One of the little surprises I got to experience during my trip to New York was dinner with my sister, Nancy, and her husband, Vic. Vic heads up Boston Pianos, a subsidiary of Steinway and Sons pianos, and he's in New York quite a bit at the company office. It turned out that Nan accompanied him on this trip. They normally stay out in Queens near the Steinway headquarters, but they were in Manhattan for a long Columbus Day weekend.
On Sunday night, we met up at the Roosevelt Hotel and walked over to a little Italian restaurant called Fabio Piccolo Fiore on 44th St. between 2nd and 3rd. (see map) The restaurant was highly recommended to Vic by Rocco and Vinnie (how's that for real Italian names?) at Trattoria L'Incontro, a superb Italian restaurant Vic frequents in Astoria near the Steinway headquarters. (see map)
The chef and co-owner, Fabio Hakill is half-Sicilian and half-Egyptian and hails from Rome. For years, Fabio was a chef at the famous Park Side Restaurant out in Queens. (see map) Along with co-owner Nick Nubile, Fabio Piccolo Fiore (which means "small flower" in Italian) opened earlier this year.
We had reservations at 7:30, but since it was a Sunday night it wasn't all that busy. As we were seated, Vic told the maitre d', "Rocco and Vinnie recommended this place." Moments later, Fabio Hakill appeared at our table introducing himself. Vic is a lot like me as this was another instance of "not what you know, but who you know".
Even though Fabio Piccolo Fiore's menu is quite extensive, his forte is allowing his customers to "customize" their meals. Since each item on the menu looked so good, we kinda wanted to try a little bit of everything. Fabio said he'd make us a special salad, and then he would make a pasta course based on his Fettuccine alla Nicola - fettuccine with ground veal, mixed with sun dried tomatoes, shittake mushrooms with a white wine truffle sauce.
For our main course, Vic got the veal piccata, Nan went with the seafood special that evening, and I went with the Osso Bucco that even though it wasn't on the menu, Fabio said he had one cooking. My colleague, Todd, got the Osso Bucco the night before at Cascina and he was somewhat disappointed in it. But if Fabio was willing bring one out that he had cooking, even though it wasn't on the menu, I had to have it.
First of all, the salads were very good, but the pasta dish Fabio made for us was out of this world. The pasta was cooked perfectly, there was a hint of spiciness to the sauce and the ground veal was a pleasant touch to the overall taste. It was just killer.
While we were waiting for our main entrees, Vic, Nan and I got into a mild argument as to the correct pronunciation of "trattoria" - which is a small Italian restaurant. Vic and I both said the correct way to say it was "tra-TOR-ria", while Nancy said, "Tra-tor-REE-ah." We got our waiter to come over and we asked him which version was the correct pronunciation.
He said, "In Italy, it's 'Tra-tor-REE-ah'. But in the U.S., they usually pronounce it 'Tra-TOR-ria'."
So we were both right.
The waiter explained that a trattoria was usually an outgrowth of an Italian cucina, a big kitchen that people, generally farmers, would come into for a meal. He said most of the meals would consist of farm raised or local game that people would bring in for all to eat. I said, "Oh, sort of like a French auberge."
He said, "Exactly like an auberge. There wouldn't be a menu and people just made what they brought."
After the waiter left, Vic looked at me across the table and he said, "Will, how do you know this shit? Aren't you the same kid who when you were 15 years old was so happy because we gave you McDonalds gift certificates at Christmas?"
We had a good laugh at that one, because, yes, I am one and the same kid. But that was a long time ago. However, I did eat at an auberge in France when I was there. Click here to see that entry.
Our main entrees came soon thereafter and I have to tell you my Osso Bucco was just outstanding. The meat was tender and lean, it just fell off the shank with little prodding from my fork. The flavor was just mind-blowing. It was, by far, the best meal I had while I was in New York City.
Nan and Vic both loved their meals, as well. I told him to tell Vinnie and Rocco back at Trattoria L'Incontro it was an excellent suggestion.
The bill with tip came to a little over $300 bucks with the wine and drinks we had. Vic and I split it and we didn't care - we were in New York eating great food.
Fabio Piccolo Fiore isn't on the radar of many of the food aficionados in New York, but I can guarantee you it won't be long before it is. In doing some research for this entry, I found that Fabio's forte is making food items that are "off" the menu for his customers. That's almost unheard of with many of the other established Italian restaurants in New York.
The food was great, service was impeccable and the atmosphere was very classy. Fabio Piccolo Fiore isn't a cheap place to eat, but it's a place you should treat yourself to if you go to New York.