Everyone has his or her own definition of comfort fare. To some, it's a warm and creamy potato soup; to others, it's a giant slab of meat; to many, it's a heaping bowl of pasta paired with a glass of Chianti.
If you fall under the latter category, Fort Lauderdale has a new, soothing neighborhood spot for you to check out. Piccolo Ristorante, meaning "little restaurant," serves traditional Italian specialties from all across Italy.
With just 30 seats, dim lighting, and deep-red walls with brick accents, the setting is warm and intimate. During a recent Saturday-night visit, the spot was inhabited by young and middle-aged couples on dinner dates and families sharing quiet meals. Since the place opened, many of its patrons have come from nearby neighborhoods.
The menu is diverse and extensive. It includes three salads ($10 to $12), such as the pear with baby rucola, sliced apples, pears, spiced pecans, and Brie. There are five entrées to choose from ($9 to $15), like the crab-cake tower with avocado relish, in addition to four house specialties ($18 to $24) with homemade pastas like the gnocchi with four-cheese cream sauce, poached pear, and nutmeg. There's also a constantly rotating selection of ravioli.
Owned by chef Andres Avayú and his wife, Alison, the spot opened in September. Since then, he has featured a sweet potato with duck option and a striped spinach and ricotta. Even the pasta dishes are wide-ranging, with four to choose from, as well as risottos ($16 to $26), including the shrimp aglio e olio with shaved garlic, basil, and either wheat or squid ink spaghetti, which is the most popular.
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While Avayú most recently spent time working at Tap 42, he's been employed in South Florida's culinary world for years, including a long stint at the now-defunct but formerly beloved Chef Allen's in Aventura.
Following much in the beliefs of chef Allen Susser, Avayú, an avid scuba diver and marine conservationist, focuses on sourcing seafood from responsible fisheries.
The restaurant is open for dinner Monday through Saturday starting at 4 p.m. It features various specials, including half-off appetizers from 4 to 6 p.m. for Mangiare Monday, 25 percent off bottles of red wine on Tinto Tuesday, and half-off all glasses of wine for Wine Down Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m.
Piccolo Ristorante is located at 2826 E. Commercial Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-776-8066, or visit piccolofl.com.