Restaurant Week makes food lovers on a budget face a pretty difficult choice: do we take advantage of presumably great deals at restaurants we already love or take it as an opportunity to branch out and try something new? As I perused the TRW website, I came across the Piazza Italia menu. When I saw “Four Cheese Ravioli, Breaded and Fried Golden, Served with Our Signature Pomodoro Sauce for Dipping,” I knew it was going to be hard to say no. I also saw that chicken parmesan was listed as main dish, and I love me some chicken parmesan – it sealed the deal for me.
I hadn’t been to Piazza Italia since sophomore year for two friends’ birthdays, and while the evening itself wasn’t the best (car breakdowns, emotional breakdowns, and more – but that is a story for a different blog), the food was downright delicious. It is important to note that since my last trip I had been to Italy itself, and learned a few interesting things. First and foremost, it turns out that Piazza actually means plaza and the restaurant did not in fact just spell pizza wrong as I had initially suspected. (For someone who comes from an Italian family, I continually embarrass myself and my culture. This will be further proven in a second.) More surprisingly (to me and only me – I think zero other people I was with in Rome found this to be at all at odds with a fundamental belief they’d had their entire life), it turns out that chicken parmesan is not actually a “thing” in Italy. I think it’s the equivalent of Tex-mex for Italian food. (See? I learned things while I was abroad.) Even though I am now equipped with this new knowledge, I love chicken parmesan no less, and I still feel Italian when I call it chicken “parmigiana.”
I was pretty excited to make my way back to the Italian Plaza (I just did a little translating there for you non-Italians), and felt that with all of the things I’d learned since my last visit that I’d be able to get the very best out of my meal. My roommate, Lindsay, and I, gathered up a few friends (okay, technically a couple of friends), and made our way over to Brightleaf. Perry, Taylor, Lindsay, and I were expecting a wait but were seated immediately amidst the sea of middle-to-old-aged folks who seemed to make up the majority of the restaurant’s small crowd. We were surprised but figured it meant we’d get served more quickly so were pretty excited about it.
Since I’d been thinking about this meal pretty much the entire week, I was pretty prepared to order. I think I asked for the fried ravioli before the waiter even finished asking us if we were ready to order, but I was surprised to hear myself asking for his recommendation of whether I should go for the chicken parm or the Rigatoni Siciliana. When he answered “Rigatoni” without even thinking about it, I figured that since he had no incentive to pick one over the other (I’m generally pretty distrustful of waiters/waitresses who just recommend the more expensive item), that I’d go for it. Rigatoni Siciliana might actually be real Italian food and that possibility is just too tantalizing to pass up.
I think Piazza Italia is one of those restaurants that adjusts its portions for restaurant week. Don’t get me wrong, I would not be able to (okay, I would be able to, but I probably shouldn’t be willing to) eat full-sized portions of a four-course meal, but it’s worth noting, I think. I tried to linger over my quattro Ravioli Quattro Formaggio as long as possible, because I didn’t want the taste to end. Even though I generally try to stay away from fried foods, sometimes they can’t stay away from me, and in this case, I’m glad I caved.
Our salads were just salads, with nothing particularly special about them. The most interesting part of this course was whenTaylor’s nearly-empty diet coke was refilled with water leaving her glass with a weird, brownish hue. Oops!
Now, for the main course. Was the change of heart worth it? Aside from the mushrooms (you could guess how I feel about them knowing my aversion to textures that are too weird), I definitely enjoyed the “Grilled Chicken, Italian Sausage, Garlic and Wild Mushrooms in Pomodoro Cream Sauce tossed with Fresh Rigatoni and Parmesan Breadcrumbs.” Sometimes cream sauces are a bit over the top for me, but this one didn’t make me feel like my arteries were closing up with each bite, and rather made me feel like I was back inItaly!
I was also pretty excited about dessert. The choices were chocolate cake or a sorbet. Perry and I had the fantastic idea to each get one and split. (We often have this idea and things usually work out better for us than our peers who think they’re decisive enough to know what they want. 2>1, duh.) Unfortunately, our plan hit snag – the sorbet was raspberry – most people would agree that this pairs well with chocolate, but again, I have a weird fruit aversion so we decided to just go our separate ways. Obviously, I went with the cake and I loved every bite. A scoop of ice cream definitely could have added an additional element of delight, but considering how unhealthy this meal was, it was probably a blessing in disguise that it wasn’t offered. (Also, I was too excited about dessert and forgot to take a picture. Sorry I’m not sorry. You’ll just have to come and order it for yourself!)
So, is it worth it to go to a restaurant you already know during restaurant week? I think it can be – Piazza Italia was, for me, a place reserved for birthdays or other special occasions, and restaurant week made it accessible. I enjoyed my dinner, and even got to take half of it home to enjoy the next day for lunch! Brightleaf is so close even the stinkin’Lincoln could make it there without a problem, and Piazza Italia is definitely one of the best it has to offer.