SANTA FE, N.M. — Most cities with a modest level of sophistication and a decent restaurant scene have two types of Italian restaurants: those with fancy, gourmet-influenced cuisine and the casual, less costly, more traditionally American version. Piccolino is in the traditional camp with a rib-sticking menu of pasta, pizza, chicken and veal dishes and a big selection of house-made desserts.
I recently ate at the Piccolino in Eldorado, open less than a year, and found it strongly average and fairly busy. Then I revisited the original Piccolino on Agua Fria Street, noting that it has a larger menu, better food and service, and a core of dedicated customers.
Both of these restaurants get a star for convenience and for keeping the cost of dining relatively low. The Eldorado restaurant, in the Agora Center, saves those who hunger for lasagna or chicken parmigiana a trip to Santa Fe. The Agua Fria restaurant offers family-friendly, freshly cooked meals with easy access and parking.
At the Eldorado restaurant, we ordered a cup of minestrone, which tasted like a fresh vegetable soup, and two selections from the specials menu. The fresh, cedar planked baked salmon arrived with a nice assortment of fresh veggies. The special chicken dish included sausage and potatoes, all served over spaghetti. Both entrees were filling, if not memorable. Service was a bit slow and the restaurant moderately busy. The ambiance at Eldorado is shopping plaza storefront.