Flavor // Itsy bitsy teeny tasty

The petite, elegantly arranged dishes at chef Doug Flicker’s cozy new restaurant, Piccolo, at 43rd & Bryant can be summed up as this: small portions, big flavor.

If you’re famished and looking for a place to refuel, this is not the restaurant to pop into unless cost is no object, since plates of a few bites range from $7–$14. But if you’re looking for a dining experience, if you want to taste something you likely never have before, if you just plain want some high-quality, lovingly made and really good food, give this place a try.

I met with Flicker on Jan. 27, three years to the day after the closing of Auriga, the Hennepin Avenue restaurant he’s most remembered for. Some fans of Auriga have questioned Flicker about the return of some of its offerings, but the chef said that’s not part of the plan. He’s been there, done that, loved it and moved on.

At Piccolo, a tiny nook of a restaurant (it seats about 20) whose name is Italian for “small,” Flicker’s mission is this: to serve “moderately” sized meals that allow diners to enjoy a variety of flavors while eating more healthfully. At the same time, he wants his new venture to be a true neighborhood restaurant — the kind where the waitstaff remember your face, your favorite wine and what you like to eat.

Of course, he’ll encourage you to try something new. While I was there, he recommended three dishes. The first was something I’d never choose on my own: scrambled eggs with pickled pigs feet, truffle butter and parmigiano for $9.

“It’s kind of the perfect dish for what we wanted to do, where we take something that might not necessarily be familiar to somebody, serve it to them and I think, when they take that kind of risk and enjoy it, the reward is so much better than ordering something that they’re familiar with or know,” Flicker said.

He was right. The sharp taste of pickled pigs feet mingling with creamy scrambled eggs was something I apparently had been missing out on.

Equally unique tasting experiences followed with the next two dishes: potato gnocchi with white beans, guanciale and robiola cheese for $11 and sous vide beef shin with compressed figs, walnuts and horseradish for $14.

The potato dumplings were so tender and perfect I could’ve eaten a cereal bowl full of them and the fall-apart-on-your-fork beef shin had a down-home pot-roast quality that made it a perfect winter treat. Of course, I couldn’t stuff myself, which was probably for the best since I tend to leave restaurants overly full.

Becoming a member of the clean-plate club is no challenge at Piccolo; it’s what you get at a restaurant headed by a chef promoting healthier eating and reduced waste. The dishwashers should have it easy.

It’s not hard to spend a lot at this little restaurant, especially if you throw in a glass or two of wine, but if it’s new tastes you’re after, Piccolo delivers.

4300 Bryant Ave. S.
Hours: 5:30–10 p.m. Monday and Wednesday–Saturday, 5:30–9 p.m. Sunday