Stick to the Coffee at Piccolo Cafe For Now
I’ve tracked the opening of Piccolo Café (40th st between 7th & 8th) with a good deal of excitement. Their original location in Gramercy seems to have a loyal following, and even counts CNN reporter, Soledad O’Brien as a fan. At first impression, it’s a picturesque and civilized café on a street that’s lined with fashion district dives, generic delis, and glutted with traffic. Inside, it’s pretty and warm, and a place where I would be perfectly happy to linger for far too long over a steamy cup of Joe.
The theme is decidedly Italian – their coffee is roasted in Trieste (Italy), and the menu is a spread of paninis, pastas and Italian desserts. The European ethos exhibited in the cozy casualness of the restaurant and the counter staff. Perhaps a bit too casual, as the food is sloppily done at times, and during one visit, the guy manning the counter felt it permissible to help himself with a $1 tip from my change without asking. But they pour an outstanding cup of coffee – my Americano was bright without being acidic and smooth without sacrificing flavor. Unfortunately, the food is unimpressive at best, and at worst, an outright rip-off.
A panini ($8) of stracchino cheese, prosciutto and arugula was tasty, but an unsubstantial bite of food for the price paid. I enjoyed the crunchiness of the Italian white bread, and there was a generous layer of salty stracchino cheese that worked well with the peppery baby arugula. The flavors of this sandwich would exact some fondness from the diners, but likely won’t fill them up.
A truly mediocre lasagna bolognese ($9) had little to no saving graces. The top layer was leathery, tough, and unappealingly stale. Between the layers of noodles, there was nary any ‘bolognese’ to be found, and the dominant flavor profile of the dish was of grease. And again, the portions won’t come close to filling you up for lunch.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, for in the dessert department there was a tempting panettone, and they seemed to be doing brisk business with an impressive looking brownie. I’ll certainly return for a cup of that reliably roasted Italian coffee and for a sampling of their sweets. I’ll just be skipping the savory.