Pittsburgh Restaurant Scene
Before we get into this blog post, we must issue an apology. A write-up of Piccolo Forno is way overdue!
Before the Lawrenceville dining scene was the “power house” it is now, Picollo Forno was holding down Butler St with pride. Long before Cure, Tender, Tamari, Industry and Franktuary, Domenic Branduzzi was making amazing wood-fired pizzas, homemade pasta, and paninis for the masses. Piccolo Forno got its start back in 1989 in the Strip District next to La Prima Espresso, Dom’s Parents were the original proprietors (Antonio & Carla), however Dom opened the Lawrenceville location in 2005. He still operates under the original creed of his Father “Fare Tutto con Amore” or “Make everything with love”. Dine here once and you will understand that.
I love the feel of the dining room, exposed brick walls, marble tabletops, black and white photos of Italy, open kitchen, and the absolutely gorgeous wood-fired oven. It’s open without being loud; it is intimate without feeling stuffy. Our server tonight was Maria and she was wonderful, she was there when we needed her but not hovering around. She’s good Dom, def a keeper. Along with Cenacolo, this is our favorite BYOB in the city, so don’t forget to bring your favorite bottle or in our case bottles.
After we cracked open our first bottle, we decided how we wanted to conquer the menu. For our apps we went with the Crostini di Fegato- chicken liver mousse on toast and the Polpete Toscane- baked pork/beef meatballs with fresh green herb sauce. Both apps were knockouts, D preferred the Crostini and I preferred the Polpete, but we devoured both. The mousse was creamy, served on a perfect crostini with capers and sweet onion jam. The Polpete were dense but not heavy with a crisp exterior and that fresh herb sauce would be delicious on anything!
If you are going to Piccolo Forno for a nice couples night out we suggest sharing a pizza and a pasta for your entrees. Tonight we went with the Cavoletti e Taleggio pizza, brussel sprouts and pancetta with Burrata and Taleggio cheeses. D and I have had the pleasure of eating pizza in Rome and Tuscany, Dom’s pizza is just as amazing. In fact just tonight alone we heard 3 different tables say “This is just like what we had in Italy”. The crust is crisp without being crunchy and has just the right amount of chew to it. You can never go wrong with brussel sprouts and pancetta, so putting them on a pizza just seems like a natural fit.
We were trying to decide which pasta to share but then Maria told us the special, Cocoa rotini, with a beef heart Bolognese. Once we heard that, the choice was made. It was fantastic, the cocoa was not overly sweet, it has a more earthy flavor and the Bolognese was great, the beef heart was not intense but there was that faint ‘minerally’ taste you get from eating organ meats. Let me say that I love (even more than usual) that my wife was all about ordering the chicken liver mousse and beef heart Bolognese.
We had to make sure to leave room for dessert so we didn’t polish off our entrees (but they will make some amazing leftovers). Now, I usually hear Tiramisu and just automatically order it, however another dessert caught my eye. I ordered the Chocolate Tartufo (google it) and D ordered the Dream Bomba (similar to Tartufo). My dessert was chocolate gelato with zabaglione cream center covered in cocoa powder and chopped hazelnuts, it was like a pimped out nutella! D’s Bomba had peanut butter gelato with a caramel center covered in a milk chocolate shell and then drizzled with chocolate and peanut butter sauce. Both desserts were stellar, but I say mine was the winner (sorry D). HA! Along with our desserts, Maria made us great cappuccinos.
If you want some real deal Italian food but do not want to endure the 10hr flight, make the drive to Larry-ville. It is as close as you can get to authentic cuisine in this area. So remember- bring some wine, order pasta and pizza, and order dessert and coffee, and above all else relax and enjoy.
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3801 Butler St
Pgh, PA 15201
Reservations only for parties of 5+