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November 23, 2009 at 1:08 PM

Cicchetti opens on Eastlake, feels like home

Friday night, after a delightful dinner elsewhere, I drove to Eastlake for a drink at Cicchetti — the new bar-centric hangout hidden behind that Italian siren Serafina.

Say “chi-KET-tee.”

Word was out that Cicchetti was quietly open for business with “friends and family” showing up to give the new place a first-look — and the staff the opportunity to make sure their mojo was working before tomorrow night’s grand opening. From the minute I walked in (and ran into my pal Ernie Pino, who was walking out), I couldn’t have felt more at home if I was at home.

View of the back bar from Cicchetti’s downstairs dining room by day (left) .

View of my side yard from my new dining room by day. Separated at birth?

In June, I told you the story behind the coming of Cicchetti, and it was fun to see how fast it came together, despite a slight opening delay.

View of Cicchetti’s entryway from the second-story stairwell in June (left) and again on Friday night. I’m crazy for that chandelier, which would look great in my dining room — and a whole lot better than the forlorn bulb that hangs awaiting just the right fixture.

On Friday, there was plenty of action at the bar. And though Ernie insisted I try the Arrack Cup made with Batavia arrack (not to be confused with arak, the Middle East’s answer to Ouzo), I chose to sip a “Ruby” instead, seeing as I’m a fan of St.-Germain and Campari — each represented in that vodka-based cocktail.

I wasn’t surprised to find a crowd at Cicchetti’s bar, given that the one housed next door at Serafina is usually packed solid.

Same place, different space: Serafina’s bar, July 2008 (left), Cicchetti’s bar, November 2009.

As usual, I had far less interest in the booze bar than the marble-topped bar with a handful of seats that put me in arm’s reach of the kitchen.

Best seat in the house, says me.

There, chef-exec Dylan Giordan and his crew were busy dishing up a brief menu that ranged from small plates to large ones, including these:

Housemade pickles, Sicilian orange and fennel salad, tortilla Espanola

Salt cod fritters with piquillo peppers.

Dylan’s making good use of that Wood Stone oven, shlepped down from Bellingham where the company is headquartered:

But that was then, and this is now:

Dylan, with “Oven Floor” cheese, served with fresh bread.

Chanterelle and Fontina pizza, ready for its close-up Friday night.

Wood oven-roasted “catch of the day”: chermoula-spiced snapper. The eyes may have it, but unfortunately, I didn’t. Next time?

Despite the fact that I was not the least bit hungry, I sat down with Susan for a nosh and a yak session. I’d never had the pleasure of kibbitzing with her before — professional phone calls and mutual friends notwithstanding. But it turns out we’ve got more in common than our taste in dining rooms.

Susan Kaufman, welcoming “friends and family” to Cicchetti.

When I told her I adored her little black dress, she said, “I got it today at this great boutique near the Market, Sandy Lew!” (not to be confused with the not-so-little get-up Sandy Lew hooked me up with to wear on stage for “Food for Thought Live!” at MOHAI.) And speaking of hooks, when we started singing our favorite show tunes — everything from “Where is Love?” to “Try to Remember” — I’m certain the cooks were wishing they could shout, “Get the hook!” or at the very least call Officer Krupke.

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