Depending on who you speak to, it can be argued that the name “Piada Italian Street Food” is a little misleading; after all, with such a bustling and quickly growing street food scene here in Columbus, there’s an almost unwritten expectation that our street food be, you know – actually served on the street, out of a cart, taco truck, or even in an obviously ethnic store front tucked away in an otherwise long forgotten strip mall in what used to be the burbs but are now huge ethnic strongholds.
Arguments aside, after seeing some pre-opening pictures of the food, we were really looking forward to the opening of the fast causal Piada, the latest concept by BDI founder Chris Doody, who has a proven track record of restaurant successes in Columbus and other locations around the US.
It opened up just this past week in a strip mall on Lane Avenue in Upper Arlington, next to Buckeye Corner.
On entering, we thought the look and feel of the place and menu was very similar to Chipotle, and that comparison is not coincidental – they studied Chipotle’s business model for a couple of years before taking the plunge with Piada, and decided to try to bring the spirit of the traditional Italian street food piada (or piadina, as it’s more commonly known there) to a concept that can be easily reproduced for future expansion/franchise possibilities.
Ordering is simple – you choose your format (piada, pasta bowl, or chopped salad), what grill item you’d like, whether or not you want grilled vegetables and or pasta in it, a sauce, cheese if you’d like, and a whole host of fresh vegetables and/or dressing. The price is based on what grill item you choose, and there’s no nickel and dime add-on charges for your choices.
Most of the meat choices are already on the line (Italian meats, sausage, etc), others are cooked to order (the salmon, for instance).
There aren’t a ton of cheese choices (mozzarella, shaved Parmesan, or feta were the ones I saw), but they are the ones that made the most sense to be there. It would be nice if they expanded the cheese choices a bit in the future to include things like gorganzola, asiago, fontina, etc. There are five different sauce choices, including red or green pesto, parmesan, pomodoro, and diavalo.
Where they really shine, however, were the veggie options. So many options – onions, tomatoes, arugula, olives, shaved fennel, avocado, etc – and all of it super fresh and full (those that do run low are quickly refilled). You can choose to top the veggies with an additional dressing if you like.
I decided that I’d go with a Piada, since it was the signature item of the place. I chose the sausage piada ($6.35) with pasta, grilled zucchini, grilled red peppers, pomodoro sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, mixed greens, red onion, tomato, avocado, arugula and balsamic vinaigrette. It was absolutely delicious, but very messy to eat because the piada shell has a tendency to crack a bit (but that could also be that they filled it up so much with goodies – I occasionally have the same problem when getting burritos at Chipotle too). Super-duper filling, I was only able to finish half and took the other half home. The flavors melded together beautifully, and this will probably be my regular order here from now on.
Paul opted for a pasta bowl with salmon ($7.65) – he topped it with grilled zucchini and red peppers, both diavolo and creamy parmesan sauces, mozzarella, shaved parmesan, and black olives, and for the most part he was pleased with it. Our experience was not without opening week hiccups, though – because the salmon was woefully undercooked. However, when he brought it to their attention, they remade the dish for him, and told us to have soup, on them. Restaurant owners, pay attention: *that* is how you do customer service right – you apologize, you remake it, and realize that you only have one chance to make a positive first impression. We already were liking them up to that point because of the friendliness and helpfulness of their staff, and the way they treated us when something went wrong will bring us back.
We probably wouldn’t have even tried the soup if it hadn’t been comped to us – it just didn’t occur to us to order it. But oh my, are we so glad we did try it. We got the lobster bisque (normally $4.25), and it was the best version of the dish we’ve had yet – creamy, smooth and rich, with multiple levels of flavor and bits of real lobster scattered throughout. Served nice and hot like soup is supposed to be served but rarely is. We had the opportunity to try the tomato basil bisque ($3.45) today, and it, too, is one of the best versions we’ve had. Do yourself a favor and try the soup if you stop by.
We shared an order of the cannoli chips ($2.95), with cinnamon and powdered sugared bits of cannoli shell that are served with a smallish dollop of ricotta cream. Wish there had been just a bit more, because even eating a conservative amount of the cream, we ran out of it long before we ran out of chips. Not sure if I’d order this again, but if you’re in mood of just a little something sweet and don’t want to commit to a heavy, large dessert, this fits the bill.
There are lots of things we like about Piada – the food is fresh and tasty and a good value, the place is super clean and organized, the design of the takeout containers and layout of the restaurant are thoughtful, and the customer service and willingness of employees to make the customer happy is amazing. Not everyone will get it, but I have no doubt that enough people will in order to make it another Doody success story.
If you’d like to go: Piada Italian Street Food, 1315 W. Lane Ave., Upper Arlington, OH, 614-754-7802