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NOW OPEN: Piccolo Ristorante in Fort Lauderdale

Tucked into Commercial Blvd. of Fort Lauderdale, is a charming new Italian restaurant. While its name Piccolo, may mean "small" with a capacity of only 30, there is a great deal of attention paid to its dishes. The short ribs are braised for at least three hours, and the homemade gnocchi are cooked with reduced pears poached in cinnamon, nutmeg, black peppercorn and sugar.

It's the first restaurant for Andres Avayu who mans the kitchen. His wife, Alison Avayu, does the book-keeping and her brother, Josiah Garrison, waits on the tables.

"I like simple, home food," said Avayu, 33, who attended Johnson & Wales University, a culinary school in North Miami. "I like working with five ingredients max."

Avaya moved from Chile at the age of 4, and has been working in Italian restaurants his whole life. His cuisine is a mix from the different Italian regions, giving him the "freedom to work with the ragu's of the North and the seafood dishes of the south."

WHERE: 2826 E Commerical Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-776-8066;
COST: Moderate - appetizers $9-$15; entrees $16-$34<br>
HOURS: Monday through Thursday 4-10 p.m., Friday to Saturday 4-11 p.m., Sunday closed

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