Piccolo Forno in Lawrenceville is a rustic Italian restaurant serving up wood-fired pizzas and pastas. This place has been around for over 12 years, meaning they were in Lawrenceville before Lawrenceville was cool. We hadn't visited in several years, so we were eager to see if it was still as good as we remembered. In short? Yes!
A BYOB Gem in Lawrenceville
Two important things to know about Piccolo Forno are that they are BYOB and they only take reservations for parties of five or more – so be prepared for a wait, especially on weekends. If you find yourself having to wait, we highly recommend checking out their sister bar Grapperia, located through a separate entrance behind Piccolo Forno.
The menu at Piccolo Forno is pretty simple with a selection of appetizers, pizzas, pastas, and panini– it's the high quality ingredients and unique flavor combinations that make the food special. The appetizers range from familiar ones like buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, to new ones like vegetable gratins and radicchio salads.
Best to Order a Bit of Everything
The crostini di polenta caught our eye so we decided to start with those as an appetizer. This was an interesting take on crostini as instead of slices of bread, squares of baked polenta were used. The dish came with three squares, each with a different topping: gorgonzola, wild mushrooms cooked with red wine, and a roasted tomato and onion jam.
The gorgonzola one had a strong funk from the cheese, which wasn't our thing but if you like blue cheeses you will love this one. The mushroom crostini was good, but our favorite was the one with tomato and onion jam. The tomatoes were sweet and almost caramelized, and they complemented the corn flavor of the crostini well. Overall, the crostini were great, but we would have loved them even more if there was a contrasting crunchy texture like there is with bread crostini.
We had a hard time choosing our entrees from the several dozen pizza and pasta options. The pizza offerings include a simple margherita as well as many veggie and meat combinations with traditional Italian toppings like prosciutto, speck, artichokes, and roasted red peppers. The pasta options range from classics like lasagna and canneloni to seasonal dishes with unique pasta types and sauces.
We decided to pick the best of both worlds and ordered both a pizza and a pasta. The capricciosa pizza was topped with crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, mushroom, artichoke, olives, prosciutto cotto, and an egg over easy. The crust on the pizza was delightfully thin and speckled with char, just like you'd expect from a wood-fired Neopolitan style pizza. The toppings were a good balance of brininess (artichokes and olives), acidity (tomatoes), and hardiness (mushrooms, prosciutto, and egg).
One thing to note about this style of pie, if you're not familiar with it, is that the middle tends to get a little saucy/soupy and hard to pick up to eat. It's much easier and neater to eat this kind of pie with a knife and fork- especially the capricciosa with its myriad of toppings.
For our pasta entree we ordered the tortelloni di granchio. The pasta was house-made and stuffed with a crab and ricotta filling, while an orange-tarragon butter and bottarga sauce went on top. The pasta itself wasn't as thin or tender as a commercially made pasta, but it had a great flavor and we appreciate that they make it in house. The tortelloni filling was sweet and creamy with the crab and ricotta, and the sauce was such an interesting counterpoint. It was buttery with hints of citrus and anise, and the bottarga gave it saltiness and brininess. We'd never had bottarga before, but our server explained that it is salted and cured fish roe.
In a neighborhood where restaurants come and go nearly every week, Piccolo Forno is a true Lawrenceville gem with delicious Tuscan cuisine that has stood the test of time.
Piccolo Forno is located at 3801 Butler Street.
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