Dining

Family Matters

Piccola Strada is the East Village's best-kept secret

It's generally a bad sign for a new restaurant in the East Village to go unnoticed.

But for Piccola Strada, a tiny, nine-month-old slip of a space, its anonymity only increased our delight, as it's one of the most exciting discoveries we've made in months.

Although the restaurant doesn't look like much, its unfussy, delicious Italian fare--and the charms of its owners, sisters Josephine and Esperanza Cipriani--evoke an experience that we'd thought was extinct in this town.

The two were raised in the Dominican Republic, but thanks to the powers of matrimonial transference (they're married to a pair of Italian brothers), their cooking rings of time-tested mastery.

For the lasagna ($14), made fresh daily in limited quantities, pasta sheets act as levees to a wash of slow-cooked meat sauce and béchamel, such that each bite holds a well-constructed balance of flavors.

The sisters raise the meat-marrow quotient in their unorthodox osso buco ($17) by topping the tender beef with more of that time-enhanced sauce. None goes to waste: Plush potato gnocchi quickly soaks up any extraneous juices.

Don't worry about an after-dinner drink: Make nice with Josephine, who oversees the dining room's six tables with jubilant authority, and she'll sneak you a nip of grappa to enjoy with a plate of creamy almond cake ($6).

Piccola Strada, 77 E. Fourth St. (between Second Ave. and Cooper Sq.); 212-674-1557 or piccolastrada.com

Piccola Strada 77 E. Fourth St New York NY 10003 212-674-1557

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