Did you ever have an experience that brought you home, that you felt in your very soul? Piccola Cucina did that for me. My parents met in New York but were born and raised in two separate small towns in Northern Sicily. My first language was Sicilian and I was raised with an immense pride in all things Sicilian. If you ask a Sicilian where they are from they will tell you they are first Sicilian, not Italian.
Piccola Cucina has a few locations in New York City and we visited their uptown location. Stepping foot inside reminded me of past trips to Sicily and of my upbringing. The decor includes traditional items such as an old fashioned stovetop espresso maker, which my mother has in many sizes, as well as beautiful Sicilian patterned plates.
Executive Chef Philip Guardione was raised near Mount Etna in Sicily, and the cuisine is a combination of his grandmother’s secret recipes and his creative spin on traditional Sicilian food. He offers very authentic and traditional pasta dishes like Maccheroni alla Norma which has fried eggplant, tomato sauce and basil. Olive oil and bread is on the table- never butter- dont even ask for it. Most of the staff were born in Sicily or southern Italy and it was wonderful to speak in Sicilian, an ancient language that bonds many from the area.
The food was outstanding. The traditional Arancini Catanesi or Sicilian Rice Balls with Beef Ragu Sauce and Mozzarella were the perfect combination of meat and rice- often a debated topic in Sicilian kitchens. An arancino is a ball of deep-fried rice with a variety of tomato based fillings, usually meat. I grew up on these and my Aunt Sarafina made the best ones, don’t tell my mom. I will admit these were ALMOST as perfect and that is saying a lot!
Octopus is another Sicilan staple and their polpo caprese con burrata, pomodorino confit e basilico (Octopus caprese with burrata cheese, tomato confit and basil) was perfectly prepared and paired beautifully with the burrata. The fugassa con tartufo nero (simple fugassa with black truffle) is a foccacia bread of sorts but thinner than the usual kind one sees and had a generous helping of black truffle.
We had to save room for dessert and have a housemade Sicilian traditional cannoli. If I had to pick “the” Sicilian Dessert it would be the cannoli. Their cannoli, topped with pistachios was excellent. I usually find many restaurants make the filling too pasty and overly sweet, but not Piccola Cucina. Their cannoli cream was a perfect balance with a great texture and the shells were really crisp.
I had an amazing experience here explaining traditions to my daughter as we ate. I highly recommend this restaurant for an authentic Sicilian meal. After eating here I wanted to return to Sicily.