There are few times more pleasing to the seasoned foodie than several key times during the year. Wilmington’s Restaurant Week. Newark’s Restaurant Week. Philadelphia’s Restaurant Week. And Delaware Dines Out week. This yearly event is going on this week until October 2 and features more than 30 Delaware restaurants offering two-course, $15 lunches and three-course, $30 dinners. You can find information and menu details at delawaredinesout.com.
I had a friend requesting a nice dinner after picking her up from the train station on Monday evening. She had suggested a restaurant featured among the Delaware Dines Out crowd and I happily obliged. We settled on Piccolina Toscana because the menu was much more extensive than what the other restaurants were offering AND because the $30 covered four courses instead of three.
We arrived for our 6:45 reservations and were promptly seated and brought water and tasty, butter breadsticks with a side of olive oil. We each placed our order with the waiter, who was attentive when at the table, but perhaps showed up a little less than we would have liked. The pacing of the courses was also frustrating. Not that we were looking to be rushed, but I counted a few 20-30 minutes waits between courses. At least the company was engaging and our conversation was stimulating.
But the food was an absolute delight and well worth the wait. I started with the crab and mushroom fritters. Imagine a perfectly seasoned and tender crab-stuffed mushroom. Then batter it lightly and deep fry it. The fritters were served a top a light and fresh tomato-horseradish remoulade that cut through some of the heaviness of the fry, which wasn’t greasy at all. I tried my friend’s pancetta-wrapped figs and they were a real treat. The figs had been cooked so nicely that the inside caramelized and pretty much turned to a tasty-sweet jam. The salty pancetta served as a nice contrast to the sweetness.
For my second course, I ordered the tagliatelli, freshly-made ribbons of pasta in a seafood-butter sauce. The seafood was tasty, though some of the shellfish bordered on rubbery. I would have enjoyed if the chef had ratcheted up the game and done a brown butter sauce, though. Then again, I’m a sucker for a brown butter sauce and the scents of said sauce coming from the kitchen were quite intoxicating.
The third course was a delicious meat and veggies combo, but suffered from a few key flaws. The Brussels sprouts were seasoned nicely, but I feel they could have been cooked to a nicer brown in the pancetta. They were tender on the outside, but quite tough in the center. I ordered the grilled flat-iron steak medium rare, but it arrived a little closer to medium, a minor quibble though, because the cut was marbled nicely and completely surrendered to my knife’s persuasive ways. The salsa verde provided was light and vinegary, which cut through the richness of the meat and pancetta-cooked sprouts.
Dessert offered two choices: a raspberry crème or doughnuts. Of course I chose the doughnuts. Delicious and HOT chocolate-glazed doughnut holes served with a deliciously light hazelnut cream and vanilla bean gelato. I offered my companions to each take a doughnut, but I was secretly glad they both declined. These babies were gone in about 7.6 seconds. I actually stuck my spoon in the leftover hazelnut cream and slurped it up!
Delaware Dines Out is a great time to enjoy some super deals at local restaurants. Get out and support the fine chefs in our region who are offering their dishes for really affordable prices. Piccolina Toscana was just the beginning; I’ll be dining at more restaurants throughout the week!