Magazine article The New Yorker

Piccola Cucina

Magazine article The New Yorker

Piccola Cucina

Article excerpt

This new Italian restaurant in SoHo lives up to its name, and, with only a handful of tables and just two waiters taking orders and tending bar, things get cozy quickly. On a recent evening, the occupants of other tables laughed genially as the staff flirted with a pair of young German tourists, teasing them and taking photographs. "Just flip your hair over your shoulder a bit," the waiter instructed as he raised the camera. Suddenly, everyone was in it together: as a table contemplated tiramisu, one of the German girls leaned over and said, "It's really good!"

A little advice is welcome here, because the menu has a tendency to be hit or miss. The arancini, an appetizer, could almost double as bocce balls; filled with ragu and mozzarella, they had a satisfyingly crunchy exterior and an oozing, savory middle. "Wasn't the melting cheese inside nice?" the waiter asked solicitously. The caprese salad was perfectly executed, with pert cherry tomatoes (from Sicily, according to the menu) and delicate Campania mozzarella. Swordfish arrived in a huge foil boat, swimming in a tomato-herb broth enriched with clams and mussels; that the fish itself was overcooked was almost forgivable. Judging doneness seems to be an issue in this kitchen: the veal shank, over creamy polenta, was dry and chewy, while a whole branzino was rubbery and overseasoned. …

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