Piatto Pizzeria's char is up to par, but a lighter touch would plant it firmly in Italian trattoria territory. by Melissa Buote
As soon as you walk in the door of Piatto Pizzeria, you are welcomed by the gaping, fiery grin of the pizza oven. It's a show piece that is done a bit of a disservice by kitschy decor that veers a little too close to the East Side Mario's Italian aesthetic and miles away from the simple Italian trattoria it has the potential to be.
My friend Simon is at the bar when I arrive, waiting for a table to open up. Just as I perch on the barstool next door, the host comes up to inform us that a table is ready and leads us to a bar table that overlooks Hollis Street.
At a glance the restaurant seems spacious, but once seated, it feels oddly cramped. The dull buzz of dozens of conversations are amplified by the megaphone of an industrial criss-cross of pipes in the open ceiling that bounce every syllable back as a loud hum of white noise.
The lack of a decently priced house wine on the menu is a disappointment, as is the lack of Aperol: after spending a week last month guzzling spritzes at a series of Italian osterie, just being in the proximity of pizza makes me crave that zesty, orange glow. Simon asks if they happen to have any behind the bar, and with a happy affirmative, our server kindly offers to grab some Prosecco and make us each a spritz ($9).
Drinks happily in hand, we decide to start with the prosciutto pacchi ($9) and the polpette Italiane ($8) and to split the Cielo ($17) and Stephanie ($17) pizzas.
The polpette Italiane, a trio of meatballs, arrives first. The meatballs are OK, but bland, with just a hint of oregano. They don't add any real complexity or interest to the simple sauce they sit in---a classic, tasty marinara of San Marzano tomatoes seasoned with salt and pepper. A sprinkle of grana padano is another delicate choice. It would have been nice for one element to really pop.
Just as we are picking away at the last meatball, the pacchi---mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto and doused in the house marinara---arrives. I find it mostly inedible. The prosciutto is sliced and wrapped too thick, and the soupy cooking method has given it a mealy, boiled texture. The heavy hand with the prosciutto has also made for an over-salted dish, since the mild marinara and cheese can't stand up to the cure of the meat.
The pizzas arrive soon after. They look great. The Stephanie, in particular, has a very nice char to it, with a few blackened bubbles edging up against the crust.
The restaurant is VPN---Verace Pizza Napoletana---certified, committed to the "traditions" of Neapolitan pizza. While this certification means that they are committed to certain ingredients and methods, unfortunately it doesn't guarantee a fantastic pizza.
The simple sauce on the Cielo is the same red sauce we've had throughout the meal. It works best on the pizza, as a simple base for the pepperoni, red pepper and grana padano.
The white pizza is actually the tastier of the two, though it's a little unoriginal in terms of gourmet pizzas with the goat cheese, pear, prosciutto and balsamic reduction. This modern-classic combination works well: the sweetness of the pear plays wonderfully against the creamy, tart goat cheese.
The oven has given the dough great flavour, but beyond the few blisters, both pizzas have heavy, doughy crusts. If the air was further pushed into the cornicione, more delightful pockets of air in the lip of the pizza would take it from simply having great flavour to being great crust. As it is, it sits leaden in our stomachs.
And at almost $100, after tip, the receipt sits leaden in my wallet.
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