Best In: NJ – Mangia, Mangia at Piccolo Trattoria

On a recent shopping trip to Princeton, NJ Team Christabelle (i.e. CC and I) decided to plan ahead in having dinner at the famous Piccolo Trattoria in nearby Pennington. We had heard from friends and colleagues alike that we needed to eat there and our Italian DNA agreed it was a long overdue visit.

While we didn’t find the shoes we were looking for on said shopping spree, we certainly found one of our favorite new Italian restaurants, which in my book is a bigger score. After a day of unsuccessful retail therapy and building up a seemingly insatiable appetite, we entered the restaurant and were immediately greeted by all of the lovely scents that encompass traditional Italian dishes. Fresh tomato sauces with garlic and basil, and the smell of baking cheese wafted through the air. Our stomachs grumbled in unison and we knew we were in for a food-gasm that would pacify and soon make us forget about our shopping misfortunes.


The atmosphere made us feel right at home (I mean, we are both have a mix of the proverbial ‘boot’ in our bloodstream). The menu choices were vast and each trumped the next on the list – so deliciously described we had difficulty choosing, which according to our server, is not uncommon at Piccolo’s. We agreed upon family style (i.e. sharing and taste testing it all!) and we ordered an array of carbs, cheeses and meats…then sat anxiously awaiting their arrival to our table.

Starting with the Stuffed Portobello with Crabmeat and Arancina Di Funghi Appetizers. The mushrooms were tender, juicy, and the white wine sauce made the crabmeat sparkle with life.  The Arborio rice balls came sprinkled with white truffle oil, which complimented the breaded and fried wild mushrooms and tomato cream sauce seamlessly (CC is a sucker for anything ‘truffle’). Insalatas soon joined the appetizers – I opted for the Citron Insalata complete with Radicchio, fresh fennel, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, ruby red grapefruit wedges and baby arugula came dressed with extra virgin olive oil and aged Sherry vinegar – a sweet citrus ensemble that set my palate for the rest of the meal to come. Christina ordered the Insalata Di Arugula, a more classic salad with fresh ingredients of red onions, mozzarella and their house dressing.

Service remained attentive and the wait staff kept us supplied with food, drink and humor for the entire night.  CC’s pasta dish, Rigatoni Alla Vodka which was pasta folded with Parma prosciutto in a vodka cream sauce evoked the following quote from her “I want to make babies with this meal…!” In the land of CC – that is a HUGE compliment. A seafood lover, I dined on the Tilapia Mare Chiaro, which included baby shrimp and jumbo lump crab meat (in a divine garlic white wine sauce) and grape tomatoes served with a sautéed filet of Tilapia served over capellini. O. M. G!

Each bite was better than the previous, I couldn’t stop even when I was getting full. It was so good I almost didn’t want to share with CC, (who was busy re-producing with her Rigatoni, so it worked out well).

At the end of our meal there were no to-go-boxes needed, but elastic waistband pants could have been used. Total end-of-the-meal bonus – a surprise greeting from owner Fahmi Elebad. An absolutely delightful man, his story is one of inspiration. He started from the bottom- really the very bottom, as a dishwater in another restaurant. Staying true to the phrase ‘Living the American Dream’ he tirelessly worked his way up,  now offering fresh, and authentic Italian cuisine at three Piccolo Trattoria restaurants.  A generous man, his business supports other local communities through ways of fund raising, in-kind and monetary donations, with a focus on Youth Groups, Community Organizations, and K-12 Schools.

We give Piccolo Trattoria our highest 5 star rating and recommend making your way here for a visit – whether coming from NYC (a bit over an hour), Princeton (20 minutes) or even further away, it is worth the trip. Your tummy will thank you (and US!)

Mangia, mangia!

Piccolo Trattoria
800 R Denow Road
Pennington, NJ 08534

Phone: 609-737-9050
Fax: 609-737-9025

Newtown: (215) 860-4247

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