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Italy in Santa Fe

Okay, last time I had us in New Mexico and we were just outside of Santa Fe and I’d promised that I was going to get us into the city. And today...ta-dah!...Imma gonna do it.


But...first...


A little background. You know, of course, that there are many different sorts of Italian regional cuisines. There’s northern, and southern, and Sicilian, and Milanese, and on and on. (1)


And, when those styles of cooking came to the United States with Italian immigrants, we got yet more regional differences here in the US. That is, there is Italian food, but it shows variations (some minor, some major), depending on where it’s prepared -- Boston, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans...all are Italian-American, but all are just a little bit different.(2)


Now, it so happens that Martha and I prefer Italian-American cuisine as it is prepared in the Northeast, that is, in the holy trinity of New York’s Little Italy, Providence’s Federal Hill, and Boston’s North End. That’s because Martha grew up in that area, and because I learned to love Italian cooking there.(3)


Now, this means we have trouble  finding our preferred version of Italian food where we live...here in Central Texas.(4) We had similar problems in New Mexico...until...one of the young women who was doing some physical therapy for Martha told us about...


Piccolino’s.



About the photos: Hooray! For once, I’ve actually got photographs that deal with the subject matter. First, here’s Martha at Piccolino’s about to begin her meal. Second, a photo of my meal on the same occasion. And, finally, a photo of the Cannoli I had for dessert.



Piccolino’s is an Italian restaurant in Santa Fe. It serves what is probably the best Italian food (i.e., Northeastern style) that I’ve had in New Mexico, or, for that matter, in much of Texas. It is flat out delicious.(5)


But...it isn’t in downtown Santa Fe. It isn’t in the tourist areas. It isn’t where you’d expect to see movie stars.


It is, instead, south of Santa Fe Square at the intersection of Agua Fria and Siler, which is to say it is quite a ways away from the purely tourist areas. Why is it there and not closer to the action? Well, I don’t know. But I’m glad it is where it is, and we always go there whenever we are in Santa Fe. We used to drive up from Albuquerque just to eat there.


(In fact, truth be told, I hesitate to tell you about it. What if word gets out? What if the next time we visit, we find the place crowded with billionaires and celebrities? What if the parking lot is full of Maseratis and Learjets? What if the dining room is knee deep in hedge fund managers? What if we can’t get so much as a sad little crust of garlic bread or a cross-eyed Gnocchi? Truly tragic. But, well, we do what we must. Sigh.)


Anyway, it’s our go-to place in Santa Fe for Italian, and that’s where we duly headed.


We arrived and pulled into the parking lot. The building itself is nothing special. It could be any restaurant anywhere in America. We walked in the unpretentious dining room and found seats. Around us were people of all sorts. The first time we visited, it was full of fireman from a nearby station. Today, it was mostly local folk, people from the neighborhood, people who worked in the area -- at the scrap metal place up the way, at various software developers around town, at the Walmart down the block, at the University, at the State House, and, at Meow Wolf, the art gallery and interactive environment on Rufina Circle.(6) And, of course, there were a few tourists like ourselves.


We ordered. I thought about having Pasta Carbonara, but I decided it might be too heavy in the heat. So, I went instead for the Chicken A La Francese. Martha, meanwhile, had Chicken Piccata. They were very good, indeed.


We finished eating. Then, after a quick cup of decaf we were ready.


The time had come to make our way to the Square...and, eventually...


The concert.


More to come.





Footnotes:


1. If you’re really interested in this, check out “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.” There are only two seasons (I’ve never forgiven CNN for not renewing it) but those two are terrific. In it, Mr. Tucci looks at several regional Italian cuisines, ranging from Sicily to the Alps. Definitely give it a look if you get a chance. Last I checked, it was on CNNgo and The Discovery Channel. you can probably find it other places as well. See: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11852724/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


Update to the footnote: I’ve heard that the program has been picked up by the National Geographic network and will air again sometime in the near future. Let’s hope that’s right. See here: https://www.cntraveler.com/story/stanley-tucci-national-geographic-docuseries


2. See “Italian-American Cuisine,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian-American_cuisine


3. The same is true for our son David, even though he now lives in Texas and is married to a Texas girl. I gather he travels with his own grater and a block of pecorino romano cheese just in case anyone tries to inflect the local version of spaghetti and meatballs on him.


4. We have been successful in the little town of Pflugerville, Texas, where we frequent Baris Pizza and Pasta (https://barispastaandpizza.com/about/). It actually tastes like home. Which, makes sense, because -- as one of the waitresses told us -- “the owners are from New York.”


Update to the footnote: Martha has made the terrific discovery that another local restaurant here in Georgetown, Tony & Luigis, has new owners -- from Boston! They’re reformatted the menu and it is, indeed, terrific. Here’s the website: https://www.tonyandluigistx.com/


5.  Piccolino Italian Restaurant is here: https://www.piccolinosantafe.com/


6. See Meow Wolf website here: https://meowwolf.com/






Copyright©2024 Michael Jay Tucker


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