Run by Chef Diego, an expatriate from Pescara, Ciao is a low-key Italian trattoria erected in true Southeast-Asian street style (note the tarpaulin roof). Plastic chairs and a dirt floor add to the restaurant’s rustic charm, and the tumbledown look of the stall makes Diego’s food seem all the more impressive.
Paper-thin pizzas (fired off in a tiny wood oven), tagliatelle (made from scratch using a WWI-era pasta machine) and gnocchi all come sparingly dressed with fresh, local ingredients. The homemade meatballs are the best I’ve ever tasted, and the two-cheese pasta with Kampot pepper is otherworldly.
Ciao doesn’t have a website, but you can find it on the left-hand side of Street 277, which runs parallel to Old Market Street close to the old bridge. The kitchen is open from 6pm, Monday through Saturday. Diego often runs out of pizza dough or pasta (or both) mid-service, so plan to arrive early. Ciao is both tiny and very popular with expats (especially on Saturdays), so expect to wait a while for your meal.