By Heather Gausline Tate | Photography courtesy of Mike Carroll
Combining the flavors of Sicily and the American South is a flavorful journey for Ciao Chow patrons in New Albany.
Located in historic downtown New Albany right beside the 45-mile Tanglefoot Trail, a previous railroad bed turned into a paved cycling and pedestrian trail, is an authentic Italian restaurant, boasting Southern hospitality at its finest. Everything from the delectable food to the name of the restaurant to the dynamic partners who own Ciao Chow’s is a blend of the Italian and Southern influences acquired by Mike Carroll and Tim Satterfield.
Carroll explains that patrons take “a trip to another world once you walk through the door.” Italian frescos grace one side of the cozy restaurant while a glass case of pearl jewelry balances the opposite side. Charming vintage accents like historic ceiling fans originally from a Las Vegas casino add to the charm as aromas from the open kitchen drift throughout the restaurant.
The maître d’ Carroll is the friendly face of the front of the house, while Satterfield is the genius in the kitchen. Some of the signature dishes include Tim’s homemade lasagna, chicken parmesan, and crab ravioli along with a tantalizing array of other Italian/Sicilian dishes. For those craving something other than pasta, Southern classics like barbecued pork chops and a 14-16 oz. rib eye also share the menu with the Italian-inspired courses.
Tim receives all the credit for Ciao Chow’s name. He wanted something unforgettable that also represented their Italian and Southern fusion cuisine. Ciao means both “hello and goodbye” in Italian, and its homophone “chow,” references casual American meals.
Since the proprietors have Italian and Southern connections, they did not want to exclude either. In fact, one of their main goals of their business, besides providing fresh and inspired dishes is to be inclusive of everyone. Carroll passionately states, “In an Italian restaurant everyone is welcomed.”
The food at Ciao Chow is consistently high quality, but the atmosphere is cozy and family-oriented rather than fine dining. Multiple generations are seen sharing a meal together just like they would be in Italy. Satterfield echoes his partner: “We pride ourselves on everyone feeling welcomed.”
Ciao Chow originally opened in 2012 on Valentine’s Day in Ashland, Mississippi. After closing its doors in June 2016, it relocated to New Albany in September of that same year and just celebrated six years of being in business. Carroll explains the move to New Albany, saying, “The town has always drawn me like a magnet.”
Both Carroll and Satterfield have strong family backgrounds in the service industry, specifically restaurants, but how did a Delta flight attendant and a first-generation Sicilian chef from Detroit find their way to northeast Mississippi?
Carroll is originally from Ashland, and he grew up helping his parents with their two family-run restaurants before branching out into his own career path, which led him to become a flight attendant in 1986. While working in Detroit, Satterfield’s and Carroll’s paths crossed, and they eventually moved back to Carroll’s hometown.
Family is important and many of the dishes reflect their families’ heritages. Carroll’s 90-year-old mother, Betty Ruth Carroll, still comes each week to her son’s restaurant to make all the desserts, including her signature hot fudge cake that she started making in 1959 in her own Ashland restaurant.
Satterfield has been a big city cook and chef throughout numerous restaurants in New Jersey and Detroit, but he said cooking in a small Southern town is not different because people like food wherever they live. He is inspired by both of his parents’ native cuisines. Satterfield’s father, born and raised in Sicily, moved to Detroit where he eventually had 14 bakeries throughout the area. His mother, however, is from Kentucky, and one of the dishes he remembers fondly from his childhood is her bean dip. Because he “wanted to give each guest something to start off their meal,” he tweaked his mother’s dip – made with celery, red onions, tomatoes, beans, made-in-house vinaigrette, and a special ingredient – to give patrons something enjoyable while anticipating their next course.
Carroll and Satterfield still visit Italy often, and Satterfield’s weekly specials are often inspired from dishes from their visits, such as a flaky poached salmon pasta tossed with fettucine alfredo.
As chef and partner, Satterfield explains, “Everything on the menu is what I like.” He did admit that one of his favorite dishes was his Pasta Puttanesca, a zesty vegetarian dish with Kalamata olives and capers. Carroll’s favorite dish is the lasagna, and for a bit of a twist, Satterfield will occasionally create it with Italian sausage.
“You know what you like and think you know what other people like,” Satterfield hopes for his menu choices. “The key for Ciao Chow’s is that everything is made in house from sauces and vinaigrettes to Ms. Carroll’s desserts, and everyone is treated like family whether they are weekly patrons or first-time guests.”
Ciao Chow’s is open from 5-9 p.m., Thursday-Saturday. The restaurant can be reserved on other nights for private functions.