By Sophia Ricco
The zesty flavors of Italy get a modern twist at Piccolo Mondo Ristorante in Huntington.
The intimate eatery defies typical Italian fare with an updated menu, that takes notes from the cuisine of Northern Italy. Owner Roland Mizaku was a veterinarian in Albania. When he and his wife came to America, he worked at various Italian restaurants while she attended school.
“When she graduated and got a job, I decided I liked the restaurant business and stayed with it, knowing one day I would open my own restaurant,” Mizaku said “That was my vision for a long time.”
Mizaku opened Piccolo Mondo in 2005, renovating the interior of a former restaurant from floor to ceiling.
With Albania’s proximity to Italy, Mizaku was familiar with the country’s flavors and recipes. Piccolo Mondo’s menu channels the cuisine of Italy with “an American accent.”
“Anyone can go to an Italian restaurant and get the old classics, I want something different from today’s cuisine,” Mizaku said.
More recently, collaboration with executive chef Steven Del Lima refreshed the menu and introduced new flavor combinations. It also allows Mizaku more time to tend the front of the house.
Mizaku visits every table, often recommending dishes and wine pairings.
“We really work hard, from the kitchen to the front of the house,” Mizaku said. “I’m always here, wherever they need me, I’m there.“
The chefs’ playfulness with flavors comes out in the Mediterranean octopus a la plancha ($15) appetizer. A juicy piece of octopus at center stage is elevated by fava bean hummus and mustard vinaigrette. Flavorful enough to eat alone, they transform the octopus and potatoes.
Putting a seafood spin on a classic pasta dish, striped Maine lobster ravioli ($26) is heavenly. Ravioli squares generously stuffed with luscious lobster wear a light glaze of burro fuso, and melts in your mouth.
A bold secondi, parmesan crusted chicken piccola ($23) is a journey of tastes. A half chicken – tender inside and crispy outside — is topped with melted fontina that gives it a creamy taste of comfort. The roasted egg- plant on the side brings soft, earthy flavors.
“It takes a lot of time to make the menu,” Mizaku said. “First, we will cook the dishes and taste them for ourselves. Then we put them on the specials menu and make sure the customers like it before adding it to our menu.”
Specials debut every Friday featuring chefs’ concoctions from in-season ingredients. Recently Piccolo Mondo presented a Mediterranean flatbread ($15); rigatoni with Manila clams, chorizo and tomato-basil brodetto ($25); and pan-crisped Florida red grouper ($35).
“Everywhere does specials, but for us it’s a bit more important,” Mizaku said. “For this week, we saw the grouper was very fresh and a good price. This is why we do specials, to bring in the season and moment, for the freshest ingredients.”
Piccolo Mondo Ristorante
70 E Jericho Turnpike, Huntington
Atmosphere: Lively and elegant
Appetizers: $11-17, Salads: $11-13, Primi: $20-27, Secondi: $23-43.
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5-11 p.m.; Sunday, 4-9 p.m.