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Grazie! Ciao Mambo saves the day


The linguini arrabiatta from Ciao Mambo.
The linguini arrabiatta from Ciao Mambo.

Former Spokesman-Review writer Dave Trimmer and his friend, Dan Coyle, a former restaurateur, will share new finds and longtime favorites in this new monthly column, Dining with Dave and Dan.

We’re not angry old men, at least not often.

That wasn’t the case on a Thursday evening this summer when we took our wives downtown for a no-occasion dinner.

When we do that, or even when we just get together for lunch and a beer, we have a few rules:

We expect to be greeted shortly after our arrival; we expect a clean environment; we expect a menu and drinks priced according to where we are dining; and we expect food that meets our expectations for the location, whether it’s Hudson’s or the Davenport.

That didn’t happen when four of us walked into The Vault in downtown Spokane. We weren’t greeted and it took a good five minutes before the bartender, when asked, told us to take any empty table. We can’t comment on the prices, let alone the food, because 15 minutes later we walked out without having spoken to another employee.

Out of sorts on a lovely evening, we found ourselves down the street from a new restaurant, Ciao Mambo, which one of us had visited in Whitefish. As we approached, a smiling server swung the door open – and the night just got better.

Call it intuition, but this server knew exactly what we were looking for: enough attention to know that our business was appreciated, but not smothering. After enjoying the banter, appetizers (bruschetta and calamari fritti) and a bottle of wine, we couldn’t have been in better spirits when the food arrived.

There was a pizza margherita (fresh mozzarella with roasted garlic marinara) for two, plus Penne Isabella (pignoles, fresh basil and spicy Italian sausage tossed with penne pasta and fresh ricotta) and linguini arrabiatta (spicy Italian sausage and fire roasted peppers tossed in a zesty marinara sauce), and, yes, a second bottle of wine from a wine list that made it affordable to do so. As we often do, we shared –and each dish got high marks.

We hung around long after our meal, though we were too full for dessert. Our server made us feel welcome and kept our water glasses full. We discussed the events of the evening, which ultimately led to this column.

What started as a bad evening turned into a great night. The lesson in satisfying customers wasn’t so much the food, although it was good, and a good value, the kind that has you looking forward to a return visit, as much as it was the overall experience.

Service is priceless.

Longtime Spokesman-Review writer Dave Trimmer has retired from his day job, but still has something to say - this time it’s about food. Trimmer and his friend, former restaurateur Dan Coyle, forged a common bond over dinner and drink. They know it takes more than great food to make dining out worth the money. They’ll share recent finds and longtime favorites in this new column, Dining with Dave and Dan, which runs monthly in the Food section. Reach them at daveanddan@


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