Uno Tre Otto, 114 N. Indian Hill Blvd. (at 2nd), Claremont; open Tuesday to Saturday, 5 p.m. to closing
This is the former La Piccoletta, known as the little place in the alley (Alley 39, to be precise), pretty much in the center of the block bordered by First, Second, Yale and Indian Hill. It’s a small building with a trompe l’oeil mural outside and one small room inside.
La Pic opened in 1977 and once had a reputation as Claremont’s finest restaurant, but in recent years it’s changed hands several times; a friend and I had an inconsistent meal there six years ago on the one time I tried it. (It’s out of my usual price range.)
Now it’s been acquired by John Solana and Brad Owen, who have the Back Abbey and Union on Yale; Solana owns Petiscos with another partner. That makes four Village restaurants under Solana’s ownership. He and Owen quietly took over La Pic in 2014 when it became available and in November, after 38 years as La Piccoletta, changed the name to Uno Tre Otto and focused the menu on regional Italian with local ingredients.
A friend and I had dinner there earlier this month. The interior looks much the same: rustic, with no windows and an open kitchen, seating 38 in an intimate space. It’s one of the more unique interiors in the valley.
The menu is small and is anticipated to change along with the availability of ingredients, many of them supplied by Amy’s Farm in Ontario, whose proprietor is Owen’s wife.
The kitchen sent over a free starter, thinly sliced persimmons with lemon, vinaigrette and parmesan. (Forgive the quality of the photos; the lighting is dim.)
From there we shared wild fried shrimps ($15), four whole shrimp with lemon, garlic, parsley and chives.
My friend had fazzoletti ($16), a pasta with kale-hazelnut pesto.
I had pork osso buco ($26), with carrots and polenta.
We then shared a dessert, persimmon bread pudding with creme fraiche ($8).
This was quite a meal, and in a lovely setting, on white tablecloth, the fanciest meal this hole-in-the-wall diner has had in a while. We were impressed by every item. My friend was effusive, saying she had never particularly liked persimmons or kale before but loved their uses here, and describing the charming environs as “kind of like being in a book.”
On our way out, after paying, I introduced myself to a man who turned out to be Owen, who’d been dining informally with his wife and three of his children. Our waitress, we learned, was his sister-in-law. All in the family.
While a meal of $40-plus per person, and that’s with only water to drink, isn’t something I’m likely to repeat soon, those with more ready cash, or celebrating an occasion, might want to give the place a try. They encourage reservations to (909) 624-1373.
I hope to write a column on the restaurant in the near future, but in the meantime, there’s this blog post.