5 Dudley Ave
Venice Beach, CA 90291
My boyfriend (FG) took me here on Valentines Eve this year and having never been before I was excited to be trying somewhere new, especially an Italian restaurant.
Italian is officially my favorite cuisine. I am not a huge fan of Venice beach and honestly find it particularly scary at night, especially down some of the graffiti ridden dark alley ways. Sadly this restaurant is in a slightly less than desirable area, and less than a block from the building I was convinced I was watching a hardcore drug deal go down!
However I was utterly shocked and excited by the restaurant that emerged once I turned the corner. The restaurant Piccolo is beautiful, aesthetically it is a really lovely looking space. Great attention to detail has been made from the elegant glassware down to the tasteful green glass candle holders on every table which are decorative and beautiful.
The decor is Venetian inspired (as in Venice, Italy not Venice Beach) decorative masks and tasteful black and white shots of the canals adorn the walls. There is a roaring fire on the side and a wall of wine at the back. As soon as we entered we were greeted by a friendly host who took us straight to the table. There is no host stand or bar area, which makes me wonder where you would stand/sit to wait if you arrived sooner than your reservation. Fortunately for us our table was ready straight away and we sat straight down. The owner Vittorio Viotti came over and said hello (he has worked with FG in the past and is a lovely Italian man from Rome). The menu allows you to do a set meal called ‘In bobo we trust’ this is a great option if you’ve never been as the Executive Chef Roberto Ivan (Bobo) will choose a ‘Six-course tasting for $80’ or ‘Ten-course tasting for $100’ Two people minimum and entire table only. Seeing as we didn’t want quite so many courses we decided to just pick ourselves, with the occasional recommendation from Vittorio and our server.
As cocktail drinkers I was sad to discover they don’t have a mixed drink list here, however the wine choice is beyond impressive. There is an extensive wine list in a leather bound book with huge range of Italian wines organized by area (a little map of Italy colored in to represent regions). Almost all the wines are by the bottle, but Greg went for one of the reds by the glass and I had a prosecco. The red was smoky and rich with a tobacco finish, perfect for FG and my prosecco was light with a hint of sweetness. Great start to a romantic fine dining experience.
A bread basket came out with bread sticks, olive ciabatta and baguette inside. Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore good bread. This bread was warm with a freshly baked crisp crust and fluffy inside, just how I like it. Came with olive oil for dipping but I told myself not to fill up on bread so I mainly munched on the sticks which were a not so filling alternative. Great idea.
The first dishes we chose from the ‘Antipasti’ section of the menu were the Prosciutto and Carpaccio (see item descriptions below).
The presentation for all our dishes was nothing short of pure elegance, I really like duck but it was actually a little rich for my taste. It had a herbaceous celery/watercress dressing on top though which was light and creamy and helped dilute the richness of the meat slightly.
Prosciutto d’anatra– Homemade duck proscuitto, fresh watercress drizzle $17
The Carpaccio FG ordered was delicious. I should mention that I hadn’t eaten lamb since I was around 11 years old and saved a lamb from drowning in a river in Wales, strange reason I know, but I just never found myself wanting to order it since then. I did however try some of the carpaccio this evening. I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed it, it wasn’t gamey but complimented wonderfully by the truffle and celery shavings.
Carpaccio di agnello– Seared lamb, thinly sliced, celery, piave shavings, truffle shaving $17
The next dish we ordered were the Scallops. Now, if you haven’t read the ‘about me’ section, I suggest you do it now, because it will astound you that someone as fussy about food like myself would ever like sea food let alone Scallops. The scallops were nothing short of divine. To go from not trying a salad to devouring scallops is quite a dramatic change, but my goodness did I enjoy these.
Delicious on every front. Texture, sauce, cooked to perfection. The cheese sauce was very light but the little addition of truffles was all the richness it needed. Ironically I don’t like parmesan or truffles for that matter but adored this. My only complaint was portion size, but this restaurant is more tapas (small plate) style. I could have easily gone for at least 8 of those beauties! This dish came with 2 scallops and they were nice enough they split our dishes without us even asking, we just told them we’d be sharing everything.
Capesante scottate– Seared sea scallops, parmesan-truffle fondue, truffle shaving $17
The second section of the menu had dishes that were created using their own hand-crafted fresh pasta prepared with organic eggs. FG had the Tagliatelle which was certainly interesting, but tasted a little like christmas in my opinion. The use of cloves/all spice in the aromatic spices I believe is what gave this affect, the venison was a little overpowered by the spices but was well cooked.
I went for the black kale and beef tenderloin filled ravioli. It was rich but very tasty. I couldn’t taste the kale itself, but the dish altogether was flavorful and very good.
Agnolotti al cavolo nero– Tuscan black kale-beef tenderloin filled ravioli roasted garlic, rosemary, parmesan $24
Ragu di capriolo– Tagliatelle, slow braised venison ragu, aromatic spices, red wine $24
The Duck from the final section of the menu was delicious and my favorite ‘main’ course. The honey truffle sauce was light but had the perfect level of sweetness. The meat was cooked to perfection, and they don’t ask for a temperature because they know how it should be cooked (seemed about medium/rare). I had no complaints, juicy and perfectly tender duck slices.
Germano reale al miele tartufato– Breast of mallard (wild duck) pan-seared, truffle-honey sauce $34
Please note the photos of the duck and scallops are ‘half’ the regular portion size as the plates were split for our convenience.
I don’t know how but we managed to squeeze in a little dessert at the end. Bobo chose the Bignole and the Tortino. The tortino was soft and light with a slightly unusual lightly orange taste (reminded me of a children’s medicine in Uk called Calpol actually). I preferred the little pastry chocolate puff balls. They had a crisp pastry surrounding a sweet, soft chocolate truffle center. Very delicious and a great end to the meal.
Tortino- Ricotta and mascarpone torte. Saffron coulis
Bignole- Puffs filled with belgian gianduja chocolate
I’m giving Piccolo 4.5 out of 5 Platters
All in all this restaurant was truly excellent. The service was friendly and fast, but not rushed. The food was beautifully presented and tasted great. The only down side of this place is it’s location, although the interior strongly makes up for it. The pasta dishes were my least favorite, but I will happily return to try other dishes on the extensive menu. I felt the food was pretty reasonably priced although I know it may seem a little pricey for some, especially when the dishes aren’t huge portions. It is fine-dining however and for a romantic night out is well worth the cost when the quality is there. Definitely worth a visit!