Piccolo Nido, North End, Boston (long)
The crowds and restless waits on Hanover St gently pushed me into more tranquil territory a couple of blocks away. I postponed my original plans for Pomodoro, and eased comfortably into Piccolo Nido.
If nothing else, I love the fact that I could get seated and served right away at prime time on a Friday. But the cooking gave me more to be glad about. The food relies on classic, straightforward flavor combinations backed up by a remarkable finesse in timing, where every component of every dish was cooked to the right texture.
The crespelle was a lovely (eye-) opener -- very light, with spots of crispness playing wonderfully against suppleness. The flavors work well together. Inside, a puree of mushrooms, wild and woodsy; outside, a dark flavored tomato sauce, whose thin liquid texture held impressive smoky hints, almost like a very refined bbq sauce.
I got a half order of risotto with shrimp and asparagus (they agreed easily and readily to a half order, even though it was not offered on the menu). Every grain of arborio articulated tenderness and flavor. The base was tomatoey, (it recalled a rich silky bisque) that held up the shrimp and asparagus. The shrimp had arrived at that perfect level of firmness, not pasty or soft, but still possessing a delightful springiness. The asparagus, not to be outdone, displayed a sharp vegetable crunch.
The fish of the day was sole dressed in a classic fashion that never goes out of style: lemon, butter and capers, with some chopped tomatoes for colour for a light fruity bit of tang. On the side, a melange of vegetables with a light film of butter and some roasted potatoes. The sole itself was dreamy as it melted on the palate, giving off clean impeccable flavor. On the delicate fish, there was also an almost intangible savory caramelization that made it's emphermal crispness felt as the fish dissolved on the tongue. This was truly delectation.
Dessert was a satisfactory tiramisu.
Pre-tip cost: about $55, including a glass of house white (an easygoing pinot grigio) and tax.