Piccolo Sogno- My New Neighborhood Italian Joint

I’m really glad Piccolo Sogno is in my ‘hood.  And anyone who knows me at all is fully aware of what a complete and shameless snob I am when it comes to Italian food.  I guess that’s what living in Italy for 3 years before running a one’s own Italian restaurant kitchen will do to a person.  So for me to approve means that the place is the real deal.

It was definitely hard for me to choose from the menu of beautiful, seasonal classics (and some equally delicious looking non-classics).  Fresh fava beans with pecorino and arugula, Roman-style braised oxtail, fried squash blossoms and pancetta & local egg pizza are just a few that piqued my interest.  Luckily for me, Piccolo is kind enough to offer half portions of pasta so we were able to order a couple of different ones to taste AND a secondo (the protein course).  I love it when restaurants make it easy to order and taste lots of different things.

Our first choice was a spring tortelloni filled with buffalo milk ricotta and artichokes lightly sauced with fava beans, peas and parsley.  What they didn’t tell me was that the base of the sauce was butter.  I guess I should have assumed so since it’s an extremely rare case that any restaurant’s priority is watching the status of my thighs.  Regardless, the pasta was beautiful and thin and cooked perfectly.  I can’t say that the flavor of the artichokes really came through and I guess it was still a bit early for favas because the ones they used were dried.  The real component that enticed me was the buffalo milk ricotta and, while it was good, I felt that it would have been better appriciated simply smeared on a piece of bread with a sprinkle of sea salt.  Pretty, though, huh?

This is just my half of the half…

Next was another handmade pasta called ‘paglia e fieno’ which translates to ‘straw and hay’ for its yellow and green color.  It was served with veal ragu that was more reminiscent of a true ‘Bolognese’ sauce than a simple ragu.  (I guess I’d better explain:  A ragu is any stewed meat sauce.  It’s made in every region of Italy according to what’s available and usually has a tomato sauce base.  Often the meat is cut in large pieces that break down on their own with low and slow cooking.  A ‘Bolognese’ is the specific style of ragu that originated in Bologna.  It, too, has a tomato base but the meat is always ground.  The biggest difference, though, is the addition of a dairy product during the final stages of cooking, usually milk and/or cream and sometimes butter, too, which this one most definitely had.  This makes for a lighter colored, richer flavored sauce.  So, all ‘Bolognese’ is ragu, but not all ragu is ‘Bolognese.’  Get it?) 

Not too shabby for a half portion.

Lastly we had the Sapore di Mare (the flavors of the sea).  It could have been a slight mistake on my part to order this because I make a similar seafood stew at home and I should have known that I’d like mine better.  I make mine a little soupier than this one and I’m convinced that they unnecessarily added cream.  Plus, I felt that it needed a hit of a fresh herb to add another dimension.  Maybe I’ll make one soon and post it.  It’s one of my favorite fast, low-cal dishes to make.  You’ll see… mine’s better:).

As usual, I already know what I’m going get next time I go.  It’s their amazing antipasto spread.  It reminds me of how they do it in Rome with a huge variety of grilled veggies, cold braised bean and a little salumi and cheese.  That, and I really want to try one of their pizzas.  I know it’s not going to be Spacca pizza but I’d be happy if it was Roman-style, too.  Check out this lovely spread…

Even the coffee was real deal.  Short, deep, rich and sticky with a thick crema.  A perfect finish.

I really liked the ambiance of the place, too.  It’s a pretty, white tablecloth joint that’s elegant but not pretentious.  We sat at one of the little 2 tops in the bar area.  I’d happily sit there again or at any other seat in the resto including the bar.  I hear their patio is the best in the city for outdoor dining during the summer.  I can’t wait to check it out.

The overall service was pretty darn good, too.  I can’t say that our waiter was as knowledgeable as I would have liked him to be but the rest was great.  Smooth, friendly, thorough. 

The short version (out of 10)…
Food:  8.5
Service: 8.5
Ambiance: 9
Overall impression:  8.5
Would I go back?  
Yup.  Can’t wait for patio weather!

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