Piatti Review by Kristen & Guy
I must admit I came into this dining experience with a bit of a bias. After all, Piatti has been among my favorite restaurants for years now. I have celebrated birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries at Piatti. I have caught up with old friends and made new friends there. I have cried over the news of a new baby and the news of a divorce all at Piatti. So to say itís a "special" place to me, would be an understatement.
Why Iím thinking you might consider it special too would certainly be for the wonderful food and exceptional service. Iíve always been of the thinking that no amount of friendliness and smiles could make "so-so" food into a good dining experience and by no means would the food at Piatti ever be "so-so" but even if it were, I think I would still love it there, simply for the service. Our waiter, Brian was a handsome Irish/Italian gentleman who was either raised right (someone should thank his mother) or trained really well (in which case, I thanked his manager). He wasnít trying to be funny, he wasnít trying to sell you more food, he was simply polite, attentive, and quick to refill my iced tea glass (much appreciated on a hot afternoon).
AhhhÖ but what about the food, you ask? In our usual "sacdine.com review" fashion, we jumped right in by ordering a hefty "starter" course: the polenta al forno, bruschetta, and margherita pizza. Polenta, I must say, is one of my favorite dishes and this wasnít your standard baked polenta. It was served over a gorgonzola and meat ragu. Iím not a big meat eater, but the guys at the table didnít spare a complaint (or a crumb) when it came to this dish. The bruschetta, however, was right up my alley. Rather than the usual tomato, basil, "chopped up stuff" on top, this bruschetta was served with a very flavorful (and a bit spicy) chickpea, pancetta, and broccoli. I could have made this my entrťe. It was fabulous! As for the margherita pizza, this is one of my standard favorites, and Piatti didnít disappoint. Thereís something about the thin crust, the basil and the fresh mozzarella that makes you want to hop a gondola, head to Italy, and spend the rest of your life noshing on the "pizza pie".
But back here in Sacramento: round two, the entrees. Yes, after the generous order of antipasti we dined on, we thought it best to head straight for the main event. I ordered the salmone (which, in case you were wondering, is "salmon"). Served pan seared, with asparagus, green garlic, and Meyer lemon olive oil, this was the healthiest dish I could recognize on the menu (note to those cutting carbs: What Are We Thinking?) Alas, while perhaps not the most authentic Italian dish on the menu, the salmon was very simple and very delicious and the asparagus done just right. Most definitely the right decision for me as the calories I may have saved on my entrťe, were about to be quadrupled and then blown on desserts.
The desserts deserve a review all their own. In short, we ordered one of everything on the menu and pretty much cleared the plates. There was the tiramisu (Guyís favorite), the cioccolata (chocolate cake), mandorle (almond cake), semifreddo, and panna cotta. We all agreed the suprising winner was the lemon semifreddo with raspberry sauce and shaved white chocolate. A memorable dessert for a memorable place. Note to self, this isnít just a "special occasion" restaurant. Iíve got to make it back to Piatti more often!
In her review, Kristen refers to Piatti as a home away from home: a place to celebrate and commiserate with friends and family. She has a history with the place. I'm embarrassed to say that our visit was my very first experience with this friendly area favorite. Actually, that's not exactly true. I knew about Piatti through my college buddy Matt who worked there as a waiter when we were roommates 10+ years ago. For some reason I had it in my head that Piatti, with its Pavillions location, was a snooty, upscale restaurant where my meager student budget would not stretch. Well, imagine my surprise when I found the staff to be friendly and accomodating, the dining areas warm and inviting, and the menu extensive and affordable. What had I been afraid of? With that in mind, I plunged right in and made up for lost time.
When it comes to Italian food, the word moderation is swiftly kicked out of my vocabulary. So instead of one choice from the antipasti menu, my dining partners and I ordered three including the bruschetta (given an interesting twist by replacing the traditional topping of diced tomatoes and mozzarella with spicy chickpeas, pancetta and broccoli), the polenta al forno (baked polenta, gorgonzola cheese and a savory meat sauce) and the margherita pizza (topped with fresh mozzarella, parmesan, tomato sauce and basil.) All were wonderful, with the unique bruschetta receiving my vote as best of the bunch.
Even though moderation has gone out the window, restraint had to be exorcized if I wanted to fully enjoy my entree, so the salad course was reluctantly skipped. But before I could feel any remorse, our efficient waiter Brian brought me the risotto. If you didn't know, risotto is a creamy rice dish made with short-grain or Arborio Italian rice. The rice is gently cooked in butter or olive oil. Liquid, usually broth, is then added a small amount at a time until the rice is cooked and bathed in creamy liquid. Risotto must be stirred almost constantly to release the starch from the rice so the starch thickens the broth, giving the dish its characteristic creamy consistency. The risotto at Piatti was no disappointment. This delicious dish included artichokes, onions, English peas and herbed mascarpone. Table talk halted as each of us gave our entrees our undivided attention.
No matter how full I am, I always have room for one of my favorite desserts, tiramisu. Fortunately for me, we ordered every dessert on the menu, which meant (I hoped) that my little 'ol tiramisu would be overlooked while the others tried the other, slightly more glamorous goodies, including the cioccolata (sinfully rich chocolate cake), the mandorle (an almond cake), the lemon semifreddo and the panna cotta. It worked for a while until someone asked, "Hey, where's the tiramisu?" Fortunately for them, I had generously left them each one heavenly bite!
The Italians' love affair with food - with their spirited exaltations of "mangia! mangia!"- is an affair I happily enter into, and I plan to have a passionate relationship with Piatti from now on.