Chef Dan Butler steers Trolley Square’s Piccolina Toscana toward small-plate, sharing-style dining. Now, please pass the burrata.
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The unquestioned MVP of the winter pasta menu was ravioli alla brasata, drum-tight bundles filled with milled beef short rib. The filling was a neat touch—husky and rich—but it was a sweet varnish of mushroom demiglace that did the lifting by deepening and amplifying the beef’s woodsy notes. A plate of mezzaluna pasta stuffed with butternut squash wasn’t far behind, and it could have been even better had it not shared its DNA with pumpkin pie. Dustings of nutmeg and cinnamon soaked into a buttery sauce flecked with pine nuts, giving acorn squash-stuffed agnoloti a dessert-like note. Whether that was Jester’s intention, it was nonetheless delicious.
With so many small dishes and half-portions flying around, it was good to see Jester’s crew didn’t lose focus on larger plates. One, a juicy roasted pork loin, dripped with herby shimmer and hints of garlic from a perfect stuffing.
And on the snowy night, a glistening lamb shank indeed made its way to the table, hulking over a Gorgonzola risotto and a tiny pool of braising jus. Meltingly soft, rich threads of lamb tore apart like busted seams, gaining salty enrichment from the risotto.
Service was generally terrific—and amped, it would seem, from all the newness.
Taking center stage in the new pastry station was pastry chef Jayne Pawlikowski, who worked under Butler at Deep Blue before taking off to earn a culinary degree. She inherited an important job, considering she and her work are being showcased to encourage customers to order desserts. I imagine her gelati will do brisk business in warmer months, though I loved both I tried in mid-December—chocolate chunk-studded mocha, and a cinnamony oatmeal cookie flavor.
Jaws dropped when beholding her towering chocolate mousse, which was stacked atop a moist round of chocolate cake and flanked by a dollop of white chocolate cream. Yet nothing intoxicated quite like her pumpkin doughnuts. Nary an inch of plate was wasted, with rich caramel-butterscotch sauce on the side and doughnut holes crammed with cinnamon mousse. The doughnuts, all moist and cakey, with a crisp outside bite, hardly needed the help.
The meal ended as it began: with warm, comforting food done with precision and thought. Suddenly it felt like a doughnut night.