Hospitality comes in many forms: it can be surprising and nuanced, or routine and masterful. Any new venture has the potential to live up to these expectations and create a wonderful experience for its guests, even in the most unfamiliar places. So when I heard that I had been selected as a VIP for the grand opening of Piada in Oakland, I didn’t know what to expect, other than to be blown away. That’s the job of any restaurant’s opening: to create such an experience, as described above, that guests keep coming back over and over again. Lydia, my partner in crime for this experience, can attest to that much as she joined me for the Chipotle of Italian cuisine!
Atmosphere: The atmosphere was lively and fun, full of modern fixtures like sleek, simple wooden tables and gorgeous black and white photographs doting the walls. There was some soft rock/pop music in the air, which frankly ruined the vibe for me a little bit. However, there was still a lot of energy in the room, which you don’t find that often in a fast-causal restaurant.
Service: The staff on the line were incredibly friendly, putting on their best smiles for the grand opening. The chefs and other attendants who visited us at our table, dropping off little samples of everything on the menu, were less sincere but I’m more inclined to forgive that, considering how busy everyone was.
Quality: The quality of the food is definitely a step above an ordinary fast-casual restaurant like Chipotle or Five Guys. My piada, the Diavolo, was warm and fresh, slightly spicy but it had a great crunch and a distinguished combination of eating a steak and a Caesar salad. We were also treated to free Italian soda (sweet and bubbly), piada sticks, stuffed with cheese, pepperoni, and creamy parmesan dressing (as good as they sound), both tomato soup and lobster bisque (the lobster was significantly tastier), and finally a cannoli chip (tossed in powdered sugar and served with a delicious chocolate chip cream cheese icing). All of it was amazing and had me coming back several times throughout the month for more!
Price: Because I was a VIP, everything was free. However, on a normal day, you can expect to pay slightly more than Chipotle for a very similar meal. And the more you pile on, the more you can expect the price of your meal to creep up to potentially $20 for an appetizer, entrée, soup, drink, and dessert.
Translation: Piada is superior to any other fast-casual chain (with the exception of Shake Shack, in my humble opinion) and certainly the best in the Pittsburgh area.
Lydia’s Take: The service was great; everyone was super friendly and helpful. We were even greeted by the general manager, who came to our table to personally thank us for coming. As for improvement, everything was just way too salty. From the steak to the bread, it seems as if they added extra salt to everything. Piada is perfect for a casual catch-up with friends or a low-key first date. As for my meal, in particular, the combination of flavors in the fall steak avocado piada was great, and everything was cooked really well too. I also really liked the soda, and the fountain that they have for dispensing it is really cool.
Lydia is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in neuroscience and minoring in chemistry. She lives just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Piada is a small regional Italian fast-casual chain serving up fresh pasta, salads, and of course, piadas on the go. Check out their website to see the menu and get the full story: https://mypiada.com/