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Really good Italian in Manchester, NH

We found ourselves in Manchester, NH at lunch time on a Tuesday. One of us had been reading Chowhound posts for Manchester and thought to try the Piccola Italia Ristorante for lunch. It was great! As we entered a woman came in at the same time. She excused herself as she manuevered to ask a question, which was, "Do you still have the eggplant appetizer?" which they did. We checked a couple of BBQ joints in the area and decided to come back and have Italian instead. Needless to say, we tried the eggplant - very good. We had veal cacitore and veal piccata, both with Ceasar salads. Some of the best veal dishes we've ever had. This place is on our list for a repeat visit.

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  1. The appetizer you refer to is called "Della Nona" on their menu. I like it so much I have made attempts to recreate the dish at home several times... coming pretty close after some trial and error.

    It's thinly sliced eggplant (the long way), egg wash, breaded and pan fried. Then rolled around a filling of ricotta and other cheeses. Placed in baking dish, topped with a good tomato sauce, then baked for a while. That's my 30 second version...but the great thing about this dish is that it lends itself to a great deal of personal influence. I didn't feel like it was getting good with it until 3-4 times making it. The most time consuming part of this dish is drying the eggplant slices and pan frying them.... without that there's not much to it.

    Piccola Italia is a good Italian restaurant...for Italian my favorite around Manchester.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dave B

      Another (English) name for this is "Eggplant Rollatini." I've seen similar in a couple of Italian restaurants in Salem (Polcari's comes immediately to mind; I think the other one is Trattoria Amalfi, but I could be mistaken).

      That appetizer is one of my wife's favorite dishes. The recipe you describe is pretty close to the traditional way of creating the dish. I'd mix the Ricotta cheese with some Parmesan, shredded Mozarella, and also mix in a raw egg (for consistency), some chopped fresh Italian Parsley and maybe a little bit of chopped basil for color, and a few red pepper flakes for a bit of zest. Of course, everybody has their own tweaks for this sort of thing. [smile]

    2. We did Brothers Restaurant on South Willow a few weeks ago. It was on a map in our hotel room so it wasn't a scientific search. We had pizza and calzone plus Caesar salad. These were worth trying and the service was excellent.

      1. lar3ry, I didn't get into recipe details for this dish initially... I do add other cheeses and herbs, but I have not tried adding egg to help bind the filling mixture.... I'll give it a shot.

        This discussion reminded me that there is a newer Italian restaurant in Nashua with some staff who came from Piccola, and the food is similar in it's excellent way. They have a similar dish with a different name I can't recall.

        For lovers of Italian food in the Nashua area I highly recommend they try this place... it's in a small strip mall on Amherst St. if heading west it's on the right side, I just can't think of what other businesses are right there with it to help in finding it...

        Cucina Toscana
        427 Amherst Street

        In the Nashua area I also like Ya Mama's (actually Merrimack). I think anyone who loves the food at Piccola will also love Cucina Toscana.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Dave B

          I agree about Ya Mama's. I remember when it was in its old location on Canal Street where Sabor Brasil is now. The food was great. I've been to the new location once, and the food was just as good. Unfortunately, it was a longer drive for lunch (I used to work at Digital/Compaq/HP on Spit Brook), so I didn't go there much after it moved.

          I'm going to be on 101A this weekend helping my daughter move to college (FPC), and if I see Cucina Toscana, I'll give it a try.

          As for the egg for binding, I have to admit that it's my wife's method. She has Italian heritage and learned all her Italian cooking secrets from her late mother.

          1. re: lar3ry

            I too really like Cucina Toscana. It is in the strip mall right across from Building 19.

            The eggplant dish there is called Eggplant al Pomodoro.

            Mon-Thur 11:30-9:30
            Fri 11:30-10:00
            Sat Noon-10:00
            Sun 3:00-9:30

            The "singing waiter" from Piccolo used to be there too, but I haven't seen him there for a while.

            I used to like Pizzaco a lot, but now like this place better.

        2. I agree about Piccola. The veal dishes are my favorites. The eggplant appetizer I actually preferred at Colosseum in Salem.
          Ya Mama's is also great for veal, but their pasta tends to be served with too much sauce for my taste; for some lighter dishes I'd recommend Pizzaco on DW Highway in So. Nashua.

          1. I had the Veal Parmesan at Ya Mama's a few weeks ago and it was excellent. Cucina Toscana is a great find--the owner waits the tables and really knows his stuff. The shrimp scampi appetizer is a standout. Haven't been to Piccola Italia in a while, but if it's good enough for Wolf Blitzer...he was sitting at the next table during the last primary.