The first time my friend Tania and I visited Piccola Cucina on Prince Street in New York City, our expectations were low. This petite restaurant could be dubbed a hole in the wall with a dining space that has 30 seats – maybe. In the very compact kitchen (tucked behind the bar), there might be two burners. We weren’t expecting much – but we were pleasantly surprised.
When our first course arrived, the burrata con prosciutto was reminiscent of those I enjoyed in Italy. It was a tidy little bundle of cheese on a bed of arugula and fresh tomatoes. And when we cut into this decadent mozzarella, it didn’t disappoint. Rich, sweet cream oozed from its center. With a basket of rustic bread, it was the most perfect way to start a meal.
Second course was pasta. Tania enjoyed the ravioli con guanciale ragu (wild boar sauce), while I opted for the vegetarian lasagne. Both were tender to the bite and extremely well seasoned. Our chef for the day was sweet and shy, but humored us with a picture and a smile.
The restaurant is staffed by Italians, and Italians fill many of the seats in the small space. Drawing culinary influence from southern Italian and Sicilian dishes, the flavors pay tribute to slow cooking and indulgent, lingering meals with friends over a great bottle of wine. We were so enchanted that we returned to Piccola Cucina for a second meal.
Though the second experience wasn’t as good as the first, it may have been due to the lateness of the hour. By 11:00 p.m. when we ate dinner, our sweet chef pictured here was not at the stove. The burrata was still excellent and the arancini were well prepared (though not my favorite). The ravioli this time was a bit disappointing because the sauce that arrived was completely different than the one we’d been served days earlier. Did they run out of the slow-cooked guanciale ragu? It remains a mystery.
Would we go back again? Absolutely. For tender pasta in a quaint atmosphere with the music of Italian language all around you, visit Piccola Cucina.