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Piccolo Cafe to Serve Up New Line of Cocktails and Dishes

By Emily Frost | January 16, 2013 7:31am

UPPER WEST SIDE — Italian favorite the Piccolo Café is applying for a full liquor license to serve Italian favorites like limoncello and amaro to Upper West Side diners, as well as special bourbon cocktails and Bloody Marys at brunch. 

This month Michele Casadei Massari, co-owner of the West 74th Street and Amsterdam Avenue spot, started the application process and received initial approval from a local community board committee.

The move to add liquor to the menu is one of several big plans Massari has for her eatery, which opened in May of 2012 and is the fourth Piccolo restaurant in the city. He also expects to add new dishes to the menu and eventually apply for an outdoor cafe license to complete its European feel. 

Massari originally envisioned "great food in a kind of standing operation."

But, he said, "the neighbors fell in love [with the atmosphere and the food]."

Patrons wanted to have sit-down dinners there, to lounge for hours over a coffee, to flip through the cookbook library or even play one of the board games on offer, he explained.

"We were flattered by it. People are sitting here all day from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.," he said. "They love to spend time and talk with us — I think it's the Upper West Side."

In August 2012, Piccolo's Upper West Side location got approval to serve wine and beer, but for Massari and his colleagues, chef and co-owner Gianluca Capozzi and chef Alberto Ghezzi, it wasn't enough. 

"If you are a chef, you want to play with all the flavors and notes," he said. 

In addition to Italian liqueurs, Masari hopes to serve a classic martini, a pisco sour and a great selection of whiskeys. But like his main dishes, which he agonizes over, he's taking care with the drinks menu, he said. 

"I'm reading the most I can," he said. "We'll do a funny, charming [drinks] list."

The cocktails will also be moderately priced, in keeping with the menu, he added.

Along with the addition of new cocktails, diners can expect a changing menu at Piccolo.

Massari said unexpected combinations emerge when the three Italians, who moved to the U.S. from Bologna to start their first Piccolo in 2009, cook for each other. Ghezzi often fills the kitchen with baked goods, endeavors that often result in a new dessert dish. 

"We cook in a way no one else does," said Massari. "It's live or die. We cook because we cannot afford not to...We are emotional about it."

The seafood dishes are the best-selling on the Upper West Side, he said. But he's adding a new orchetti dish with sweet sausage, broccoli rabe and chili that he thinks will be well-liked.

Caramelized oranges could appear soon too, when they're perfected.