Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Piccolo: Italian, in the heart of Venice (beach)

When BBE issued a special (free bottle of wine or dessert) for Piccolo Restaurant, I was game. I've been wanting to try their sea urchin pasta and I've heard many good things about the restaurant. Located just steps from the Venice Beach boardwalk in the old location of 5 Dudley Restaurant, Piccolo is a cozy Italian restaurant. It's quite an odd spot really. Piccolo is a bit pricey for the Venice boardwalk demographic.

It's relatively small and intimate inside, and filled up rather quickly. As it turned out, the BBE special was only available if each diner ordered an entree. So even though we decided on three pastas and an entree (which when summed up, the cost per person averaged over the price of an entree). It's interesting that a neighborhood restaurant was not even willing to bend on that.

Bread basket included a few options, but nothing special. Don't bother asking for balsamic vinegar. They don't offer it here. But they do serve the bread with a good quality olive oil.

Our waitress selected a reasonably priced bottle of Rosso Nottola which was smooth and light.

I was very pleased that without us asking, the kitchen had brought by our dishes in individual portions.

Garganelli Neri ai Ricci, squid ink garganelli, fresh sea urchin emulsion
I know the proper way to cook pasta is to al dente. I know what al dente is. This garganelli pasta was grossly undercooked. When we asked the waitress if this undercooked texture was normal, she said yes. It hard to believe that this is the case, the pasta tasted like cardboard and was very crunchy. Also, I was very disappointed with the sauce because I could barely taste the flavor of uni. This dish was a disappointment given that this was the reason why I wanted to dine at Piccolo in the first place.

Carbonara di Quaglia, truffle-tagliolini, roasted quail carbonara, with quail eggs, parmesan
Thankfully this pasta dish made up for the last. I really enjoyed the tagliolini which taste very fresh and homemade. The crumbles of quail were salty and gave the dish a lot of flavor. The carbonara had the right amount of egg mixture so that it wasn't overly creamy and heavy. I also liked the parmesan which added a nuttiness to the sauce.

Tortelli Zucca, ravioli with pumpkin filling, parmesan-butter and sage
Unfortunately the last pasta dish was a rather unappealing. There were parts of the pasta that were too thick and perhaps needed to be rolled out a bit more. I felt like I was eating a chunk of dough. The butter sauce also really tasted like butter, sans sage. I think it needed to be cooked down and browned a bit because it was lacking a nutty flavor.

Agnello al Porto, Risotto al Melone, boneless, natural lamb shank slow-braised in port; Tuscan melon-foie grĂ s risotto
As if this meal was a roller coaster, the last dish came back strong. Although the lamb preparation was a bit inconsistent- my two friends commented that one piece of the shank was drier than the other, the piece that was moist was exceptional. I liked the sweet richness of the rhubarb sauce. The best part of the dish was the foie gras risotto which was formed into a cake. The foie essence was obvious but not overpowering.

I thought dinner at Piccolo was decent. There were better parts of the meal (lamb shank, quail carbonara, wine) but there were also some fails (overly al dente and thick pasta). Also, I wished they had been more flexible on the BBE rules. I understand that they do not want diners coming in and split an entree or appetizer, but if you did the math, we spent just as much as anyone else that had ordered an entree each. I just don't think we should be penalized if we decided that the pasta dishes were more intriguing over the entrees. Despite that, I would have to say that I preferred the pasta here over Scarpetta. *gasp* I also liked that Piccolo had served our dishes in individual portions. That was a nice touch. I'm glad that I finally got to check out Piccolo, but next time, I think I'll save my Venice Beach excursions for the surf.

Hits: lamb, wine, quail pasta
Misses: cardboard pasta, not flexible on BBE discount
Rating: **1/2

Piccolo Venice
5 Dudley Ave.,
Los Angeles, CA 90291
(310) 314-3222


Pink Foodie said...

Bummer. I absolutely loved piccolo.

bagnatic said...

undercooked, crunchy pasta? that sounds gross.

Diana said...

Yikes. That's so sad about the squid ink pasta! And the general nature of the up and down meal. Dinner should never be like a roller coaster! And pasta should never ever be crunchy.

Sarah Smith said...

This looks pretty delicious. Thanks for sharing these pictures with us. Regards from Venice hotels