Occupying a snug Tudor house in Farnham’s West Street, Caffe Piccolo exemplifies all the best qualities of homemade, artisan creations for which the town has long been famous.
The Italian restaurant first opened as part of a small chain in 1995, but since 2008 has become the exclusive concern of owner and manager, Darius Ahmadi.
The mainstay of the Piccolo’s menu is a combination of traditional Neapolitan recipes and more modern dishes from across Italy, bolstered by a daily specials board offering whatever is best and fresh such as fish, steak, liver, veal and salads.
“We try new recipes every month, and if they go down well they might get on to our main menu,” said Mr Ahmadi, 40.
“Our busiest night is Saturday, where we usually serve more than 150 covers, although Friday is very busy too, and on Sunday children under-10 eat for free from the children’s menu.”
Although proud of his entire menu, the proprietor singles out the risotto Piccolo, which is currently on the specials menu, and the restaurant’s homemade pasta as favourites.
He also recommends the pizza salsiccia piccante, a tantalising combination of spicy chorizo, roquito and red peppers, rocket, pesto, mozzarella and oregano.
Pick of the pack among the starters is the gamberettino, a dish of prawns cooked with garlic and chile.
The price of a pizza ranges from £7.95 for the most simple Margherita, to £10.85 for the more involved meat-based varieties.
Pasta dishes include the usual spaghetti carbonara and bolognese, jostling for attention among the chopped steak-based spaghetti alla Montanara, or the penne piccolo – chicken and green peppers with mushroom and onion in a creamy sauce.
The full range of traditional Italian desserts are offered, mainly costing £4.95, although Mr Ahmadi rarely looks beyond the sticky toffee pudding, made with dates.
“Everybody loves it,” he added.
Risottos currently dominate the specials menu, with the flagship risotto Piccolo leading four recipes, including a risotto with fish and shellfish in a tomato sauce, as well as risotto vegetariano, based on mushrooms and green peas in a creamy sauce topped with Parmesan.
The culinary delights are complemented by a full cellar of wine and champagne.
The owner said: “When we opened the first Caffe Piccolo our aim was to provide great quality, authentic Italian food at sensible prices.
“We also wanted to allow informal but excellent service to our customers. This aim remains the same today.”
With the room to seat 110 diners on three levels at any one time, Caffe Piccolo also makes its food available for take away on collection.