Piccolo's Pizzeria (Eagan, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune South
  • August 30, 2006

During the sweltering days of summer, nothing suits us better than the pure classic simplicity of a chocolate malt. At its best, the cold ice cream is perfectly offset by the chocolate and malt, creating the reigning champion among soda fountain treats.

Unfortunately, a proper malt, tasting of malt powder, is darned hard to come by. We’ve visited some of the top names in the business locally and haven’t been impressed. Even ordering extra malt hasn’t brought us a malty-tasting chocolate malt.

And this was our frame of mind when we wandered into Piccolo’s recently. But the sublime happened. We received a nearly full can, along with our glass of chocolate malt, and, oh, it was perfectly chocolaty and malted and so good.

We wish everything were as excellent here. Piccolo’s serves Broasted chicken, either as individual dinners or buckets suitable for groups. The dinners come with large potato wedges called “JoJo potatoes,” and your choice of coleslaw, potato salad or baked beans. We’re pretty sure the coleslaw dressing came out of a jar and the baked beans came out of a can, so keep your expectations low. But the chicken is tender and tasty, and the potatoes are good enough.

We also liked the salads. You can order either an Italian salad with lettuce, tomato, onions, olives, green peppers and Italian cheeses or a Greek salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onions, olives and feta cheese. Both are generous with ingredients, and the dressings are tasty.

Everything else is just average. Or worse.

The pizza is available in four sizes, with a variety of toppings. Sadly, the best we can say about it is that it’s better than frozen. The sauce isn’t savory enough. We would not order it again, even though Monday and Tuesday nights have pizza specials.

The lasagna drowns in the same dull sauce. The spaghetti is better, although the meatballs are too bready.

They make their own pizza rolls, called “pepperoni rolls” on the takeout menu. Made from scraps of dough wrapped around slices of pepperoni, these are too dry, even dipped in pizza sauce. Additional filling would improve these a lot.

Piccolo’s also serves a variety of cold cut hoagies: ham and cheese, turkey and roast beef. Their hot sandwiches include a hot Polish and a meatball sandwich.

We honestly like restaurants that give glimpses into the owners’ personalities. We seek out places to eat that aren’t trendy or designed by marketers. That’s where we feel most connected to the community, not in a restaurant that’s the same everywhere in the country.

Piccolo’s is about as nonstandard and quirky as we’ve seen in a while. The decor is country kitsch, non-ironic and heartfelt. A small shelf of books forms a lending library, and nearly every book is a romance, except the Reader’s Digest condensed books.

The wait staff is young and eager, rather than experienced. And the kitchen turns out orders in a reasonable time. But we wish Piccolo’s put the love into the food that they’ve put into the dining room.

Where: 4162 Pilot Knob Road, Eagan
Phone: 651-454-1212
Hours: Sun-Mon: 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m., Tue-Fri: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Sat: 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m.
Atmosphere: Quirky
Service: Fast and friendly
Sound level: Not too loud
Recommended dishes: Malts, salads, Broasted chicken
Prices: Meals $5–$10
Children: No special children’s menu

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.