Chef Dan Butler steers Trolley Square’s Piccolina Toscana toward small-plate, sharing-style dining. Now, please pass the burrata.
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Prices small plates:
$5-$8, pastas: $8-$24, entrées: $13-$32
Burrata, carciofini dorati, ravioli alla brasata, braised lamb shank
Snow fell lightly outside the windows behind where Dan Butler stood. Wearing a green Mister Rogers sweater, he stretched his arms onto the shoulders of a few regular customers seated for dinner. Holiday wreaths, aglow with lights, lined the glass, and trays of glistening slow-roasted pork belly and steaming, aromatic fettuccine Bolognese zipped by on the arms of waiters. If someone had snapped a picture, the moment could’ve been the 2010 Toscana Christmas Card.
“It feels like a braised lamb shank kind of night,” the diner next to me piped.
It did indeed. And if the warm, soothing vibes inside Piccolina Toscana that night steered customers toward something slow-cooked and rustic, I’d wager Dan Butler would consider that night a success. Cultivating comfort has always been the name of Butler’s game.
Toscana, a 20-year-old Trolley Square anchor, rebooted in October with new floors, ceilings, house-cured meats and a new ’tude—smaller, simpler, more intimate. A new menu features a dozen or so small plates (“Italian tapas”), and just about every entrée or pasta dish can be ordered half-size. The new decor is more stark, certainly, and neater than before. A bank of cushy green booths line one wall. Ornate, circular light fixtures dangle above. The opposing wall features canvases swathed in browns, grays and rifle greens, a signal of Piccolina’s minimalist ethic. The idea, I reckon, is to create an air of openness.
“There are no more exclusive restaurants,” Butler says. “We don’t want people to feel like they have to eat soup-salad-entrée-dessert. The form I think restaurants will move toward is appealing to as many people as possible.”
Page 2: Cultivating Comfort, continues...