Piada’s fast-casual concept takes off south of town
By Brandy King
Photo: Angel hair pasta with diavolo sauce and Italian sausage at Piada
A few years ago, one of the cofounders of Bravo sold his stakes in the company and launched the concept of a fast-casual Italian eatery. Piada made its debut in Columbus, Ohio, and then spread to the southern Dayton ‘burb of Centerville in 2012. The eaters have spoken, and they clearly want more Piada, since two more stores are opening here (Beavercreek and Kettering), as well as in other Ohio markets and Indianapolis. The best way to describe it is the Chipotle of the Italian world. While restaurants hate to be compared to one another – come on, everyone wants to be the next Chipotle.
The concept is pretty simple. You choose your base: angel hair pasta, salad or piada – which is a paper-thin Italian flatbread wrap that the founder discovered on his travels in Northern Italy. You then choose your protein, which is anything from grilled rosemary lemon chicken to calamari fritte. The meat you choose is what determines the price of your entree. From there, you can add nearly any Italian accoutrement you could imagine – white bean salad, fresh greens, sauteed veggies, tons of fresh cheeses, crispy pancetta and both cold and warm sauces. Not enough carbs in the piada for you? You can get angel hair pasta in your wrap as a topping. You can also pick a smaller version of each and pair them as a combo, or choose one with lobster bisque or tomato basil soup. There are also a lot more beverage options than your standard sandwich joints offer. Of course, you have Pepsi products, but there’s also an Italian soda fountain, and offerings of beer, wine and frozen peach Bellinis.
Since it’s deli-style ordering, the point of service isn’t that relevant. The employees are as pleasant as can be expected in a fast-food situation, some of them even more. The line and restaurant are both very open, so it’s noisy, and you might get the feeling that they tire of repeating themselves because you can’t hear them. If you think they’ve skimped on a certain ingredient, just ask for more. The whole beauty of a build-your-own entree concept is that few things are off-limits or rationed. We’ve all been at places where we like certain aspects of a dish, but would be more likely to order it if there were sauteed zucchini instead of red onions, or some equally small change that they’re “not allowed” to make in the kitchen.
Usually, we choose eateries and home-cooked meals based on what everyone likes, which means we don’t eat a lot of Italian food, because my husband has a nemesis in tomatoes. This is what makes Piada perfect for us, and probably a lot of couples and families. You don’t end up with two happy eaters, while the other picks veggies out of their entree.
I had eaten at Piada before, ordered the side salad and small piada, and really enjoyed it. There was plenty for lunch, and probably enough for dinner. I’d heard a lot of their recipes for things like soups and calamari were the same as the Bravo and Brio chains, so I thought I’d switch it up and couple my wrap with the tomato basil soup. They don’t label it as a bisque, but it’s very creamy. It’s also, hands down, the best tomato soup I’ve ever had in my life. I chose the grilled rosemary chicken again for my wrap (I promise to switch it up next time), and filled it with bitey parmesan, lots of pancetta and almost every vegetable they had.
Mr. FvF chose the pasta bowl (as I’ve mentioned before, he’s typically deprived of pasta at home), and I was stunned when I saw the size of this thing. Piada’s pasta container is easily as large as a full-size pasta or small serving bowl. I’d guesstimate that there were two cups of al dente angel hair in there, with toppings yet to be added. The diavolo, a creamy red sauce, paired really nicely with their sassy Italian sausage, fresh spinach and parmesan. If the basics at Piada aren’t enough for you, there are still accompaniments. We sampled one of the artichoke Piada Sticks, which is very literal in its name – a large piada filled with seasoned artichokes and grilled until crispy. They also offer these in two other cheese varieties. Then there are the canoli chips served alongside chocolate chip cream, which everyone raves about. I have more of a pork tooth than a sweet tooth, and I never cared for canoli, so I’ll take it on everyone’s word that these are super. What I can vouch for is booze, and I’d sign over my 401K to have one of their frozen peach Bellini machines in my house.
Piada is to Bravo as Fazoli’s is to Olive Garden, and I mean that in the nicest way. You’re getting the same caliber of food, perhaps with slightly fewer choices, at a much lower price. Our total for two entrees, appetizer, one Italian soda and a cocktail was only $23. Given the quality and amount of food we enjoyed, there’s not much to convince you to go to a higher-priced Italian joint unless you want a longer wine list and a more intimate atmosphere. If you’re just looking for something fresh, filling and fast, look no further than Piada.
Piada is located at 1047 Miamisburg Centerville Road. For more information, call 937.938.1356 or visit mypiada.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Brandy King at BrandyKing@DaytonCityPaper.com and visit her blog, foodvsface.com. Caricature by Jay King.