The lamb crépinette -- a single meatball slightly bigger than my thumb-- sat before us paired with a dollop of squash confit. "It's a little precious," said my friend about the melt-in-your-mouth morsel, "but good."
The words that came to my mind were from the waiter when I asked about the size of the entrees. "Two bites," she said, and clearly she meant it.
Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised by the meal, with a restaurant name like Piccolo, which does, after all, mean "small" in Italian. Doug Flicker's highly anticipated new venture is just that: Tiny. The dining room seats 24, with eight more spots behind the kitchen (and where larger parties can be placed). The main room, simple and lovely, has little adornment -- a mirror and an oversized painting -- and even less space. The tables fit together so tightly that we could be in the Big Apple, not East Harriet.
Although Piccolo has settled into a corner of the south Minneapolis neighborhood, it's no neighborhood gathering spot. This is dining as high art, dinner served two bites at a time, as artfully arranged as it is prepared. You're likely to rub elbows -- literally, at these tables -- with local food devotees there to savor Flicker's creative genius.
The 11 savory items on the menu include these edible works of art, each a masterpiece of form and flavor: celery root terrine with apple butter and speck, sunchoke croquettes with shaved fennel, radish and green apple mustard, and what the waiter referred to as "more dense" dishes of black cod with smoked celery, pancetta and hazelnuts, and roasted chicken with ricotta pain perdu, cipollini onion and golden turnip (a baby, of course, and exquisite).
A surprise winner: scrambled eggs with pickled pig's feet, truffle butter and Parmigiano. Who knew the piquant flavor of pickled pig's feet could be so enticing?
All the dishes were flawless. And, yes, minuscule. "I might have to stop by Chipotle on the way home," my friend joked as we ordered extra dishes, just to fill up. "I don't think I'll be taking my husband here."
Flicker has said that he wants to redefine how we eat and, in doing so, prevent food waste. His small dishes do just that -- no doggie bags necessary here. "I don't want this to be a normal restaurant," he said in an earlier interview with Taste. Make no mistake, Piccolo isn't.
Not surprisingly, dining as art doesn't run cheap. Two bites times seven dishes, plus two desserts and a couple of glasses of house wine came to the not-so-tiny sum of $115, before tip (the single meatball cost $13).
An experienced staff provides service. The carefully crafted wine selection offers modest prices with pleasing $5-a-glass house wines.
Items on the small menu range from $7 to $14, with three dessert options at $6 to $8.
Piccolo, 4300 Bryant Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-827-8111, www.piccolompls.com. Open Monday and Wednesday through Sunday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Sunday). Closed Tuesdays.