Since it opened in 2005, Piccolo Forno, this ever-changing Lawrenceville destination at 3801 Butler Street, has given its customers a unique dining experience. In its early days it wasn’t easy to find a parking spot, and with Lawrenceville’s star growing brighter with each coming year, this task has only become more difficult. If it wasn’t such a damn great place to eat, I would never spend the time it takes to park the car.
With that in mind, I’ve given up trying to eat in Lawrenceville on the weekends, due to this constant hustle and bustle. Nothing warms a Pittsburgh soul more than the knowledge that our city is filled with eager customers and loyal citizens, but the fight for a parking spot can become a bit overwhelming. Nevertheless,unable to resist my desire for a delicious meal,  I found myself walking through the front door of Piccolo Forno thinking about a few of the entrees I’ve previously enjoyed there. My visit occurred on a Thursday evening, and our wait for a table was very short. A quick look around reminded me that although I’ve never had their pizza, it appears to be a major part of their business. The pizza is made on the main floor while everything else is prepared in their basement kitchen and gets to the servers via a dumbwaiter. The room approximately seats between 40 and 50 diners. The tables on the sidewalk could take care of a dozen more. The interior walls of this re-purposed space are exposed brick. The food servers are dressed in stylish black, and you can bring your own wine.
Although there are many interesting meals (then again, everything sounds more appetizing in Italian) on the menu, the Risotto Del Giorno caught my attention. The menu states that it is made fresh with seasonal ingredients. The version they were serving on the day I visited included corn, zucchini, and basil pesto. They offered shrimp as an extra; I added the shrimp.
It’s not the most attractive looking dish I’ve ever ordered. When our entrees were served, I experienced a touch of jealousy when I saw the beautiful Rotolo Trecolori my wife ordered. But one taste of the rich and creamy risotto made me feel confident that I went in the right direction. I’ve always thought of risotto as a side dish, but this entree was definitely a main course.
As we left the restaurant, we started to walk the three blocks to where we parked. For a moment I had the thought of my next trip to this restaurant happening with Uber’s assistance, but the walk through this Pittsburgh neighborhood is a pleasant one. I am fairly sure that walking three blocks through Lawrenceville wasn’t always the best thing to do, but these days, everyone is finding Lawrenceville a great place to be.
The only regret I had about my visit to Piccolo Forno is that I neglected to bring a bottle of wine. I won’t make that mistake again. Maybe the next time I’ll order the risotto again, or maybe I’ll go for a pizza.
By: Tom Pollard