Restaurant of the Week: Piccola Cucina

Tracey Ceurvels
The arancini at SoHo's Piccola Cucina are the creamiest rice balls I've ever tasted, filled with beef and mozzarella or eggplant and mozzarella. At $15, they're pretty pricey, but they're the size of oranges and accompanied by an arugula and tomato salad, which softens the blow. Grilled octopus with potato cream ($12), perfectly cooked porcini mushroom risotto ($16) and Mediterranean-style swordfish with mussels and clams ($23) are also big treats. Seafood is chef-owner Philip Guardione's specialty, clearly influenced by his native Sicily. He also once served as chef de cuisine at The Four Seasons in Milan. His swordfish is light, fresh and simple, delightful with an elegant, citrusy bottle of white, a Roero Arneis from Pace ($40). Aside from several other seafood options (much of it flown in from Sicily) is grilled lamb with caponata ($24) and Cornish hen with grilled mushrooms ($23). Piccola Cucina means "tiny kitchen" in Italian and at 300-square-feet the dining room is certainly minuscule, the size of a Manhattan studio apartment. Its size doesn't work against the inviting and stylish interior, with bottle-shaped Jonathan Adler lamps and Italian wallpaper with mocha circles on a light pearl background. There's even room enough for a bar with a few stools. Piccola Cucina displays the same sort of talent many New Yorkers possess, adept at making great use of a small space.
Piccola Cucina
184 Prince St., (212) 625-3200

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