Sriracha was the first thing I noticed when I walked into Piccola Romantica on Oranienstrasse, the (Turkish-)Italian restaurant around the corner from where Ibrahim the cabbie lives in Kreuzberg.
By the time Ibrahim dropped me off there yesterday, I learned that he’d worked in construction before he started driving a taxi four years ago – and that after 28 years in “the big village” that is Berlin, he considers it home.
From 11am-5pm, all except five of the eighty-five kinds of pizza and pasta at Piccola cost 3.50 Euros. Sounds like a good deal, right?
I looked away from the Sriracha while I waited for my cannelloni to bake. I noticed the other customers: a thirty-something couple in spandex, a guy who was agonizing over a book between bites of pizza and wore the agonized expression of a procrastinating writer, and a pair of men with salt and pepper beards who wanted to make absolutely certain their pasta only cost 3.50. The phone rang with delivery orders. Justin Timberlake sang to us all.
My cannelloni – stuffed with beef (this is Turkish-Italian, remember?) and spinach and covered with tomato-cream sauce – was scorched on top. But beneath the burned mozzarella, the pasta was actually pretty good. The spinach was still fresh enough to be bright green, the beef had been seasoned with care, and the tomato-cream sauce was light and almost over-salted. The pasta itself was a little thicker than I like cannelloni to be, but it still had some al dente body to it.
I finished the whole plate, even though I wasn’t starving. Maybe I wouldn’t have been as pleasantly surprised if it had cost 10 Euros. And I maybe should have tried it with Sriracha.
Piccola Romantica – Map it
Oranienstrasse 33 – 10999
Berlin – Kreuzberg
Open: Sun-Thurs, 11am-2am; Fri-Sat, 11am-3am
Recommended: Cannelloni with spinach, beef and tomato-cream sauce (3.50 Euros between 11am-5pm, 3.60 after hours)