When Nick and Trish Carlino had to close their 10-year-old Maple Leaf restaurant Piccolo in February 2016—a victim of raised rents—the neighborhood mourned their excellent pasta and family-friendly vibe. Soon, we’ll have the chance to experience Piccolo version 2.0: Esters Enoteca, which will be opening in Fremont next month.
Nick Carlino says their decade in Maple Leaf taught them a lot about what customers want and how to weather the flux in business year over year. When business dropped off during the recession, they amped up their comfort food. They also began offering more gluten-free options—unique in such a pasta-heavy Italian joint, but one that made sense because his wife and son both have wheat allergies.
After several new locations fell through, they decided to take it slow—they’ve spent the last two years further researching their next step, including tasting their way across Seattle, Portland, Brooklyn and Manhattan. They wanted to stay in the north end of the city, and eventually found the right place in Fremont.
“Esters takes its name from the scientific name for the molecules that are present in wine and some spirits,” Carlino says. “Each ester has its own unique bouquet and strong smells that are often quite pleasant. So basically it’s a nerdy enophile term.”
As such, the concept is a marriage between “fast-casual” and “wine bar”—think take-out paninis at lunch and leisurely glasses of rosé at happy hour. We’re hoping the homey plates of housemade pasta from Piccolo will resurface as well.
Keep an eye on the Piccolo Facebook page for updates, including a definite opening date.