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New Italian eatery, Piccola Cucina, opens in historic Boerum Hill

“Can you believe the majority of a chef’s time is spent in the kitchen?” chef Philip Guardone asked while looking around the salon of his new restaurant in Boerum Hill.

It was opening night at Piccola Cucina, and the place was packed with people. Guardone intentionally designed the new eatery so he would be able to come out into the restaurant to get a feel of the atmosphere, greet the clients and inquire about how they like their meal. 

piccola cucina guestsDiners dig in to their meals at Piccola Cucina in Boerum Hill. Photo by Brooklyn Paper

After opening three hit restaurants in Manhattan, the chef’s new eatery on 141 Nevins St. officially opened on May 8, after a couple of soft openings. Piccola Cucina features a fresh, hand-pulled pasta-making station on the front counter, where noodles hang along the wall to dry. 

The second point of focus at the front of the restaurant is a mighty espresso machine that ties the Italian cuisine priorities together. Machine and the pasta-making station are surrounded by an inviting bar where Sicilian wine is poured and drinks are mixed. At the back of the restaurant, a variety of bottles frame a small gap that lets diners take a peek into the hectic and ironically not-so “piccola” kitchen. 

wines at piccola cucinaPiccola Cucina offers a wide variety of Sicilian wines. Photo by Brooklyn Paper

Piccola Cucina has an eclectic and casual feel to it. Some of the tables feature graphic designs from the 1950s, with a whole wall covered in posters with the same style.  Another wall displays a collection of magazines that have featured the chef.  The lights hanging from the ceiling above the tables are built into antique tea cups, but most of the illumination comes from candles. The plates are handpainted, and there are many long tables for large groups. Guardone’s chosen soundtrack for the restaurant is classic rock.

“We went for rustic-modern because we wanted it to be comfortable, to feel like a home,” said Guardone. Even the menu covers have a watercolor of a house, and at the back of each, there is a different pasta recipe including gnocchi and tagliatelle.

That cozy, homestyle feeling also influenced Guardone’s choice of location on quiet Nevins Street.

decorations at picola cuccinaThe wall decor at Picola Cuccina is eclectic and vintage. Photo by Brooklyn Paper

“I didn’t want to be on an avenue, I wanted people to be here because they have the intention to come and not just to find any place to eat,” he said.

The chef takes his customer’s wishes very seriously – he opened Piccola Cucina in Montana after one regular told him he would love it there, and that he should open a restaurant in the area. Guardone took it to heart — he loved that he had to cross Yellowstone National Park to get there, and he built a dream vacation home on top of his restaurant in Ox Pasture. 

After another customer from Brooklyn suggested Guardone open a restaurant in the borough, he realized he could get on his motorcycle and he would be at this new spot after a short ride. Historic Boerum Hill was the perfect spot for a rustic Italian restaurant — Piccolo Cucina offers private patios, indoor and outdoor seating, and a long menu featuring all kinds of Italian cuisine: grilled octopus, schnitzel Milanese, and much more. 

plates at piccola cucinaThe plates at the eatery are hand-painted. Photo by Brooklyn Paper

Some of the menu’s dishes will change seasonally, but the tiramisu made with silky mascarpone, puffy and crispy lady fingers and a lot of cinnamon made by the side of each table will stay year-round. 

“Everything is handpicked here,” said the chef referring to the place, the drinks and the food.