PICCOLO IN NAME ONLY

PICCOLO CUCINA MEANS SMALL KITCHEN, YET THIS ITAL­IAN HAS A SIZE­ABLE REP­U­TA­TION TH­ESE DAYS, WITH A LO­CAL FOL­LOW­ING TO MATCH

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

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.

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