El Piccolo is the post beach place of choice for expatriates in Havana as well as versed tourists. Situated in the seaside town of Guanabo, which retains a sort of lackadaisical old school charm, seemingly immune to the march of time in the 21st Century, El Piccolo is a haven of light Italian kitsch. This can be a little tricky to find the first time, so print off a map before you head off the main Havana-Varadero road. It should only be 2 minutes from the turn off so if you are going further you have got lost! As of late February 2012 the place is finishing a renovation, which will open up a major new seating area taking to four the choices of where to enjoy the afternoon. This last area is next to the animals and vegetable garden and has been fashioned in accordance with the rest of the place. Heavy round tiled mosaic tables provide a solid foundation amongst plentiful space. Inside is more intimate but can be a little gloomy on a summer day. The space out the back of this main building is our choice. You can spend an afternoon simply checking out the different artefacts, everything from postcards from the Mediterranean to Cuban colloquialisms, to a miniature bar and vampire on a motion sensor which will jump out at you. Kitsch to the last degree. When El Piccolo runs out of fresh vegetables, you know that it will be time to get the hell out, since even when there is not a tomato to be found in the supermarkets you will see the largest, freshest tomatoes piled up inside. All fresh produce from the large vegetable garden outside is the basis of cooking here – fresh basil, lettuce, cucumber, you name it. It is there in well-maintained organic lines. And not one but two stone pizza ovens combine to give not just authenticity but the ability to really deliver. The pizza is excellent–on a good day the best in Havana, on a bad day eatable. I am never really sure on why the variability, maybe the chef simply has bad days, maybe they pre-prepare on slow days. That is about it for criticism of the food. The Diablo is spiced to perfection, extra garlic, extra cheese–enough to keep away any unwanted intruders and the pasta and spaghetti pretty good. Service is good, although a little unaccommodating. They consistently deliver to what they consider a good level, so extra requests (freshly ground pepper, extra basil, sauce on the side, kids’ chairs) will be complied with but never really anticipated even if you have been there a hundred times before. All in all, this is a great place to spend a lazy afternoon after roasting on the beach. While you can go swimming on the nearest beach (100 meters from the restaurant) this is not the best bit of beach and you are better off enjoying your delicious lunch, then shifting to another beach for your sun and surf. El Piccolo – 5ta A No. 50206 entre 502 y 504, Guanabo, Habana del Este (7) 796 4300 Open noon-midnight
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