-written and photographed by Susan Powers
There is something special and unique going on in Chef Doug Flicker’s restaurant, Piccolo at 4302 Bryant Ave, Minneapolis. Chef Flicker is taking the art of small plates and intense flavor to a new high. Think custom tasting menu, exceptional.
The interior is simple yet welcoming. Two separate spaces comprise the dining areas, both intimate, each with its own feel. The front room is a little larger and more open, if large is a word you can use. Piccolo, Italian for “small” is just that. With seating for only around 30-40 people, it is a cozy space.
Having a small space is just what Flicker wanted. It gives him the freedom to work with ingredients at levels that would never work in a larger restaurant. His small space and small plates translate into a big dining experience.
A trip through the kitchen brings you to the back dining room. Only three tables reside there. A buffet is stacked with cookbooks and wine glasses. When your restaurant is this small, you have to take advantage of every space.
Walking through the kitchen and arriving in the back room, you have an uncanny feeling that you have just walked through someone’s apartment, into their dining room. Soft jazz, playing at just the right volume, completes the feel of the room.
It is a busy Saturday night. The restaurant, as usual, is filled to capacity. Flicker checks a piece of paper, looks over his shoulder and asks one of his other three chefs to start a dish. The area is spacious for the four of them, each having their own distinct working area. But with the complexity of the dishes that are being pulled together, they continually overlap each other.
Every kitchen has its own personality, its own vibe. Some are high energy and loud while others have a serious, more focused feel. The kitchen at Piccolo is completely different. It is zen and not just because it’s quieter than most. It has a flow, an energy that is hard to describe but permeates the air. There is laughter, and the normal kitchen communication but here, something is different. It has a peacefulness about it.
There is a lot of discussion going on over the plates that have been meticulously polished before food even enters the picture. A perfect blank canvas to highlight the artful presentations of the food. Everyone works as a unit in this kitchen and you can feel the importance of each contributing individual whether it be a server, dishwasher or Flicker himself. Born from a dream to have a more equitable positioning of all involved, he is succeeding.
Flicker came into food through the back door. Graduating from high school in the small town of Rochester, MN, it was the suggestion of his sister’s boyfriend, a restaurant owner in the Twin Cities that sent him into chef’s training. Being a bit of a rebel, it was originally the lifestyle, not the food that drew him to the profession.
He found himself in the kitchens of D’Amico, and that is where he started realizing what food could really do. He eventually opened Auriga, to critical acclaim. Piccolo, his latest creation, is now making diners roll their eyes in culinary ecstasy.
To say that Chef Doug Flicker is one of the most recognized chefs in the Twin Cities, is actually an understatement. His creativity, imagination, skills and renegade spirit allow him to put together mind blowing small plates. When asked how he approaches constructing a plate, he quickly answered, “I look for things I have never worked with and figure out something interesting to do with them.”
Piccolo’s menu consists of only small plates. Ordering is equivalent to customizing your own tasting menu, a delightful experience. “Small portions mean a whole new world,” says Flicker. “The ability to use ingredients that you couldn’t use or eat otherwise. E.g. the swordfish belly, which is uncommon, and so rich that you only want a couple of bites.”
What makes Flicker’s food so exceptional is his wicked ability to combine and balance flavors and textures. Every bite is simply bursting with flavor. His approach is unique and exciting. An experience that everyone who loves food will enjoy.
For Your Kitchen
Stephanie and I had a blast preparing and shooting the recipe that Chef Flicker shared with us. His Burrata with Frozen Pea Purée, Bottarga, & Oilo Verde is not only over the top with flavor, but quite easy to prepare. For the recipe and to see Stephanie prepare it, click here: Burrata Recipe.
Piccolo 4300 Bryant Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55409-1709 612-827-8111