The first time I ate at Piccolo Forno in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood was by accident. I had originally planned to grab lunch at the nearby Coca Cafe but upon arrival, we were told that they weren’t taking any new diners as there was a private event going on later that day that they needed to prepare for. While we were majorly peeved, thankfully we were in Lawrenceville which has no shortage of terrific restaurants to try out. And Piccolo Forno was where we ended up going. This was two years ago and even though we had had a fantastic meal, we hadn’t been back since. A couple of months ago I was in a Lawrenceville kind of mood (the weather was great, perfect for walking around) and off we went for another lunch.
While Pittsburgh has no shortage of Italian-American restaurants (it’s often the same with Tex-Mex and Chinese American), there isn’t a ton of authentic Italian spots-you know, the ones that would make actual Italians want to eat there. Piccolo Forno falls in the “authentic” category. Its roots are decidedly Italian (the forces and chefs behind it are either Italian or trained in Italy as chefs) and today it serves “traditional Tuscan dishes in the form of wood-fired pizzas and fresh hand-made pastas.” What’s not to love?
Like countless buildings in Lawrenceville, the space that Piccolo occupies is simply lovely. It’s in a restored space (as is the case for many businesses and homes in the neighborhood since it is, after all, the oldest one in Pittsburgh) and has abundant natural light which I just love. It also smells terrific-its wood fired pizza oven is visible to dining guests. It’s not the biggest space in the world, so you are quite near to your neighbor’s table, but we waited less than 10 minutes for a table. And this is a place where I don’t mind waiting (Olive Garden, meh).
To start, we split an order of the brushette ($7) which consisted of goat cheese and roasted tomato compote, cannellini bean spread with arugula pesto, and olive tapenade on crispy bread. I don’t care for the taste of olives but I loved the other two selections, the goat cheese especially.
D also ordered the zuppa del giorno (soup of the day) which that day just happened to be a rich and creamy tomato based one ($5.50). It was quite a large portion so I had a lot of it as well and it was decadent.
I went with the Maccheroni con Melanzane al Forno ($15) for my entree. This featured baked rigatoni with roasted eggplant, grape tomatoes, and onions in a bechamel sauce along with gruyere cheese. It was incredibly rich. I loved it and the portion was massive (a common occurrence here) but am not sure I’d get it again, knowing how very rich it was.
For his main course, D selected the Calzone Farcita ($14). It was filled with crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto cotto, peppers, mushrooms, and artichokes.
On my previous trip there, I had gotten the Quattro Stagioni pizza ($15), a very popular selection in Italy (I should know as that’s where I first had it). And just to reinforce how much of an authentic Italian spot it is, other selections they have include Asparagi e Tartuffo (truffle caciotta, panna, asparagus, egg, topped with truffle oil) and Stracotto di Cingiale con Fettuccine (braised boar with vegetables served on cocoa fettuccine-I didn’t even know cocoa fettuccine existed).
Sadly, we were much too stuffed to even contemplate dessert but I’m sure they make a wicked tiramisu. But dining here is always a treat between the pleasant ambiance, the friendly wait staff, and the terrific food.
3801 Butler Street Pittsburgh, PA. 15201