, however, when the dishes are generally bold, expertly prepared and delicious?

Bar Cicchetti's lumache neri complements the homemade squid ink pasta with a combination of seafood with heirloom tomatoes, garlic and lobster roe butter.

That includes the $16 cocktails I tried, which are better values ​​than Bar Cicchetti’s $15 glasses of Banfi Chianti Classico and its $9 Italian Peroni beers. The cucumber-flavored Pepino (“pepino” means “cucumber” in Italian) was an appealing, ginger-lime refreshment with a smoky finish thanks to the scotch and mezcal. For something creamier and sweeter — but not sweet — choose the Pistachio Smash, a refined take on a tiki drink with a nutty finish.

Next, dive into one of the best dishes I’ve had recently, Bar Cicchetti’s vibrant grilled octopus ($25). Deftly balancing contrasting elements, it was two tall, super tender and sweet tentacles playing on impossibly crunchy roasted potatoes in an intense chili oil-like sauce energized with vinegar, ‘nduja (spicy sausage) plus sweet and tangy onions. A small celery salad brought a compensating freshness.