Situated in Lawrenceville, an up-and-coming neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Il Piccolo Forno has apparently gathered quite the following. I ended up at this restaurant twice this week, first with the newly engaged Jack and Kate and then with the well married Julia and James – and lovely daughter Claire! While not terribly impressed with the food, the atmosphere was perfect for reconnecting.
The conversations and the desserts made the meal worthwhile. The tiramisu’s ladyfingers were slightly wet for my taste, but the mascarpone custard was both light and not-too-sweet. Bravi! I almost forgot to photograph it:
We also ate a ‘chunky’ version of gianduja gelato. While tasty, I much prefer the smooth variety:
Night two: i primi. Perhaps I should start out by saying that the roasted vegetable appetizer was prepared well, with neither too much garlic nor oil; the flavors of the vegetables stood out. James got the unevenly cooked risotto with sausage. You tell me: does the man look content?
I got the spinach ravioli in sage butter, something I can easily make at home, with more intense flavors. The flavor was dull”: in both the ravioli (no discernible nutmeg or parmigiano) and the sauce (only two sage leaves). The pasta was uncooked on its edges yet gooey over the ball of spinach. I’d never seen anything like that; honestly can’t figure out how/why this happened!
Julia ordered butternut squash ravioli served in a walnut sauce. It arrived completely cold. Not lukewarm. Cold. She sent it back and got another dish that arrived at room temperature. Uh … they’ve got a serious problem. I took a bite, but found the weight and the texture of the nut sauce unappealing.
The story behind the success of Il Piccolo Forno is more powerful than its food, especially since the well-loved Branduzzi family lost its patriarch, Antonio, and its flagship bakery in the Strip District last year. The welcoming, unpretentious atmosphere more than makes up for the mediocrity of the food. I’m certain I’ll head back on a future trip to ‘da ‘Burgh.