Restaurant Review: Piada Italian Street Food

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The food is meant to be fast, inexpensive, fresh-tasting and more healthful than typical fast food. Based on initial visits, it hits the targets.

Plenty of decisions must be made at the Chipotle-like cooking counter, where the process begins. Do you want a thin, filled flatbread (or "piada"), similar to a burrito? Or a bowl of pasta? Or a chopped salad?

The next step is choosing a "grill item" from among six choices: chicken, steak, Italian sausage, salmon, prepared meats or vegetables.

Next up is the sauce selection: spicy tomato, crushed tomatoes with garlic, red-pepper pesto, regular pesto or creamy Parmesan with garlic.

Finally, the wide assortment of toppings includes sweet-pepper strips, Parmesan cheese, feta cheese, grated mozzarella cheese, chopped tomato, cherry tomato, romaine lettuce, mixed greens, mushrooms, zucchini, artichoke hearts, avocado, cucumber, onion and California olives.

At that point, you can add extra-cost side dishes and beverages, then pay. The prices are governed by your grill item, ranging in price from $5.75 for vegetables to $7.65 for salmon.

And if you don't like the way it turns out, you might have to share the blame -- for using ingredients that don't work together.

Carb lovers, take note: Pasta can be chosen as a flatbread topping.

The chicken option ($5.95) consists of chunks of white meat said to have been sauteed with garlic, rosemary and lemon. Certainly, the garlic is there. But the rosemary and lemon are masked by other ingredients you're likely to choose: It would be difficult to restrain the urge to pile it on.

The prepared meats (sopressata, mortadella and porchetta), despite their natural boldness, are also easy to overwhelm. On the other hand, an entree is easily loaded with fresh vegetables and given little fat -- no mean feat at the Piada prices.

The extra-cost sides include several kinds of breadsticks ($1.55), made by wrapping very thin sheets of dough around various ingredients and baking the result with a slather of oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan. They come with the Parmesan dressing as a dipping sauce. The ham breadstick is as it sounds -- with ham inside crisply baked dough.

The well-conceived tomato-basil soup ($3.45 a bowl) definitely has tomato and basil, a judicious amount of cream and an appetizing peppery finish. It's a great choice with the breadsticks.

Also on the sides lineup: Calamari ($3.45) and strips of hot pepper are flash-fried in a thick batter. How hot you want the dish is up to you because most of the hot-pepper strips are separate from the calamari. They're served with an excellent dip: a tomato sauce fragrant with basil.

Two wines are offered: a white and a red in 500-milliliter bottles (two-thirds of a regular bottle, $8.95). The red is peppery with alcohol and not particularly enjoyable with food.

Click to to read more restaurant reviews by Jon Christensen.