Piada Italian Street Food, which opened on Forbes Avenue on Jan. 16, is surrounded by many different restaurants, ranging from Pittsburgh icon Primanti Bros. to the ubiquitous McDonald’s. Originally from Ohio, this is the chain’s first Pennsylvanian establishment, with other expansions in Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Texas. Walking into the restaurant there is an immediate contemporary feel, with a minimalist black and white palette, metal accents, and dim lighting that screams young and modern. The space is divided into sections with three different types of seating: bar style, high table, and classic table. The wide mirrors, white-painted brick walls, and large photography posters create an atmosphere of stylish sophistication that lures in the hip college crowd but also attracts the families looking for a trendy night out at a place that's neither fancy nor fast-food.
Seeking to stand out in the sea of Italian restaurants, Piada Italian Street Food has created a casual, Italian, "Chipotle-style" restaurant, with an assembly line where customers can watch their food being made. Though the line is long during the dinner rush hour, it’s swift, and customers are served quickly. Piada offers a variety of grill items to choose from to add to entrées, such as chicken, calamari, salmon, and vegetables. With the assembly line, we can see exactly what we’re ordering. The servers are friendly and efficient, answering questions about both the restaurant and the food itself. Sticking to a healthier menu, Piada Italian Street Food specializes in piada, an Italian flatbread originating from the Romagna region in northern Italy. They also offer a variety of pastas, salads, soups, and sides.
The Farm Club Tasca is delicious. A piada flatbread sandwich concoction, it’s made with fried chicken and pancetta topped with sliced avocado, fresh bruschetta tomatoes, arugula, and lemon basil dressing that contrasts the sweet and spicy pickles and spicy balsamic aioli. At the first taste, the diversity of ingredients explodes into different flavors. “I’m a fan,” a friend said.
The Basil Pesto Pasta, topped with a large grass-fed meatball, is also very good. The angel hair pasta itself is of high quality, the fresh basil pesto fragrant and savory, and the sundried tomatoes simultaneously sweet and spicy. The meatball is tender, its distinct sweet taste setting it apart from the standard store-bought meatball. However, with both parmesan alfredo and freshly grated parmesan, the cheese takes away from the basil pesto and the collective taste of the pasta, and could be a little less creamy.
The Chef’s Favorite Piada, however, is a slight disappointment. Though the rolled flatbread contains romaine lettuce, sweet and spicy peppers, mozzarella, and fresh parmesan, the spicy diavolo sauce overpowers everything else. With too much sauce, the entrée is on the saltier side and becomes one-dimensional, a far cry from the many balanced flavors of the Farm Club Tasca.
Overall, the food is good and made with fresh ingredients, resulting in a relatively authentic Italian palette. Though some dishes are not perfect, the visual aesthetic and the design of the restaurant really help to create a welcoming space for all different types of customers. Piada Italian Street Food has the perfect location in Oakland, at the heart the University of Pittsburgh and neighboring Carnegie Mellon. While seated, I noticed that nearly everyone else in the restaurant was also a student, coming in after their last class of the day, ready for a nice meal and to catch up with friends. Despite the novelty of a new restaurant near campus, Piada Italian Street Food succeeds in an aspect of dining beyond the food itself. It has created a space for people to relax, hang out, and enjoy their food in peace.