Storefront Sustenance

Piccolo Due’s location in a mini-mall belies its inviting atmosphere and long list of Northern Italian specialties

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piccolo due interior
Soft and warm: Yellow curtains and low lighting set the mood in the dining room

We decided to share a third appetizer, a half-portion of the day’s ricotta and spinach ravioli (all pastas are available in half portions). We were rewarded with succulent and delicate fresh-made pasta pockets brightened by a light, fresh tomato sauce — a simple, authentically Italian combination.

Branzini — the flaky, sweet, Mediterranean sea bass — was on offer “any way you’d like it.” Seeing our confusion at this open-ended choice, our waitress enumerated a number of possibilities, and we settled on Branzini Provinciale. The sautéed fish, generously topped with chopped shrimp, scallion, and tomato, was a gossamer breath of summer in the midst of the Hudson Valley chill. Chef Vulaj considers his versions of whole branzini to be among his signature dishes.

Pollo Caruso was a surprise. The pounded-flat scallopines of free-range chicken breast, topped with thin slices of prosciutto, tomato, and healthy rounds of fresh mozzarella, were treated with the respect and restraint usually reserved for veal. It was a less filling but more elegant rendition than expected and a firm reminder of just how fine — juicy, tender, and flavorful — poultry can be.

The don’t-miss dessert is homemade ricotta cheesecake. Served warm, the texture of this sweet, with its hints of citrus zest and anisette, was truly special. We also tasted a pretty good crème brûlée which, that evening, was a little too brulée.

Piccolo Due, we think, is the sort of place that gets better with familiarity, as you learn how to integrate your own appetite with its offerings. It is the polar opposite of the “all-you-can-eat” Italian (which almost always features southern rather than northern cuisine). After appetizers, a half-portion of pasta, entrée, coffee, and dessert, we felt well- rather than over-fed.

Piccolo Due
Open Tues.-Fri. 12-3 p.m., 4-10 p.m.; Sat. 4-11 p.m. Appetizers $5-$12, entrées $16-$32, desserts $7.
731 Rte. 211 East, Middletown. 845-695-6860



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