Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Winter Italian

Sun 5 Mar 2006

Having heard and read rather mixed reviews about Piccolino we thought it was time to try it out for ourselves – especially as I really felt like Italian. Italian food tends to be very hit and miss – it’s either amazing and innovative (and tasty!) – like the excellent Cambio in Guildford, or it’s ho-hum, hum-drum and overpriced. So while I love eating Italian food I always approach Italian restaurants with a sense of mixed anticipation and trepidation.

Piccolino is (predominantly, it seems) staffed by Italians which is always a good start. The menu is not huge (in theory you should be able to view it through the website but we couldn’t get that to work) but has some innovative dishes as well as the Italian restaurant staples – there should be something to please everyone. We started with the antipasto misto which we shared. It was really delicious and was polished off very quickly. The highlight for me was probably the fennel salami though I also enjoyed the prawn arancini and the stuffed mushroom!

For main course I ordered the risotto with tomato and rosemary, topped with goats’ cheese. I don’t think I’ve had a tomato based risotto before and I really enjoyed this one. It’s also given me a few extra risotto ideas to try out at home! Andy choose a special – a very hot baked gnocchi in Bolognese sauce which was also good (well, he scoffed it as soon as it was cool enough!).

Somehow we had managed to leave enough space for desserts – tiramisu with a glass of moscato for me and the afogato for Andy (with a double espresso – just to make sure he didn’t get any sleep!). I really enjoyed the tiramisu – it was lovely and simple and just relied on the coffee and mascarpone flavours. Andy was a bit disappointed with his afogato – and let’s face it – if you are going to make a dessert consisting of vanilla icecream and a shot of espresso coffee you HAVE to make sure you are using fantastic (and preferably homemade) vanilla icecream … and not having your diners come across little icy lumps … tutututut … on this note Andy reported that Piccolino’s afogato was not a patch on that he enjoyed at Cambio.

The wine list is not outrageously exciting and there’s not a huge choice of wines by the glass. Andy stuck to beer and I had a glass of Richard Hamilton Synergy shiraz before my moscato.

I think I’d put Piccolino down as competent and potentially interesting Italian food – a treat but not really up there however as a super special meal out. I’m planning on taking a guest back on a Saturday night which should be an interesting test of the kitchen.

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