230 East 44th Street
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 922-0581
Site: Visit the restaurant site
2nd Cuisine: Family Friendly
Area: East 40s
Although there are lots of restaurants in the area near Grand Central, most aren't standouts. While Piccolo Fiore may not be one of NYC's most brilliant Italian eateries, overall it's hard to fault. I've eaten lunch here several times and the place is generally on the somewhat empty side which makes for pleasant conversation and not even a hint of a rush. The staff is incredibly polite and helpful with owner Fabio usually working the room to be sure everyone is well cared for.
The restaurant serves food of Abruzzo, a region of central Italy, with a four course tasting menu at $48. Some dining options just miss greatness like my minestrone, hot as it should be, loaded with beautifully cut vegetables and topped with fresh Parmegiano yet lacking serious flavor. However, my entree, a grilled seafood salad, was heavy with large pieces of fish including several shrimp, the whole piled on somewhat limp lettuce saved by a delicious lemony dressing. The dessert chocolate mousse was plated beautifully but the lumps of mousse were overly sweet as though touched with artificial sweetener. One of my companions opted for the racolta salad as an entree and was pleased with the fresh looking and tasting veggies as well as the liberal sprinkling of feta. The lunch prix fixe that starts at $19 is a good buy with choices for all three courses and comes with tea or coffee.
I've always felt that the pastas here, though pricey ($22-26 for most), are the best choices including the rigatoni with a nicely executed meat sauce; the fettuccine Nicola with Portobello mushrooms and a veal ragu (and a $26 price tag) and the lobster ravioli with asparagus among the highlights. Various chicken preparations--all breasts--come as secondi as do veal dishes as well as branzino, grilled and served with olives, capers and tomatoes; a pork chop and a NY steak, billed as a "16 ounce aged Angus" as it should be for a whopping $39.
I do like the cheese plates here, with good choices including robiola, gorgonzola, fontina, caciotto tartufo and a Hudson red, all identified as to animal of origin (goat, sheep, cow) and attractively served with quince jam, grapes and crostini. Have two cheeses for $10 or four for $20.
You can graze on "bar plates" or "bar snacks" meaning arancini, small portions or pastas or a steak sandwich with onion fries, while enjoying "craft" birra that are largely non-Italian choices such as Magic Hat and Harpoon IPA. Wines by the glass are a modest $9 apiece and mostly represent the usual suspects with a Montepulciana and a Villa Campo Bella Chianti Reserva thrown into the mix. Happy Hour is from 4-7 PM on weekdays with live music Fridays and Saturdays. Piccolo Fiore is open daily for lunch and dinner --Saturday hours are 4 PM to midnight; Sundays 4- 9:30 PM. There is a space for private parties; my sense is that guests would be very well looked after.
Review By: Mari Gold