Sergio Pennacchio at Piccola Trattoria says his fare is not from the north or south but "Italian all over."
They’ll have you with the butter. At Piccola Trattoria, the butter is whipped and redolent with sundried tomatoes and hazelnut, arriving in a dainty, chicken-shaped glass dish on the rough-hewn yet polished table. This 21-year-old restaurant has come of age with tasteful yet slightly playful panache. Danny Pennacchio ran the restaurant from 1994 until his brother, Catering Chef Sergio Pennacchio, took over in August 2013, and transformed the single dining room of 34 seats into a roomy, elegant-rustic space. Pennacchio’s friend created those tables with reclaimed wood, as well as a large mirror that succeeds in its illusion of additional space. The original tin ceiling, painted cream, creates height.
Like the friendly and knowledgeable service, the ingredients are first-rate. Pennacchio changes the menu often, sometimes twice a week. “It's not northern or southern; it's Italian all over, but adjusted for the American palate,” Pennacchio says. Start with a three-variety bruschetta boat with grilled toasts placed on a slate sideboard: ricotta crowned with quince jam, Caprese tomato, and the best one—yellow pepper and basil bursting with fresh flavor.
Chianti classic pairs nicely with the braised beef and veal meatball stuffed with three cheeses. A delicious chopped salad was punctuated with Gorgonzola and marinated tomatoes, while fettuccine con nocciole with butternut squash, roasted hazelnuts, and cream sauce was so decadent, it was spine-tingling. In a somewhat French-Italian fusion, Pennacchio created a steaming pot of mussels, calamari, shrimp, scallops, pasta, and tomato sauce, sealed with a flaky pastry crust that’s a pleasure to crack open. Skirt steak turned tender under the chef’s touch as well.
Pennacchio plays with farmers’-market fruit and other whimsies when concocting brûlée varieties, such as Nutella with mascarpone cream dusted with crumbled pistachio, or a simpler, but no less striking, espresso brûlée.
41 Cedar St, Dobbs Ferry (914) 674-8427