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Sicilian Sensation Piccola Cucina Finally Lands in Brooklyn

The sixth location of Piccola Cucina also has two rooms for rent above the restaurant.

Piccola Cucina opened its first location in Manhattan in 2007. It was soon joined by two more spots in Manhattan, then a pop-up in Montana, and another in Ibiza, Spain.

Finally, owner Philip Guardione has made it to Brooklyn: Piccola Cucina Casa opened in Boerum Hill at the end of April. 

Guardione said he is excited about the expansion and is focused on creating something cozier than his other fine-dining locations.

“This is the message I want to send right now after almost 18 years … [for the restaurant to] feel like home,” Guardione said.

Guardione, who was born in Catania, Italy, and grew up in Sicily, studied hospitality and worked with Italian great Sergio Mei and in Parisian kitchens before coming to the United States. He came to New York just to visit and ended up staying. Since opening his first Piccola Cucina, he has focused on providing authentic, high-quality Sicilian food at all his locations.

Apartments above Piccola Cucina Casa. Photo: Hannah Berman for BK Reader

The Brooklyn iteration is called Piccola Cucina Casa, in part, because it is the first location to feature a “casa.” There are two apartments available for short-term rental located above the restaurant. 

“I take this building; I tell [the broker] I want to do in top part Airbnb,” Guardione said. “When the tourist[s are] coming to New York, I want to give the Italian design from the kitchen — everything Italian, you know. … So maybe from on top you come down, do breakfast together. So this [is] one home — [it’s] like home, right?”

The rental apartments above the restaurant go for $4,300 to $4,500 per month, and are only available to rent via email.

Piccola Cucina Casa is warmer and more relaxed than you might expect from an upscale restaurant chain. The dining room is intimate, with tables tucked close together. Walls are covered with bottles of Sicilian wine, and the kitchen bustles in the low light. This is all in the name of tradition, which Guardione takes seriously. 

“All our companies do traditional food,” he said. 

Guardione is careful to stipulate that he wants to make food that tastes traditional, without being as heavy as a classic Italian meal. To achieve this effect, he employs newer cooking techniques to create lighter dishes.

“I don't want people to stay there when you go home for the night, you know, digesting all the food,” he said. “So I use the new technique, but don't forget the tradition.”

Unlike his other restaurant concepts, Piccola Cucina Casa doesn’t focus on just Sicilian food. On the new menu, every dish is linked to the Italian region where it originated, and there’s a real range: Cacio e Pepe hailing from Lazio in Central Italy, fusilloni with scampi langoustine from Puglia in the south, and a Bolognese lasagna from Emilia-Romagna in the north.

That said, there are plenty of Sicilian specialties, including the tuna spaghetti with pistachio sauce, a typical Sicilian flavor pairing.

“The tuna is raw fish,” Guardione explained. “You cut [it] like spaghetti, and then you do pistachio sauce on top.”

In this process, the tuna becomes more sashimi-like, an elegant, lighter reimagining of spaghetti. 

Gnocchi con pesto di pistacchio (bottom) and agnolotti ossobuco (top). Photo: Hannah Berman for BK Reader

The starters are delightful — truffle lovers should try the polpette della nonna — but there’s a reason the largest section of the menu is devoted to pasta. All pasta is made in-house; there’s actually a whole counter devoted to it as you enter the space. 

In addition, several dishes are made to order at the table by Guardione’s waitstaff, many of whom have immigrated from Italy.

The tiramisu is a particular treat to watch and is served in branded Piccola Cucina teacups. Customers get to see every step of the process, from soaking ladyfingers in coffee to layering the mascarpone into the mug. It’s finished with a showy dash of chocolate powder and served with a flourish.

Piccola Cucina Casa is located at 141 Nevins St., and open Mon–Fri 5pm–10pm and Sat–Sun 11:30am–10pm.

Hannah Berman

About the Author: Hannah Berman

Hannah Berman is a Brooklyn-born freelance writer. She writes about food, culture, and nonprofit news, and runs her own grumpy food newsletter called Hannah is Eating.
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