Ciao Bella, Schererville, IN

My friend Michelle and I got together yesterday for lunch and I suggested a place I have wanted to try out, Ciao Bella Ristorante in Schererville. I recently interviewed owner Joe Scalzo by phone when writing an article for the Northwest Indiana Times on the wine dinners offered there. (You can read that article here.) He's quite the wine expert and takes pride in the extensive award-winning wine list. Everything sounded so good I was anxious to get over there and see the place and try out the cuisine.

The place is adorable with an elegant, yet homey feel. I happened to notice a sign on the door about an express lunch buffet offered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for $9.95. Since it was Wednesday, I figured I'd get the buffet so I could try a few different things. On the buffet that day was salad, Chicken Vesuvio, rosemary potatoes, farfalle with sausage and meatballs and raspberry and blackberry cheesecake for dessert.

I enjoyed the crisp salad with greens, tomatoes, red onion, carrots and olives and a creamy ranch dressing.

Michelle didn't have much of an appetite and she thought she'd be better going with someone she could pack up to take home if she didn't finish it. The panini she got was huge and came with a side salad. Her Panino con Pollo Caprese was fantastic (she is a great person to dine with because she always passes on a bite of her dish!) with chicken, pesto, tomato and fresh mozzarella.

Here's what I had from the buffet. All of it was wonderful. The chicken was tender and flavor-packed and the meatball melted in my mouth.

I finished off lunch with a little cheesecake bite topped with a blackberry. It was a perfect finish to a delicious meal with wonderful company in a lovely atmosphere. I look forward to heading back sometime to enjoy dinner and a glass of wine!