I wasn’t the only one who felt a pang when Splendido closed. It was, for 20-plus years, where we went to be spoiled rotten by our most god-like chefs. Two words: champagne cart. And I wasn’t the only one who cringed when word got out that chef-owner Victor Barry was replacing the storied room with a family-friendly pizza joint—there would, he said, be a kids’ menu.
But Piano Piano turned out to be something much more ambitious.
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There is pizza, it’s true—my pick for the finest in the city, with dough made from heritage wheat and exquisite toppings (oozing fior di latte, well-aged parm, dandelion greens, ’nduja so spicy you’ll become a fire-breather, and other delectable options). Then there are Barry’s luxe pastas—pumpkin-stuffed agnolotti, springy cavatelli with oyster mushrooms, a sensational carbonara—as well as fancy cuts (bone-in veal chops, 18-ounce rib-eyes) you won’t find at your average red-sauce spot. Traces of Splendido live on in the caesar salad, which Barry elevates into something sublime, combining grilled wedges of romaine, roasted pork belly and fresh white anchovy. It’s Italian grandmother cooking—if your nonna knew her way around a five-star kitchen.
88 Harbord St., 416-929-7788, pianopianotherestaurant.com