By Ginna Parsons
ASHLAND – Off the beaten path in downtown Ashland in a tiny little building that seats 46 people at most is a diamond in the rough known as Ciao Chow.
Chef Tim Satterfield and his business partner, Barbara Jeffreys, opened the restaurant on Valentine’s Day in 2012.
“Tim loves to cook and he was always entertaining,” said Jeffreys. “Finally, his life partner, Mike, talked him into opening a restaurant. I told him if he ever opened one, I’d help him.”
In coming up with the name, Satterfield knew he wanted to serve Italian food, but he also wanted to pay homage to the good eats of the South.
“I knew I wanted to do Italian but also something else, because people here don’t want to eat Italian every night of the week,” he said. “My father is Italian and my mother’s from Kentucky. So we have the Italian, Ciao, and the Southern, Chow-Chow, and you get Ciao Chow.”
The restaurant currently is open only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m.
“It’s small, but we sure pack them in,” Satterfield said. “In the short periods we’re open, we sometimes do 120 entrees and that’s in four hours. We turn the tables over two or three times every evening.”
Jeffreys said the chef’s Italian background is what keeps the customers coming back week after week.
“We’ve had customers who go to Italy and say this is the most authentic Italian food they’ve ever had,” she said. “And sometimes, they say it’s even better than what they have in Italy.”
Customers pour into Ashland from New Albany, Tupelo, Southaven, Collierville and Senatobia and the Snow Lake community.
“We’ve had good support from Benton County, but also Tippah and Marshall,” Jeffreys said. “The locals have been very supportive. People often tell us, ‘I never thought I’d say, “Hey, let’s go to Ashland to eat.”’”
When asked about the most popular dishes on the menu, Satterfield said simply, “Everything.”
Italian favorites include Fettuccini Alfredo with shrimp, spinach and tomatoes ($12.95); Cheese Ravioli with fresh spinach in a garlic cream sauce ($10.95); Classico Lasagna ($9.95); and Chicken Parmigiana ($8.95).
All Italian entrees are served with a garden salad and a basket of bread.
“We have generous portions,” Jeffreys said. “You won’t go away hungry.”
Some of the Southern specialties include the rib-eye steak ($15.95); the Pan-Fried Tilapia ($9.95); and the Vegetable Plate ($7.50). Sides include creamed potatoes, whipped sweet potatoes, wilted spinach and broccoli cornbread casserole.
In addition to the regular menu, Ciao Chow has specials every day it’s open.
“The crab cakes aren’t on our regular menu, but we usually offer them every Friday and Saturday,” Satterfield said. “People are disappointed when we don’t have them. People say we have better crab cakes than they have in Maryland.”
Satterfield cooks everything in an open kitchen that’s in one corner of the restaurant. He doesn’t have a deep fryer or a grill; everything is made in sauté pans.
“I have people peer over the counter and watch me cook,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me or make me nervous. I’ve gotten used to it.”