New in Central Phoenix: La Piccola Cucina

Categories: Chow Bella

An new Italian cafe called La Piccola Cucina just opened up late last week, and let me tell you, the place is totally adorable.

It's on the east side of 7th Street, just south of Oak -- basically right between Coronado Cafe and MacAlpine's. Along with That's a Wrap, Drip Coffee, Trente-Cinq 35, and Lisa G, 7th Street between McDowell and Thomas has turned into such a nice restaurant row, with a variety of options.

Anyway, La Piccola Cucina is lovely, tucked away in a restored historic house with white ornamental tin ceilings, wooden floors, and a decent-sized front patio. Driving by, you can't miss the big black and white Mokarabia umbrellas.

To eat, there's a selection of paninis, as well as a case full of cooked dishes that can be mixed and matched to create your own dinner platter, from herbed chicken and stuffed pork tenderloin to spinach with chickpeas, pasta primavera, asparagus, and beets. There are also shelves of fresh Italian pastries, and a lavish display of gelato.

Along with espresso, there's a refrigerated case of bottled drinks, including Dry Soda in a flavors such as lemongrass, rhubarb, and lavender. (I recently tried a Dry Soda at Pane Bianco -- it's really refreshing, with seemingly no sugar, and just a hint of crisp flavor.)

They're still working out their official business hours, but their goal is to stay open from morning 'til midnight. La Piccola Cucina is located at 2241 N. 7th St.

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I frequent local business as much as possible, because I want them to stay in my neighborhood and to succeed. I went to La Piccola Cucina several times, but the decline in quality and service finally kept me away. When I saw their Groupon I thought it would be a good time to see how they were doing.

I went on a Saturday night with my husband and 3 year old daughter. At this eatery you make a selection from precooked items in a cold case and they reheat it and bring it to your table. Although they now have actual menus, so you can sit and read about what is in the refrigerator to be reheated. At $14 a plate it is a little pricey for leftovers.

When we asked for a kid friendly meal not in the case or on the menu they acted put upon, however did agree to make my daughter something. When I ordered a sandwich I was told I could not have one. I was told that the owner did not allow sandwiches at dinner. I pointed out that the lady at the next table was in fact eating a SANDWICH! I asked why her and not me? I was told because, “You know how Groupon people are”. I guess I don’t. So now I am no longer a repeat customer, a local resident patronizing a local establishment, a sucker willing to give this façade of an eatery another shot. I am a cheap Grouponer. Well, admitting is the first step. I attempted to relay this experience to Andy, the owner. He yelled at me. He said he couldn't afford to be giving his food away at half price. I reminded him that he offered the Groupon. He yelled at me, told I didn’t read the fine print; I needed to make a reservation. He was however graciously willing to overlook MY mistake. A RESERVATION?! Was he F-ing serious? I pointed out that the place was empty (no tables inside, two outside). He yelled a lot of things at me but he did finally apologize, for ME being overly sensitive.I guess business is so good that he doesn't need to even be civil to people, good for him.

I wish I could comment on the food, but I never got any. By the looks of things, I think it would only have prolonged my agony.

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