Halifax: Piccolo Mondo
Piccolo Mondo is an Italian restaurant that has been on Argyle St. near Neptune Theater for over 10 years. It has doubled in size from its original incarnation and now features a space that is essentially 2 rooms. The decor is pleasant with the only jarring note being a large painted mural on the side wall of one of the rooms that is a bit cheesy. Large windows overlook Argyle which brightens the space and can make for an entertaining street scene if you're seated to be able to take advantage of it.
I have been to PM numerous times over the years and have always held it in high regard. Lunching there yesterday I saw nothing to change that, with one exception that has always been the case in virtually every visit I've made to the place.
We were a party of 7 and were seated comfortable at a trio of tables assembled together -- the tables being topped using black granite, which certainly provides an upscale look. Service was provided by a young lady with a very authentic and charming Italian accent. She did her best but her efforts were undermined by a painfully slow kitchen, which has been the one constant problem with the place. It is virtually impossible to get out of PM at lunch in under an hour if you order from their full menu as we did. I can understand that in a kitchen that is making complex dishes from scratch, but I would be helpful to note the time issue on either the menu itself of by way of advice from the server.
The food, when it arrived, was wonderful as always. One advisory: having done a little research beforehand, several reviewers noted their signature dish as being gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. Three of us ordered that, and all three of us left more than half of it on our plates. It is very good, but just overpoweringly rich, and is probably better suited in a small portion as an appetizer. I know I wished I had tried something else in retrospect. Having invested over two hours to get to that point, we had no time to investigate desserts or even coffee unfortunately.
Piccolo Mondo is ideal if you are not in a hurry and would like to have a relaxing and/or romantic meal over a lengthy session. The atmosphere, food, and overall ambiance are great. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time.
I was one of a party of five a few months back, and not particularly impressed with this restaurant. I did taste the gorgonzola gnocchi from a friend, which was very good, and wished i'd ordered it instead. A couple at our table did have meat dishes which they also said were good. I do not eat meat, so i can not attest to that one !
I ordered an appetizer of some sort of prawn salad , which sounded great on the menu. When it came out it was HUGE, looking like they had dumped an entire bag of very large spinach on the plate, with a couple of slices of portobello, and about three or four small unshelled shrimp. This thing was hard enough to tackle with all that spinach, but was so underdressed that it did little to wilt it. Very very dry,little flavor, i think i ended up dressing it myself with more oil at the table. I also do not like to fight with my food in a restaurant, and i don't know what was up with those prawns, but i never did get them fully out of their shells, and half of the meat stayed in. I had expected a nice twist of well-dressed greens , and was definitly underwhelmed with this one.
But hey, it's an Italian restaurant, so i thought that the portobello or porcini mushroom pasta that i'd ordered would definitly wow me. Not so much.. Nothing necessarily wrong with it, but if i'm paying about $20 for a small portion of pasta in an Italian restaurant, i'd like to not leave the restaurant thinking i could have made much better at home. Kind of bland.
I didn't even bother with desserts...i can only remember seeing tarts and cheesecakes when i'd hoped to see more authentic Italian...maybe even some cannoli...which i enjoy, and have never made at home.
I've had far better meals in the Halifax area. Just my two cents worth !!