PICCOLO IN NAME ONLY
PICCOLO CUCINA MEANS SMALL KITCHEN, YET THIS ITALIAN HAS A SIZEABLE REPUTATION THESE DAYS, WITH A LOCAL FOLLOWING TO MATCH
at with us and be happy.” It’s a simple, upbeat message.
Piccolo Cucina is no newcomer to the Cairns dining scene.
It has in recent months taken on a new persona with an ownership change.
Cheerier and more welcoming, it seems to be fulfilling its prophecy. We did feel happy as we left Piccolo last Friday evening. The boss, Keiran O’Connor, while not Italian himself, has run successful Italian restaurants at Palm Cove and does hire Italian staff. Our waiter tonight, however, oozes Gallic charm.
So much so, the ladies-only tables (and there are a few) are all a-twitter. Our two female neighbours are endeavouring to lure him out for a night on the town, but alas, are foiled. He is already spoken for and laughs off the French lothario stereotyping.
It makes for entertaining viewing, but only enthrals for so long before we’re between courses and hoping mains are on the way.
The place is busy and we’re monitoring how long we think they will take by a large nearby table, which hasn’t yet received their meals.
Having started with some excellent bruschetta, we’re managing, in an anticipatory kind of way. Such a simple starter, bruschetta, yet so often it doesn’t come off well.
This one was perfection, crisp garlicky bread heaped with chopped Roma tomatoes, fresh basil and sweet balsamic dressing, washed down with a glass of Rapture brute bubbles from Clare Valley, it has set the stage admirably.
I am keeping things simple with a Bufala pizza. Sometimes it is not all about fancy plating or lairy ingredients and this is one of those moments.
If you get the simple stuff right, you stand a better chance of doing the elaborate well.
This pizza is the real deal, a thin base with light crisp outer crust, a rich tomato topping, fresh buffalo mozzarella all melty and runny, along with a few fresh basil leaves, that’s it. It is well worth the wait. I even receive my own little pizza cutter, to ensure I get the biggest slices.
My date is also taking a straightforward approach with a dish of just six ingredients – spaghetti with prawns, spinach, chilli, olive oil and garlic. Make that seven, as a waitress has come past and grated fresh parmesan generously all over the dish.
As we’re sharing, side plates are offered and there is plenty to go around. You can have the pasta as an entree or main serve and this main is substantial with eight big prawns.
While visually appealing, the prawns are a let-down, neither firm nor juicy, they could only be described as mushy.
Optimists, we think at first it may just be the odd one, but no, they’re all the same.
Better prawns would have made this an outstanding dish and from the overall quality here, we expect it is just an unlucky mistake. The al dente pasta is lusciously satisfying. Chilli oil for extra oomph is placed on the table and it certainly takes things up a notch.
We’ve moved on to Antinori Santa Cristina sangiovese merlot from Tuscany.
It’s great to see a good selection of Italian wines on this extensive and creative wine list.
An exquisite dessert of vanilla panna cotta with spiced berries and Licks gelato, liberally sprinkled with toasted pistachios, is enthusiastically devoured.