“ Address: 144 Tullow Street / Carlow / Co. Carlow / Ireland / Tel: +353 (0)59 914 0366 „
Piccolo Italia is situated on the main shopping street of Carlow town, County Carlow, Ireland. I eat here every couple of months and have always enjoyed the food. As the name suggests it is a 'little Italy' with a subsequent Italian menu. It's not a large restaurant, I'd guess it seats around sixty diners, I have never seen it crowded. Having said that, I have never been there on a Friday or Saturday night, so it might get busy. The owner, Guisseppe, is often at hand to serve or make recommendations. His son and daughter in law often serve in here too. The menu is obviously based around Italian favourites and the quality and range of fish dishes is fairly impressive. Lobster is a speciality but I have never indulged, (my company would raise their collective eyebrows if I tried to put that on my expenses!) The steaks are a different matter and I have eaten good steaks here numerous times with various sauces on the side. The interior of the restaurant although small, is light and airy. Italian pictures line the walls and two water feature things are situated near the entrance. I say 'water feature things' because I have never seen them working and I can't work out what they are supposed to be. They look like large picture frames partly filled with water. (I think they either need fixing or removing because they add nothing to my appreciation of the decor except a mild puzzlement.) The tables are set with good linen and the chairs are comfortable. I hate it when tables are crowded together and the space is adequate here. On occasion when I have eaten here we have been given some of the most luscious olives to whet our appetites. This hasn't happened the last couple of times which is disappointing. I don't know whether it is because of economic cutbacks or they have just run out of them! (I hope they resume the olives soon, they were some of the nicest I have tasted!) Service is friendly and attentive with the staff often having time to chat or tell you what the best value dish is. I can be terribly indecisive at choosing what I want to eat and they have borne with my slowness to choose with great tolerance. (If I were a waiter a customer like me might drive me mad!) There is the usual background italian music which I find pleasant and not obtrusive. Usually light Italian opera if Dad is on duty, he sings along quite well too but I don't think he knows he is doing it! As the restaurant and toilets are all on the level and there is no step up from the entrance, wheelchair access is no problem and there is just enough room to manouevre between tables. There are items on the menu which are suitable for coeliac sufferers and they will do their best to cater for any special dietary needs. From memory I would say that about four of the main courses are suitable for vegetarians, I am not too sure about Vegans. Guiseppe prides himself on an award winning Italian wine list and will make suggestions as to which wine would make a good acompaniment to whatever you are eating. I rarely drink wine but one of my colleagues is a real Oenophile and he is always happy with what he gets! It seems expensive to me but as I say, I don't know enough to make anything but a guess. Some of the signature dishes which we have tried are * Vitello Tonnato - Freshly cooked tuna with a piquant sauce. Delicious but a little oily. * Cannelloni - Absolutely delicious, piping hot and extremely tasty, served with a lovely light olive bread. One of my favourites. * Tagliatelle Bolognese - A lovely meat and tomato sauce seved on fresh pasta. * Spaghetti alla Scoglio - I had this once but although it tasted good there were tiny bits of shell in it. (It was replaced and removed from the bill) * Filetto all Chiantigiana (Vino Rosso) Lovely luscious steak in red wine sauce. * Straccetti al Gorgonzola - I love gorgonzola and it did not overpower the other ingredients. * Pollo "Piccola Italia"- A firm and inexpensive favourite. Chicken with a herby sauce. I've just picked a few dishes I can remember to give you a 'taste' of what's on offer. As I said earlier in the review, I have never had a bad meal here and any problems have been dealt with immediately and fairly. Usually after the meal we have been treated to a glass of Limoncello. If you have never tried this liqueur, next time you have an Italian meal order some and have a taste, it is like drinking liquid sunshine and a perfect way to end a meal and freshen the pallet! Eating at the Piccolo Italia will set you back around 10 Euro for lunch and between 10 - 20 Euro on average for dinner. Which compares favourably with current restaurant prices in Carlow. More information about their extensive menu and opening hours can be found on this website. http://www.findarestaurant.ie/restaurantdetail.asp?restID=2700 It's certainly a place worth visiting if you are in the area. The only thing that slightly concerned me is that on our last visit we were given no complimentary starters or liqueurs and I left wondering if Guisseppe was out of sorts or if we had done something wrong. Still, once in a while can be forgiven and the meal was of the usual high standard. It won't stop me going back.