Chef Philip Guardione used to spend his days and nights on Manhattan’s Prince and Spring streets, where his popular restaurants Piccola Cucina Enoteca and Piccola Cucina Osteria attract locals and tourists who love his Sicilian-inspired cuisine as well as the street scene in the vibrant SoHo neighborhood.
These days, however, Chef Guardione can also be found on nearby Thompson Street, where his new-ish culinary venture, Piccola Cucina Estiatorio, has no trouble filling 58 seats for lunch and dinner. Almost all the produce served is shipped from Sicily, and because fish and seafood is so central to the cuisine of Sicily, my dinner companions and I definitely wanted to try several of the fish items on the menu, served in every way — raw, fried, baked or broiled.
The raw fish, called crudo di mare, includes salmon ceviche, tuna tartare, yellowtail carpaccio and salmon sashimi. These were all fresh and cold and easy to share among the group. The yellowtail, topped with orange and fennel was especially good. The seafood appetizers were also wonderful. Portions of grilled octopus, sardines and shrimp were crisp and delicious as was a bruschetta with guacamole and lobster, a popular appetizer at the other tables as well.
There are 10 different pasta plates, including pasta alla Norma (maccheroni with eggplant in tomato sauce with ricotta cheese), and spaghetto nero (black ink spaghetti with scampi langoustine and zucchini flowers). If you like seafood in your pasta, it is not a problem to find sea urchins, clams or cured fish roe in other pasta dishes, served in huge bowls with warm bread on the side.
The fish of the day, whole filleted sea bass, was moist and tender, served with grilled vegetables, while the baby lamb chops (the only other meat available was ribeye steak) were accompanied by lemon potatoes and steamed spinach. Our table went with bottles of Sicilian white and red wine, including a bottle of Arianna Occhipinti 2016 Il Frappato Igt Terre Siciliane Vittoria. For dessert, we shared wonderful cannoli, tiramisu and crème bruleé with fruit.
On a warm, summer night, the SoHo neighborhood was alive with bicycles, motor scooters, slow-moving cars looking for parking spaces, groups of casual couples arm-in-arm, and Village women with ice cream in one hand and a dog leash in the other. Inside, a friendly, noisy group of diners filled the restaurant, conversations were shared among tables, wine flowed, with Sicilian spoken among the wait staff and between the cooks in the lively open kitchen. The scene and atmosphere looked and felt like Palermo’s Piazza Olivella, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Piccola Cucina Estiatorio
75 Thompson St.
New York, NY 10012
tel 646 781 9183
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