From Italy, the native land of pasta and pizza, a simple idea came to two brothers, Stefano and Dante, over 20 years ago. Today, it has become a giant, known as Piola. The idea was to reinvent the quintessential Italian establishment, a pizzeria, to become a comfortable, contemporary, and trendy place where one can enjoy authentic, homemade and simple Italian food. Piola, is now in more than 30 cities across the globe, in the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico. If you crave it, you will find it even on West 12th Street in New York City.
Piola means “the tavern,” a meeting place in ancient Italian dialect. Although Piola is international and trendy, the cuisine is traditional Italian—simple and healthy, light and fresh. The pizza is thin crust and cooked in a brick oven. The pizza menu and the rest of the menu are ingeniously diverse and caters to its international as well as its local clientele.
The setting is congenial, colorful, comfortable, and trendy, while the service is friendly.
At Piola one can choose from at least 50 different pizzas. The dough is made from either white or whole wheat flour with a thin crust. Both the dough and sauces are made in house, with fresh ingredients. One of the more popular choices is the Classical Pizza, the Margherita ($9.50) made with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil.
There’s also the White Pizzas which are made with various kinds of cheeses and no sauce. One of the white pizzas which caught my attention was the Beirut ($12.00) made with Za’atar, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, and scallions. Piola’s Featured Pizzas include the Piola Pizza ($14.50) which is made with fresh mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, basil, and tomato sauce; the Rio de Janeiro Pizza made with chicken, catupiry cheese, parsley, tomato sauce, and mozzarella ($17.00); and for the New Yorkers, there’s the Brooklyn Pizza with chicken, broccoli, gorgonzola cheese, tomato sauce, and mozzarella ($14.00). Internationally, Piola has 250 pizza recipes with most being their own, original creations and each location selects 50 of those which will best please the palate of its local clientele.
At Piola, it’s not just about the pizza though.
There is plenty to choose from on this diverse and eclectic menu, which includes many different sections. The salad, the antipasto (starters), the pasta sections, and on the side of the menu there are a few complementary dishes to go along with either the pastas or pizzas—Carpaci, thin-sliced raw beef fillet, as well as meat and seafood dishes. There is also an international selection of wines, beers, and other specialty drinks.
We had the classic Margherita Pizza; the Penne Cividale ($14.00) homemade whole wheat pasta with fresh tomatoes, cream, Parma ham, and parmesan cheese; the Gnocchi Legnano with white sauce; and the Gnocchi Pompei with tomato sauce; all of which were fabulous. The pasta was cooked al dente, just the way I like it, while the gnocchi was superlative. It was very light, fluffy, and soft—just the way it is supposed to be. To get that consistency, there should be the right amount of potato and flour mix. All were prepared just right—leaving one satisfied without the heaviness. On the 29th of every month, Piola hosts a Gnocchi day—make sure you go.
Of course, what is a meal without dessert! Piola’s dessert menu is very eclectic and original, blending traditions and cultures in one plate, but mostly Italian. Both the Tiramisu ($6.95) and the Tora Nera and Gelato ($7.95) (chocolate cake with ice cream) were nice. The Tiramisu was very light while the chocolate cake was very rich—potent but pleasant when mixed with the ice cream.
There is also scenery and art at Piola.
Every three to six months, one can see a new exhibition for a different artist. Tom Caravagia’s exhibition is on display until March 25, 2009. Piola hosts many other activities related to arts, books, and film. For more information regarding their activities visit www.piola.it.
Piola is located at 48 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10003, (212) 777-7781 just steps from Union Square, on the corner of 12th street and Broadway.
Open from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. every day, and open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Piola takes reservations for parties of up to 50 people.