Ciao Somerville Brings Outstanding Pizza to the New Green Line

The second location of the Chelsea gem will open in February with an expanded menu and more seating.

A quartet of leopard-spotted pizzas with various toppings sits on a table.

A selection of Ciao Somerville pizzas. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

On a freezing night last winter, Marvin Posada was up late cleaning out the Somerville storefront he’d recently leased to become the second location of his pizza restaurant, Ciao. It was 10 p.m. and the chef was outside dumping debris when he remembers noticing a crowd on the Ball Square sidewalk of about 60 young people, waiting to get into the Pub, the at-capacity bar next door. At that moment, Posada knew Ciao Somerville had to be open until 11 p.m. on weekends, an hour later than the Chelsea original. The demand was there.

Interior of a small restaurant features 10 stools at a communal wooden high-top table, a few crushed velvet chairs at a counter with a view into an open kitchen with a pizza oven, and some standard-height tables and chairs.

Ciao Somerville. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

More than 13 months later, the new restaurant is set to debut this month in the former Eat at Jumbo’s (and later Sassafras) space. Along with a few more hours each week, Ciao Somerville expands on the original’s highly acclaimed menu of Neapolitan-style pizza, house-made pastas, and desserts—and quadruples the amount of space.

A margherita pizza with a leopard-spotted crust sits on a rustic dark wood countertop in front of a white brick wall.

Ciao Somerville’s margherita pizza (San Marzano tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil, Parmigiano Reggiano). / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Growing the Ciao brand has been a long-term goal for Posada, who is a co-owner at Chelsea’s Ciao! Pizza & Pasta, which opened in 2015. (Ciao Somerville is a solo venture for the chef-owner.) The Ball Square location—with high ceilings, more than 1,000 square feet of kitchen and storage space, and across-the-street proximity to a new stop on the Green Line—is ideal. Posada lived in the area in the early 2000s and is excited about the neighborhood growth he’s seen. “To get here is so easy, and I see a lot more people, especially on the weekends, on foot.”

A thick, round piece of pizza dough is topped with prosciutto slices and basil and sits on a blue plate on a crushed velvet surface.

Ciao Somerville’s prosciutto di Parma bruschetta with pear butter. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

The Somerville spot comprises 2,000 square feet total, compared with Chelsea’s 500, and nearly doubles the capacity. The new restaurant boasts 34 seats inside, including a standing table in a window facing Broadway, and a granite-topped bar with four sage green, crushed-velvet tall chairs. Ciao Somerville will offer counter-service takeout like the original, but servers will greet dine-in customers. Think fast and casual, but not fast-casual. “The pizza and fresh pasta cooks quickly, but you get the impression that you can spend a little more time here,” Posada says.

Overhead view of a mushroom pizza on a wooden surface.

Ciao Somerville’s funghi pizza (wood-fire roasted mushrooms, truffle cream). / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

The expanded menu enhances that feeling. There will be new appetizers, including more salads and seasonal, wood-fired bruschetta with toppings such as shrimp scampi and heirloom tomato and burrata. Popular desserts from Chelsea—the house-made cannoli and the Nutella pizza—will likely make the new menu, Posada says, while the extra space also allows Ciao Somerville to make its own tiramisu and offer a show-stopping white wine-poached pear with vanilla-ricotta cream and honey. The bar will soon serve wine and beer, as well as a full lineup of espresso drinks.

A pile of long malfadine pasta strands sit atop a pool of brown sauce and thin slices of braised mushrooms.

Ciao Somerville’s mafaldine (wood-fire braised mushrooms, marsala, minced black truffle, herbed butter). / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Some of Ciao’s best-selling pizzas, like the classic margherita, funghi, and salsiccia, are making the move, though the latter will have some tweaks, Posada shares. The house-made fennel sausage will be roasted in the wood-fired oven in Somerville, rather than sauteed, and milder Calabrian chili peppers replace the original’s cherry peppers. “You get a little bit of that smokiness from the oven [and none of] the vinegary taste from the cherry peppers,” he says. “It’s just a great combination.”

Closeup of a pizza with a leopard-spotted crust and a crumbled sausage topping, sitting on a white marble countertop.

Ciao Somerville’s salsiccia pizza (San Marzano tomato, house-made fennel sausage, Calabrian peppers). / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

The wood-fired oven in Somerville is the same style of Italian-made, California-assembled Valoriani that Chelsea has, which cooks pizzas in 90 seconds at 800-plus degrees. It’s visible through a window newly cut to open up the kitchen.

A round, thick piece of pizza dough is topped with pieces of smoked salmon and dollops of cream cheese.

Ciao Somerville’s smoked salmon bruschetta with herbed cream cheese and capers. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

The pasta lineup is still in the works, but Posada is playing with a bigger pasta machine here that accommodates a wider range of shapes. He says to expect new and seasonally driven dishes. “I’m going to be playing a little more with the menu here, for sure.”

A pizza topped with chunks of burrata and roasted tomatoes sits on a wooden table in front of white brick.

Ciao Somerville’s burrata pizza (wood-fire roasted cherry tomatoes, burrata, basil, Parmigiano Reggiano). / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Daniel Landaverde, a 19-year-old high school senior who’s been working at the Chelsea location for nearly three years, is anchoring the team of hopefully 20 additional employees. (Hiring is ongoing.) Landaverde’s aptitude is among the reasons Posada wanted to open a second restaurant. “He is extremely mature and hard-working,” says Posada, whose own career blossomed over more than a decade with Columbus Hospitality Group, a Boston fine-dining mainstay. Posada was 20 years old and a recent emigrant from El Salvador when he began as a dishwasher at Mistral. More than 16 years later, he left the company as executive chef of L’Andana to open his own restaurant.

Rigatoni in a Bolognese-style meat sauce sits in a white bowl on a marble countertop.

Ciao Somerville’s rigatoni (classic meat ragù, Parmigiano Reggiano). / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

“When I see people like [Daniel], it reminds me of the days when I started,” Posada says. “I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with great chefs and mentors. Now, I also do my best to not only train people on the job, but to mentor and to teach them” about ingredients, quality, and passion, he says.

A poached pear, garnished with a mint leaf, sits on a dark plate on a green crushed velvet chair.

Ciao Somerville’s white wine-poached pear with ricotta and honey. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Reactions to his tiny pizza restaurant, which include No. 2 placement on the most recent list of Top Pizza in the U.S. from the crowdsourced review site Yelp, have been “humbling,” the chef says. “I obviously believe in what we do,” but he knows how far from a sure bet any restaurant venture is. The partners at Ciao have opened and closed several other businesses, including a Chelsea café and market.

Two small cannoli sit on a blue plate, garnished with a light sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Ciao Somerville’s house-made cannoli. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

When he teased Ciao Somerville on his Instagram story last month, “a lot of people started to message me, and I could see right away that people are excited,” Posada says. “I just can’t wait to open.”

A dessert pizza with leopard-spotted crust is dotted with dollops of cream, fresh berries, mint leaves, and powdered sugar.

A dessert pizza at Ciao Somerville (mascarpone and ricotta cream, fresh berries, honey). / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Opening imminently; watch social media for updates. 688 Broadway, Ball Square, Somerville.

Interior of a small restaurant features four crushed velvet high chairs at a counter looking into a kitchen with a large pizza oven.

Ciao Somerville. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal