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Mucho Mondo 

Liz Feltham checks out the easy-to-miss but hard-to-resist Piccolo Mondo's downtown Italian flavour.

Piccolo Mondo is the only Italian restaurant in Metro I haven’t had the pleasure of trying, an omission I decided to rectify on a recent night downtown. With an unassuming small storefront tucked away among a row of businesses at the far end of Argyle, Piccolo Mondo is easy enough to miss if you’re not looking for it.

Inside, we’re greeted warmly and seated on the left of the dining room:There’s another room through the entrance arch. I’m struck by how much this area reminds me of Italy—it’s decorated in brick, wood and earthy colours and we could be in a trattoria in Rome or Florence.

The menu items are listed in Italian (with translations) and before we order we ask our server if we have time to squeeze in three courses. We’re headed to the Metro Centre for a concert afterward and we have just less than two hours. She assures us it will be no problem, so we start with the salmone affumicato ($9) and beef carpaccio ($12).

The smoked salmon (affumicato) is served loosely rolled and sprinkled with capers and it surrounds crisp little pastry cups filled with plain cream cheese. It’s a nice presentation, simple and clean. The beef carpaccio (raw tenderloin) is at room temperature, as it should be. Sliced so thinly it practically melts onto the plate, the only thing that spoils this dish is the excessive amount of grated cheese. Carpaccio is typically garnished with a little shaved Parmagiana-Reggiano. This rendition has so much grated cheese it overwhelms the delicate flavour of the beef.

Our main courses arrive shortly after our appetizer plates have been cleared, despite how busy it’s become, and it looks as though we do indeed have time for three courses.

Cinghiale ($22) is wild boar, marinated and cubed and served on skewers. Tender, flavourful and absolutely delicious, the boar is complemented by fluffy rice, and kale with tomatoes. Equally excellent is the tagliatelle funghi porcini ($18). This pasta dish is loaded with porcini mushrooms, yet the sauce is light and not at all heavy or strong-tasting, as one might expect with so many mushrooms.

For dessert, our server brings us a plate with a sampling of what’s on offer tonight. This is great, because you can see exactly what you’ll be getting and everything looks so good the restaurant is sure to get a dessert sale out of even the most stuffed diner —everyone wins. Theoretically, anyway. As it turns out, our desserts are the most disappointing part of the meal. We’ve both ordered chocolate: A chocolate pyramid ($8) and chocolate cheesecake ($8). The pyramid looks enticing, but is a dense, sickly sweet tower with the consistency of a supermarket canned frosting. The cheesecake doesn’t quite hit the mark, either. There’s a crispy underlay between the filling and crust that doesn’t completely work and leads to an odd texture—the crunchy part is too much of a contrast with the smooth filling. It’s a shame, really, as poor desserts really leave a bad impression that the rest of the meal does not warrant.

Our server brings our bill, apologizing for the delay because, as she points out, everyone is trying to leave at the same time. In fact, we’ve not noticed a delay at all, the service has been just great and we’re in our seats at the Metro Centre with plenty of time before our show hits the stage.

Piccolo Mondo1580 Argyle Street429-0080Dinner: nightly, 5-10pmLunch: Tues-Sat, 12-4pm

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