Piccolo Cafe e Vino
Piccolo Caffe e Vino is open for indoor and patio dining. Masks are mandatory and hand sanitizer is at the counter.
Piccolo Cafe e Vino offers a trifecta of coffee, wine and food, so you really can't go run with a visit to the little Italian cafe on John Street.
The spot below Melrose on Adelaide used to be a Piazziolo before the owner of the upper-level bar Brian Donnelly, along with his staff, turned the hidden-away space into Piccolo, a coffee shop by day and snack bar by night.
Take a few steps underground to find a space more casual than the romantic and intimate setting upstairs. Though you'll find some intimacy here too thanks to a low-set, beautifully embellished ceiling keeping the room cozy.
The completely redone space will have you feeling as if you just stumbled upon the street's best-kept secret. And it kind of is, offering more neighbourhood feel than you'd find at the nearby Fox, Hooters and Ballroom, combined.
That's exactly what Donnelly and his team wanted to achieve in an area sorely lacking in spots like this.
Adding to the offerings indoors is a bodega with a few different items you won't find at your regular grocery store like homemade Italian-style sauces and soups, as well as a bottle shop.
There are over 65 funky and organic wines on the shelf, some are local while others hail from all over including Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Portugal. All of which are consignment only, meaning you won't find them at the LCBO.
If you're planning to stay awhile and drink on the patio, there are even more wine choices to be found on the menu that can be ordered by the five-ounce glass, half bottle, or bottle.
The 20000 Leguas (glass: $17) is one of the well-recommended orange wines from Spain's largest wine region, Castilla-La Mancha. Light and refreshing, it's a good intro into the world of orange vino.
We also try a rose from Niagara's Leaning Post (glass: $15) made with grapes of Pinot Noir and Cab Sauv. This one tastes like it was made for warm summer days on the patio.
The food menu, thought up by chef Phillip Allain and mostly consisting of small plates similar to Melrose, starts at noon for those looking for more than a croissant and coffee.
The dishes are all new, yet close to what you'd find upstairs with crudo ($14), which means raw in Italian, replacing the beef tartare served at Melrose. Amberjack is seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, green apple, and celeriac, the root of celery.
Charred broccolini ($12) is a vegan option lying on a bed of Ajo Blanco sauce made from almonds, garlic, shallots and oil. A sprinkling of fried shallots brings the crunch.
The sous vide pork belly ($15) is one dish that really stands out, fully delivering with crispy skin and a sticky pomegranate reduction with sweet and sour flavours.
But I'd be hard-pressed to decide between that and the panko fried chicken sandwich ($14) that's topped with spicy cabbage slaw and a hot jus (has the taste of a curry sauce) on the side for dipping.
Less exciting, but still tasty, is the mushroom toast ($11). A slice of sourdough bread from Petite Thuet gets whipped ricotta cheese and a generous heap of grilled oyster mushrooms.
A nice pairing on the side of a few glasses of wine would be the fresh baguette with either burrata ($12) or taleggio ($13).
Get the panna cotta ($12) for dessert, it comes mixed in with a sweet syrup and roasted walnuts on top.
Besides the selection of wines, the Italian-inspired cocktail list offers more options like the Hugo Spritz ($15), prepared with St. Germain, Prosecco, soda, lime and mint leaves.
Piccolo is open until 2 a.m. every day so you can keep the drinks, and conversation, flowing until late.