piccolo Forno is an Tuscan style-Italian restaurant on Butler Street in Lawrenceville which is only minutes from the Strip District and downtown Pittsburgh. In the last few years, Lawrenceville has steadily worked on dusting itself off and dragging itself up from the tired run down town it was in years past. There are now shops, cafes and restaurants and they are starting to outnumber the empty buildings.
I chose this restaurant on a blind whim from a list of restaurants and I was well rewarded for it. piccolo Forno,which means 'Small Oven,' is small and intimate but a large corner is devoted to it's namesake. The piccolo forno is tucked in the back right corner where it's plied by chefs wielding long handled wooden peels to whisk pizzas in and out of the oven. The walls are exposed brick with a golden yellow back wall that matches the wooden chairs snugged cosily around the tables. When the tables are full it can get a little loud but the blended voices of other diners actually helps to create a sense of privacy around one's table.
It's common in restaurants around here to be provided with a basket of bread before the meal comes but not in piccolo Forno. Here, they ask if you would like bread with your dinner and if you are amenable it is brought out only a minute before the entrees arrive. It's possible that some would be put off by this as it's not the expected thing but it is very nice not to fill up on bread beforehand.
piccolo Forno has many things on the menu to choose from: salads, panini, pizzas and pastas. Rick had the Tagliatelle con Sugo di Funghi (Tagliatelle Pasta with a Mushroom Sauce). I only had one bite of his but it was creamy with the earthy taste of mushrooms almost! but not quite overwhelming the pasta. I chose to try something entirely new to me and even Rick was surprised and questioned my choice: Stracotto di Cinghiale con Fettucine--Braised boar with vegetables and fettucine pasta. Many of the Italian cookbooks I've read usually have one or more recipes with wild boar and I've been curious ever since. The meat was tender and the flavorful sauce coated the fettucine and vegetables with a slightly sweet taste that I couldn't identify. If I can find some where to obtain wild boar for cooking at home I will have to go looking for a recipe and perhaps then I will find out what the seasonings were.
Dessert was offered; gelato or tiramisu but we declined and chose to go to espresso a mano for coffee.
At espresso a mano the doors were pushed open to let in the warm spring air and seemed curiously empty. But, upon walking in we found everyone towards the back of the cafe crowded around several paintings hanging on the wall and chatting amiably. A woman came over to us and introduced herself as the wife of Fabrizio Gerbino, a local artist who works in oil and acrylics on canvas. He was occupied in conversation but Mrs. Gerbino welcomed us and explained that his work was going to be on exhibit for the next couple of weeks at espresso a mano. Lucky us! We were there on opening night.
Rick and I enjoyed delicious--and pretty!--mochas . Unlike the vapid mochas that are so often served elsewhere, these were rich and full bodied. The chocolate and the espresso blended perfectly in harmony and neither overwhelming the other. It was blended so well that even that last half inch in the cup which is usually referred to as the 'sludge' was nonexistent.
I drank every. last. drop.