Everyone has his 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.
Owned by chef Andres Avayú and his wife, Alison, the spot opened its doors on East Commercial Boulevard in September.
With just 30 seats, dim lighting, and deep-red walls with brick accents, the setting is warm and intimate. On 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 both 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; as well as a constantly rotating selection of ravioli.
Since opening Avayú 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.
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 (excluding Tignanello and Brunello) 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.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.