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Ciao Bella in Baltimore’s Little Italy closing its doors after 29 years

Ciao Bella in Little Italy, shown here in 2018, announced that the restaurant is permanently closing.
Ciao Bella in Little Italy, shown here in 2018, announced that the restaurant is permanently closing. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

A longtime fixture on Little Italy’s restaurant scene in Baltimore has closed its doors for good.

Ciao Bella, founded in 1991 by the family of Tony Gambino Sr., has served its last Italian meal, Gambino’s daughter, Lisa, announced in a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page Thursday night.

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“It is with great sadness [that I] announce the legacy of the Gambino Family and Ciao Bella Restaurant ... has closed its doors for good,” Lisa Gambino wrote.

The decision comes after several other Baltimore restaurants announced this week that they would be either temporarily closing or limiting services amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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Gambino devoted much of the Ciao Bella announcement to detailing the restaurant’s nearly three-decade history at 236 S. High St. and to thanking its customers and supporters over the decades.

Tony Gambino Sr. founded the establishment, but after his death, his son, Tony Jr., “took the helm and spent 28 years cooking and proudly keeping the legacy alive,” the post said.

After the younger Gambino “grew tired and knew his time had come to sit back and rest,” former Ravens great Ray Lewis and an associate, Deb Poquette, partnered with the Gambinos to back the enterprise beginning last August.

But despite their “hard work and incredible dedication to our family,” the venture — rebranded as Lew Gambino’s — could not survive the public health crisis, Lisa Gambino wrote in the post.

She called it “a great run."

“We have had the pleasure of [having] so many people enter our lives and change them forever,” Gambino wrote.

The closure follows the temporary shutdowns of Looney’s Pub, El Bufalo Tequila Bar and Kitchen, and Cowboy Row, all in Canton.

They were among the establishments to announce this week that they’re closing temporarily for deep cleaning and sanitizing according to CDC guidelines after employees tested positive for the the novel coronavirus.

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