Once I set foot into Piccolo, I almost forgot that it was cold and rainy Dundee waiting for me outside and not some quaint Italian village.
Ever since I moved to the city almost two years ago, I’ve planned to try Piccolo. It’s not like Italian food is hard to find, any takeaway can get you a pizza and pasta is a simple classic to include on any menu.
But something about the Perth Road restaurant has always stood out to me, maybe the Italian flag proudly showcasing the cuisine or the low windows you can just about peek into from the street to see the cosy interior and happy diners.
I felt convinced, even without first scrutinising the menu, that this was no boring Italian place with mediocre pizza and overcooked pasta.
As my friend, foodie and former colleague Helene was visiting Dundee from Norway for the first time, I figured the time was right to finally visit Piccolo. Surely this would impress her enough to come back over to see me again in no time.
To no one’s surprise, the late February night we headed along was icy cold and we could not wait to get into the warm restaurant.
It was even smaller than I imagined, with the kitchen immediately to our right as we stepped in. A lovely waiter greeted us and hung our coats in a small nook behind the bar before showing us to our table in the back of the venue.
We immediately felt comfortable in the homely and comfortable restaurant. When we arrived half an hour after opening, just one of the 10 tables was full. It meant we could look around and take in the decor without accidentally staring at other diners.
In fact, we were so wowed by Piccolo’s looks that we didn’t realise our waiter left us a drinks list and that our menus were rolled up in front of us. After turning our attention to the menu rather than the space and giving us a rundown of the specials board, he left us with a smile to decide what to order.
We were presented with a choice of five starters and five mains. No matter our choice, a two-course meal was £32 and three courses were £39. One of the specials came with an upcharge, but as neither Helene or I eat meat we didn’t have to worry about that.
She had her eyes, stomach and heart set on the mushroom bruschetta starter, so I opted for the crespelle – a small folded pancake. Thankfully, we both eat fish, as our options would have been very limited had we been full-on veggies. The other starters were a Tuscan chicken liver pate, buffalo mozzarella rolled in prosciutto ham, and king prawn Gamberi alla buara.
Helene ordered king prawn linguini for her main course, while I went for king prawn risotto with seabass. I remembered to ask if the risotto only had fish and no meat in it, which it had. That made our waiter’s alarm bells ring, as I had forgotten to ask to have the vegetarian version of the crespelle. He came back to confirm I wanted the spinach and ricotta filling instead of mortadella, and I’m very grateful he saved my meal.
Ahead of our starters we got our drinks, a medium glass of the house red wine (£5.45) for Helene and a glass of lemonade (£3) for me. Our food arrived very quickly and was beautifully presented.
My spinach and ricotta crespelle was beautifully presented, with basil on top and melted cheese across the plate. The crespelle itself almost felt like a thin pizza crust, especially with the cheese and tomato sauce on top. As I took my first bite I was surprised to find the spinach filling was cold, as everything else was hot. Despite that – the flavours were strong, and all the elements of the dish went well together.
As a mushroom lover, Helene’s bruschetta gave me a tinge of food envy. This too was well presented, but the looks didn’t take away from the portion size as it was piled full of shrooms, spinach and cherry tomatoes. She praised her starter, saying it was cooked to perfection and had a good balance of flavours.
Our plates were cleared and the dulcet sounds of Fly Me to the Moon flowed through the restaurant. I felt no need to go to the moon though, as the food and atmosphere had already transported me to Italy. This wasn’t a normal Saturday night anymore, I was convinced I was on a Mediterranean holiday.
The next course arrived impressively quickly, and it further fed my vacation fantasy. I can hand on heart say this is the best risotto I have ever tasted. Made with risoni – a type of pasta – rather than rice, it was deliciously creamy and melted in the mouth. The seabass, king prawns and asparagus were all perfectly cooked and went beautifully together.
Helene’s linguini was topped with lots of pan seared king prawns and basil. She said it was perfectly cooked, the prawns added to the dish well and the amount was spot on. It also paired well with her wine, which she said was very good. Sprinkled with chilli flakes, it also had a wee bit of a kick to it.
We were ready to go all out and properly treat ourselves. The dessert menu also had five choices, tiramisu, crespelle, delizia al limone, affogato and gelato. As much as I enjoy an affogato, I thought tiramisu would be the natural choice here. Helene seized the opportunity to finally have the crespelle, with chocolate sauce and ice cream rather than spinach.
The tiramisu looked incredible but tasted even better. All the rich flavours came through at different points, first the whipped cream, the sponge, subtle chocolate and lastly the coffee liqueur. It was almost too much after the flavourful meal, but after almost licking the bowl I was left feeling satisfied, but not painfully full.
Once again Helene complimented the presentation of her dish, but after she had her first bite said she was in heaven. It had the perfect mix of ice cream, chocolate sauce and crespelle. She used her spoon to get every last bit of that dessert eaten.
We both left happy and full, practically skipping our way home talking about how good our meal was.
The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, having us both believing we’d left Scotland and travelled to the Italian coast for the evening.
Piccolo’s menu is small, and while it does mean that the dishes it offers are spectacular, there isn’t much choice if you have a dietary requirement. Eating fish meant we had a bit more choice, and the menu states to ask for assistance if you have allergy requests.
If I ever feel in dire need of a holiday but struggle to get away, I will probably head back to Piccolo and pretend I’m in Italy again.
Address: 210 Perth Road, Dundee DD1 4JY
T: 01382 201419
Price: £86.45 for two three-course dinners, one glass of wine and one soft drink
*The restaurant was contacted to get professional imagery taken, as is usual with our published reviews, but declined to arrange for one of our photographers to visit.