Piccolo Italian Restaurant in Houston, Texas doesn’t look like much from the outside. The sign noting the strip mall that it is located in is faded and broken and if you aren’t coming from the right way on Westheimer Road you may just drive right by it.
We weren’t sure it was even open since it was around 12:30 and at first we didn’t see anyone else in the restaurant, but after being seating we saw one other couple. The tables are lined with cloth and there are cloth napkins and a wine bottle is on every table. The aroma of old, wet, moldy carpet was not exactly appetizing and we were about ready to leave when our waiter took our order for drinks. Since the kids were with us, these two moms decided to stay where we were and hope the food would be better than the atmosphere.
The lunch menu is somewhat reasonably priced and the dinner menu (available at lunch time) is priced just like many other middle of the road Italian restaurants in the area. An order of cheese sticks has sauce on the side, and the calamari was cooked correctly, after we requested extra crispy. My friend ordered the Linguine Vigolo, extra spicy and I ordered the Chicken Parmigiana. For the kids (even though there was no kids menu) we ordered Spaghetti and Meatballs from the lunch menu.
The Linguine was good, but not great. The pasta in this dish was cooked properly, the sauce was spicy and there was lots of seafood in the dish. The Chicken dish was somewhat disappointing. At first look I thought they had pounded the chicken breast flat, but after biting into it I realized that they has split a chicken breast making it half the size and the end result was more breading that chicken. The breading was pretty good though, I just would like more chicken in my dish. My “spaghetti” was the same pasta as the linguine and the same sauce as was served with the cheese sticks and the calamari. Now, the sauce was okay, but not anything to write home about so I definitely didn’t want to eat it on three dishes at the table. It also appeared to contain anchovy sauce because there was a “fishy” taste to the pasta that kept me from being able to eat it let alone enjoy it. Apparently the children agreed because they didn’t eat their spaghetti and meatballs either or the bread.
The salad was skimpy, with only the house dressing to choose from, a basic oil and vinegar without any real seasoning. The fresh baked bread was a little too baked and definitely on the dry and crispy side. The parmesean cheese was powdered, a few steps above Kraft, but definitely not freshly shredded.
The wine racks and offerings are quite extensive so I am sure almost anyone could find a good bottle there to drink.
Let’s move on to the service. We several times had to wait for refills on our beverage and while the restaurant didn’t exactly fill up, there was only one waiter waiting on the 8 or so tables. I am sure he was doing the best he could but really a server should not have more than 6 tables and that’s pushing it, I ought to know after all I have been a server.
However, this is where things went from bad to worse. We gave the waiter our coupon and asked for the bill. He explained that the owner would have to ring this one so there may be a wait. He returns and says that they won’t take the coupon. We try to talk to the owner at this point to find out why and are informed that he “doesn’t take those anymore” he is losing money on them. Now this isn’t really the customers fault, and I can take a mediocre meal if it’s not that expensive but over $50.00 for pasta that 3 out of the four guests didn’t eat? My companion says, “Well you should honor it, even if it is losing you money, you advertised it.” He looks at her and says, “Do you understand English?! I’m not accepting that coupon!” Loud enough to be heard at my table which is three tables away from him so I know the people seated next to me on either side heard it also. Now, after she went up to the register to speak to him in private this is definitely not only an overreaction, but also a bigoted reaction to her because of her race, at least in my opinion. She is Korean, but an American born citizen as well as a college educated professional, I can assure him that her English is more than adequate when discussing a coupon.
So, that was our meal, most of it left at the table including two half eaten salads, three cheese sticks, a basketful of bread and three servings of pasta. I had read some good reviews about this place but have to agree with the others that say “It’s just not the flavorful Italian we are used to.” We won’t be back for mediocre service, middle of the road boring food, and advertisements that aren’t honored. Glad I ate the Calamari or I might be starving right now.