Chef Amy Brandwein Debuts Her New Wood-Fired, All-Day Italian Café at CityCenterDC

Piccolina 2.0 arrives with more pizza, DIY cannoli, and a spritz bar.

Piccolina—a bigger, brighter version—reopens at CityCenterDC. Photography by Scott Suchman

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Centrolina chef Amy Brandwein is expanding her footprint in CityCenter DC with Piccolina 2.0—a larger, full-service version of her Italian café that closed for renovations last month. The sunny enoteca is now open and has doubled in size, with seating for 75 between the dining room and patio. All-day hours cover morning espressos and pastries, afternoon spritzes, and evening dinners al fresco. 

Start the morning with an Italian quiche. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Brandwein designed the new restaurant as a casual piccolina (“little sister”) to finer-dining Centrolina and its upscale Italian market across the way. She looked largely to Naples and Sicily for inspiration, and will rely heavily on the wood-fired oven at all hours.

“The new space, to me, feels naturally glamorous with a lot of light,” she says. “Piccolina doesn’t just mean casual, it means vivacious—a little more geared toward the Instagram crowd.”

The bright new space boasts 75 seats between indoors and out. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Mornings bring homemade sweet and savory pasticcini (pastries) from chef Yesenia Jarquin, including bomboloni (doughnuts) and cheesy egg biscuits. A dedicated area will cater to customers looking for a quick grab-and-go option. Dine-in guests can also order dishes like wood-roasted grapefruit with basil and sea salt, or ratatouille omelets. 

A new spritz menu includes eight bubbly beverages that run sweet to savory. Photograph by Scott Suchman

The expanded all-day menu now includes a selection of arrosto—wood-grilled skewers such as citrusy cuttlefish or homemade lamb-and-pork sausage. Grazers can pair snacks with a fresh spritz menu that features eight bubbly concoctions. The ubiquitous Aperol spritz and mimosa are joined by creations like an Italian spin on the French 75 made with limone gin and prosecco, or a savory Pomodoro cocktail with Hendricks, vermouth, a cherry tomato shrub, and tomato water. 

More vegetables are on the new menu, including these carrots with roasted cauliflower and lentils. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Brandwein is also running with a greatly expanded lineup of seasonal vegetable dishes, panini, and pizzas—all designed to mix-and-match. Her charred octopus panino is back—and even bigger—with tomatoey pork jam, pickled onions, and mozzarella on a homemade brioche bun. In addition to thin-crust pizzas, look for lesser-seen savory breads such as scacce, a Sicilian rolled dough with lamb sausage, broccoli raab, and melty cheeses, or carta di musica, Sardinian crackers with tomato, avocado, and a sunny egg.  Diner can round out a meal with escarole salad or charred cavolo cabbage with Calabrian chili and agave nectar. 

New to the menu: wood-roasted skewers, like citrusy calamari. Photograph by Scott Suchman

For dessert, hit the fill-your-own cannoli bar. The traditional sweet mascarpone filling also comes in Nutella, pistachio, and raspberry flavors, with toppings like crushed hazelnuts or sprinkles. 

Patrons can order grab-and-go pastries and espressos, or linger in the dining room. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Piccolina. 963 Palmer Alley NW

Take a look at the reopening sample menus here:

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.