Best Restaurant (Minneapolis/St. Paul) - 2011
The problem here isn't that the Twin Cities lack first-rate restaurants, it's that there are only so many special meals one can go out for each year. And there's something a little bittersweet about indulging in just one of these restaurants' top-notch appetizers, entrées, and desserts and then leaving the rest of the menu uninvestigated. But petite, cozy Piccolo has structured its meals so diners get to taste a wider array of chef-owner Doug Flicker's creations. The Piccolo menu is made up entirely of small plates, composed as modestly portioned, multi-element mini-entrées, so every night's a tasting menu. Every dish intrigues, having been built from overlooked ingredients, intensive preparations, and creative flavor pairings. The small servings mean you don't have to wonder how the sushi bar favorite Hamachi collar tastes when served Southern-style with bacon, collard greens, and ham hock. And you won't have to choose between the unctuous lamb ribs with Swiss chard and molasses or the veal flank steak with house-made mortadella, prunes, and pistachios. Get both. Get all three. While you're at it, you have to try the pork heart with guanciale and black garlic-coated gnocchi. (It sounds far more shocking than its porky taste and firm, tongue-like texture actually are.) The expert servers are immensely helpful with selection—not that there's anything they'd advise you against, but the scrambled eggs with pickled pigs feet and truffle is the one item you could save for next time. It has permanent status on the menu.