Friday, November 29, 2013

Piccolo Ristorante in Fort Lauderdale

Have you noticed how much I've been driving up to Fort Lauderdale lately? I love the fact that the gastronomic boom that has been taking over Miami for a while, is migrating north to our neighbors there. There are a bunch of great eateries popping up everywhere in Fort Lauderdale, making the drive completely worthwhile.

Piccolo Ristorante

About a month and a half ago, I heard about a small, charming Italian place opening up in FOLA appropriately called Piccolo Ristorante, which translates to "little restaurant". Located at 2826 East Commercial Blvd., Piccolo restaurant is owned and operated by creative Chef Andres Avayu. Learning about his natural talent of infusing unique and innovative ingredients to his traditional Italian dishes piqued my interest right away. Imagine how bummed I was when my schedule didn't allow me to attend their opening wine and food pairing dinner featuring a selection of their signature dishes. Me, Italian food and good wine? Now that's one hell of a threesome. The good news is, I was able to come out a bit later and check out the place. What I found was a homey, family-owned gem (the chef's wife, Allison, does the bookkeeping and her brother Josiah is the manager); where attention to detail was obvious not only in the decor but in the preparation of the food as well; and where we walked out with definite plans to return.

Loved the colors and charm of the place

Homemade Bread
The menu at Piccolo features a wine pairing suggestion with every dish, which is wonderful because it  takes all the guessing work out. As we looked at the menu, we enjoyed a basket of their homemade bread which is a toe-curling experience all on its own. We finally decided to start out by sampling one of their most popular appetizers, the Crab Cake Tower, consisting of a super lump crab cake sitting on top of avocado relish inside a pool of tomato chive gazpacho. It was unbelievable. I had never seen a crab cake prepared this way and the flavors of the crabmeat and the avocado fused perfectly with the acidity of the gazpacho. There were two wine pairings offered for this dish, a Fino Sherry from Spain and a Riesling. I loved the balance and harmony of the Riesling pairing best. As a second appetizer, we tried the Meatballs. Simple in its preparation, the taste of the homemade tomato marinara was impeccable and added a whole new profile to the tender meatballs. The medley was accentuated by a dollop of basil whipped ricotta on the side. Very nice! The meatballs were paired with a smooth Barbera D'Alba from the Piedmont Region (one of my all-time favorite spots).

Crab Cake Tower

Homemade Potato Gnocchi
Squid Ink Ravioli
For entrees, we chose the Homemade Potato Gnocchi and the Super Lump Crab Crusted Mahi. The potato gnocchi was a bit tough for my taste but I loved the four cheese cream sauce and the addition of poached pears, which played an appetizing sweet and savory number on the palate. That particular evening, one of the chef specials was a whimsical homemade Squid Ink Bolognese Ravioli, prepared in a squid ink dough and tomato dough. It was both appealing to the eye and packed a punch of flavor. My favorite entree of the night was the Crab Cake Crusted Mahi. Crusted in savory lump crabmeat, a fresh mahi filet sat atop a bed of sauteed spinach, drizzled in a mild white wine lemon butter sauce. The fish was tender and flaky and dissolved in an ecstasy of deliciousness with every bite. We found that each entree was paired with exceptional wines that not only brought out the flavor of the dish, but also complemented it.

Super Lumb Crab Crusted Mahi
So far so great and we were excited about dessert. Although quite full from all the food and wine, we just had to share a Chocolate Creme Brulee. I'm happy to report it was just as spectacular as the rest of the meal. The milky goodness of the chocolate blended well with the creamy texture of the creme brulee, bringing together two decadently sinful sensations. It was a memorable finale to our Italian adventure. 

Chocolate Creme Brulee

Although only open for less than two months, I can tell this is going to be a popular neighborhood spot. The service is superb, the place is inviting and the food is outstanding. For more information on Piccolo Ristorante or to make reservations, visit their website at or call them at 954-776-8066.

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  1. The Super Lumb Crab Crusted Mahi and Chocolate Creme Brulee look and sound delicious.

    1. They were spectacular! Their menu actually offers so many good dishes, we had a hard time narrowing it down.