La Piazza Doesn’t Live Up To It’s Reputation

Eating food is an incredibly subjective experience. The same food can taste differently to different people. Everyone’s body chemistry is a little different which probably accounts for most of the reason we experience food differently but, whatever the reason, it’s never a cut and dried, black and white situation.
That’s why writing restaurant reviews is sometimes a difficult task. After having written hundreds of them, though, over the last 40 years or so I have found that sometimes there’s very little you can say about a restaurant that is positive. So what do you do? Normally, I just don’t write about places unless I can offer something positive to my readers. It’s not like readers pick up a magazine and want to read about someplace not to go to. We’re looking for some place good to go to instead.
Occasionally, however, and it’s happened once so far in the pages of this magazine, I write an article that is more negative than positive. This is also one of those reviews. I always do a lot of soul-searching before writing a less than complimentary restaurant review because I want to make sure I get things right. This isn’t internet. You can’t take something down once it’s been printed.
Part of the reason I take this seriously is the history I have with restaurants, from working in them when I was younger to managing one much later in life and then owning one for five years. It’s a tough profession and it requires a lot of work and dedication which is why most people in the business have a great deal of pride in what they do and the food they put on their plates. I know I did.
So I respect the effort that goes into running a restaurant. However, just showing up for work is not enough. If you don’t put great stuff on the plates then you probably won’t be around for long. I thought that, based on the reputation of La Piazza and the online reviews I read that I would be in for a treat.
Unfortunately, the reali8ty was much different. I ordered an appetizer and a main course and had two beers and paid $70. Now if the food had been really good I wouldn’t have minded that much. I wouldn’t have gone back again really soon because I don’t think it represented great value for money but I wouldn’t have felt badly about it either.
However. My appetizer was the beef carpaccio, a favorite dish of mine when eating Italian food and one that I always order if it’s on the menu because it’s usually a bellweather when it comes to the menu as a whole. If they get the carpaccio right, then usually the rest of the menu is also done well. The basic purpose of beef carpaccio is to highlight the flavor of the beef, not surprisingly.
The dish was created by Giuseppe Cipriani, a chef at Harry’s Bar in Venice, in honor of the Italian painter, Vittore Carpaccio. The original recipe, which is still the best in my opinion, calls for laying very thin slices of raw beef on a plate that has a thin layer of olive oil. You then put a small amount of grated Parmesan and maybe a little salt and pepper on top. That’s it. This way you can really taste the beef. However, people who don’t understand the dish tend to pile stuff on top of it like La Piazza does.
Here they put arugula and onions on top of the beef which takes away from the flavor of the beef. They’ve added a few capers too, which is common, and not a problem, but unnecessary. And they added Parmesan in the form of large slices that were hard and dry and didn’t fit with the dish at all. The other problem was that there was probably only about two ounces of beef and it was rather salty for some reason. It was, basically, a poorly conceived and executed dish that was certainly not worth its $18 price tag.
My entree was the Veal Milanese priced at $30. Although they may have cooked this dish in accordance with its original recipe, the execution was flawed and the value for money was nonexistent. Veal Milanese is a slice of veal that is breaded and fried. The breading here was bland with little flavor but the real problem was that the breading was twice as thick as the veal which seemed to be not much thicker than the carpaccio.
Both of these dishes say to me that the people who own this restaurant have little concern for their customers. They may have cared at one point since they have hundreds of positive reviews on TripAdvisor from years past.
But as a diner I don’t care what happened in the past or why. I only care about what’s on the plate in front of me and what I have to pay for it and what I received at La Piazza was completely unacceptable at almost any price. While this is an admittedly subjective opinion, it is an honest one that’s based on fact.
And I really can’t imagine that many other people would have been happy with what I was served either.
— Tom Aikins