Away with pizza! Piccolino does without (arguably )Italy’s most famous dish to embrace higher gastronomy. The result? Very positive, as you walk off filled with quality steak and luscious aubergine - instead of dough.
Tucked away on busy Heddon Street, Piccolino enjoys a large outdoor patio and sizeable premises stretching over two floors. The basement is a new addition: a boxy bar surrounded by tall stools, tables and a private room, allow Piccolino to extend into the night, no longer confined to daytime dining hours only. A large screen for sport events emphasises the drinking even more. The main seating area on the ground floor is also split between the high bar (where a menu of smaller plates awaits) and a regular restaurant. The décor is contemporary classic, with a nod to Italian tradition.
The service is pretty much impeccable. Far from the stiffness and rigour many other Mayfair venues provide, the staff at Piccolino do everything right, from unaffected smiles and fluid interaction with customers to swift delivery of your order. This ease clearly stems from the well groomed staff’s confidence in the level of service and food that Piccolino offers - something that in turn rubs off on the customers, comprised of small and medium-sized groups and couples alike (mostly Londoners, rarely tourists) whom exude satisfaction with their meals, their drinks and the (slightly off topic) background music.
With a bold move, Piccolino has archived its pizzas to focus on their meaty main courses, elevating the premises from variably humbling pizzeria to fully-fledged restaurant (in the eyes of the Italian clientele, at least). Dough is not totally lost though, as artisan bread and oversized olives are complimentary.
If that's not enough, you can top-up with garlic flat bread (£3.50-£5), with the rosemary and sea salt version made of fantastic dough, though you are left craving the oil and balsamic dip that came with the free basket, as the bread is slightly dry. The starters (£5.50-£10.50) range from beef fillet to scallops, via the much humbler tomato bruschetta. The tomatoes are excellent, but the untoasted bread with its rather tough crust suggests it could do with a minute or two longer in the oven.
With the mains (£11-£31), things pick up considerably. The roast cod with spicy sausage and purple sprouting broccoli is faultless. The pasta (an Italian staple which hasn’t been discarded) comes in many mouth-watering variants, including with clams, pancetta and more. Even sticking to aubergine and tomato pays off, as the al dente penne is excellent. Order a side dish (£3.50-£4) too: the caponata (aubergine, tomatoes, roast peppers and pine nuts) is so darn good the only regret is that it is not offered as a main.
The traditional desserts (£5.75-£7.75) include ice cream (and the sublime Campari and prosecco sorbet) and decadent tarts. You won’t go wrong with either.
Cocktails (£7.50-£8) and wine are equally appealing. Start with a Negroni or Bellini to keep things Italian before moving on to a wine with your food. A good range of glasses are available (£4.50-£6 for 175ml or £6-£8 for 250ml) including a pretty good Montepulciano. Bottles start at a very reasonable £16, climbing to £145, but most come in somewhere between the £20-£35 region. The usual spirits, beer (£4-£5) and champagne (£28-£295) are available but try to try an Italian liqueur as a digestive: Strega and Fernet Branca, rather than the usual limoncello.
The Last Word
Getting rid of pizza was a bold move, but it has paid off for Piccolino. Great service and wonderful food ensure that you'll walk away from this particular spot pretty well satiated.