A few weekends ago, I had to alter my dinner plans due to some outdated website info, so I looped back around and found Piccolo on my return path. Their Sunday Supper at the counter was already in full swing and the remainder of seats in the intimate space filled up around me by mid-meal. I did not see co-owner Ilma Lopez during my first visit so I figured she would once again be preoccupied with whipping up her innovative desserts. This particular night she ended up assisting with front of house and came to my table to deliver one of the dishes. We chatted for a bit about Blue Rooster Food Company (another joint-venture with her husband, Damian) as well as her recent “Rising Star” chef nomination. Ilma then made an unexpected inquiry: she asked whether I was a Star Wars fan, to which I responded by freely admitting that I’ve attended a couple of conventions. She informed me that Piccolo had upcoming plans to a host a theme dinner in honor of Star Wars Day. Consider my life made. SIGN ME UP.
May 4th finally arrives! While my hopes of Vadering around Portland were dashed by the unpredictable bouts of sun, hail, and rain, I walked proudly through town donning my TIE Fighter tux while armed with my lightsaber and Stormtrooper helmet. The ‘scum and villainy’ I had the pleasure of sharing table space with included the Volks of Portland Hunt + Alpine Club (plus their newborn daughter sporting a home-knit Leia hairdo), one of the chefs from Hugo’s, a manager from Buck’s Naked BBQ, and her fiancé who happened to be a fellow Cape alum. The complimentary Cantina Punch waiting for us was served in old school Burger King glasses complete with Death Star ice molds. The first course of arancini to come out was a reference to the pig-like species that gets devoured in the dungeon scene of Return of the Jedi. Definitely some great heat and smokiness to it. It was followed by a super fresh salad, inspired by one of the only scenes in the trilogy where actual Earth-based produce can be identified. I was slightly worried about the third course as I had never tried frog legs before, but it was surprisingly delicious. They really are very similar to chicken if done properly. The dish had a lot of textures and flavors that were all very well-layered. I also loved the presentation of everything swimming in the vividly green purée because it totally channeled Jabba’s slimy persona.
The dinner lasted for the duration of A New Hope and was winding down by the time Luke meets Yoda in Empire. Peppered in between, the film was paused while Damian and Ilma came out to do some live plating. For their first trick, a pair of pig stomachs were sliced open to reveal homemade sausages that had been cooked within. This was an homage to the scene on Hoth where Han saves Luke from freezing to death by encasing him within his dead pack animal. The sausage had tremendous flavor, quite possibly the best I’ve had in recent years. One of my favorite courses of the evening is unfortunately one I don’t have a photograph of because quite frankly, I wolfed it down. I hate to simplify it as such, but it was essentially an adult dirt pudding cup, complete with a sour gelatin worm or more accurately dianoga, the tentacled creature that attacks Luke in the garbage chute aboard the Death Star. It was brought to us in cardboard take-out containers and our hearts sank for a minute, thinking that it was intended to be eaten on the road, but we were in fact allowed to stay put. These ‘dirty treats’ were a complex mixture of chocolates, nuts, and cream exposed to liquid nitrogen. Frakkin’ delicious (I know, wrong sci-fi universe). Damian and Ilma came out for one final surprise, where they applied more of that frozen compound to chocolate molds of Han Solo in his iconic carbonite state.
To conclude the evening, the Piccolo staff held a raffle for a pair of tickets to see The One Man Star Wars Show in Brunswick next month. The winning diner came up to me afterwards and felt a “more hardcore fan” was more deserving and graciously passed them on. This was one of the most fun, creative, and delicious dining experiences I’ve ever had. It was truly as memorable as the beloved trilogy it was paying tribute to and I cannot wait to see what they have in store for next year’s celebration. The Force is strong with this pair of culinary Jedi, so get your butts in hyperdrive and pay them a visit!