gorgonzola also served with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables. Nguyen said he frequents farmers’ markets and local fruit stands for fresh ingredients and avoids corporate food suppliers for his produce. He also seeks local meat and seafood sellers to supply the restaurant. This something extra sets their cuisine apart from other restaurants whose “race to the bottom” on food costs often leaves both flavor and the natural goodness of a meal out of the whole equation. Nguyen’s tale of coming to the U.S. is straight out of the Great American Success Story. At age five in 1984, his family, along with others, fled Viet Nam in his father’s fishing boat facing danger and hardship from pirates, the overcrowded boat and storms. The boat was adrift for a few days and they were finally rescued by the USS Blue Ridge inside
the South China Sea. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today,” Nguyen said. “I’m very grateful.” The family was sponsored and briefly stayed in Oklahoma until moving to Modesto in 1987. To remind himself of his journey, Nguyen keeps photos of the rescue and his family from Viet Nam to keep him “humble” so he won’t forget where he came from. “It’s been a blessing com-
ing from a third world country to America, to the land of opportunity,” Nguyen said. “To have many loyal customers that follow and support me is wonderful.” ■
PHOTOS BY RICHARD PALOMA/ 209 Magazine
“I grew a passion for food and to create those authentic flavors that made people happy,” Nguyen said. Ciao Bella features an assortment of made from scratch Italian pasta dishes and traditional dinners with daily specials that are reasonably priced, ranging from $12 to $21. The stuffed calamari is a customer favorite and according to Nguyen, isn’t made anywhere else in the area. The entrée is served with rolled calamari stuffed with shrimp and crab, garlic, fresh herbs and mozzarella cheese. It is then breaded and baked served with a wine and cream sauce with a vegetable and garlic mashed potatoes. “It’s like a cordon bleu with seafood,” said Nguyen. Another patron chosen dish is the seafood pasta prepared with clams, scallops, mussels, prawns and salmon over linguini with a garlic and white wine sauce. Ciao Bella also offers a tender filet mignon topped with garlic, onions, and mushrooms with a melted
IF YOU GO GETTING THERE: Ciao Bella Ristorante 2401 E. Orangeburg Ave., Suite 320 Modesto, California CONTACT: 209.521.2426 HOURS: Lunch: 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Dinner: 4 p.m. - 10 p.m..