177 rue St Zotique E.
Chef: Luciano Recine
Chef Hats : 2.5
Cost: 109.00 (including tax) for 4 people
Speciality: Italian, BYOB
Sometimes people make choices for you that you wouldn’t normally make and that was just the case Saturday night when my family had their official couple of times a year “cugini get together” at Piatto Pieno. Of course, being the jovial bunch they are, they like going to loud restaurants to eat mounds of Italian food, bring a couple of bottles of their home made wine and dance till they drop.
Not that I terribly mind, it is usually for the company, the laughs and the crazy family antics that I attend these functions. You can call me a food snob or maybe just the crazy Foo-Foodie (I have been called worse in my life) but what I enjoy most these days is a quieter setting, where one can focus on the food rather than the noise. I want to be able to discuss the latest current events with my friends, or catch up on what has been happening in our lives and exchange opinions on a number of subjects.I prefer low but quiet relaxing music while dining and want to be able to hear the person sitting next to me without having to scream over loud music all night long till my throat dries up and I choke on my food. This is never the scenario with my family and not the case at Piatto Pieno this fateful Saturday evening.
Having been here once before for another family party I remembered how noisy the trattoria style front room was with its Elvis impersonator and rows and rows of tables filled with boisterous diners. I was expecting the worse this evening as I had read the multitude of bad food reviews and having been pre-warned by the owner upon making the reservation that since we were a large group, we would have to wait a while for our food if we did not order a fixed menu. “So we better not complain if the service was too long”. Not a good way to start…
Someone in my family must be connected because even though we got a real bad table in the front room of the restaurant, seated parallel to the kitchen alongside the entrance (the Elvis impersonator is now replaced by a live Latin band) ,the service was impeccable, fast, efficient, and extremely accommodating and friendly. No one was rude like the reviews stipulated and we did not have to share any choice words with any of the staff. We were served quickly and efficiently and at the end of the meal our payments were dealt with professionally. We were in and out within two and a half hours. Maybe a little too quick for a family get together, where we wanted to linger and catch up on the year’s events. I shall explain later, now back to the food. The portions were huge, plentiful and flavorful. Do not expect the latest and most innovative in creative Italian cooking here. It is good old comfort food made the old traditional way. Plates are filled to the rim to accommodate any large Italian appetite and/ or for the small eaters, enough to take home.
For starters, my beautiful cousin “Tchapata” nick named so for her flair of snaring men with her beauty ordered two entrees, Bruschetta and Antipasto that she shared with her mom. For her main meal she ordered Pizza. The pizza was generic, like those you find in traditional pizza parlor. It was not thin crust gourmet pizza found in wood burning oven pizzeria’s topped with prosciutto, arugula and mozzarella di Bufala and the latest in trendy accoutrements ,but the traditional thicker dough topped all dressed. “Tchapata” told me it was good, the tomato sauce was fresh with hints of basil, not too acidic, with generous mounds of mozzarella cheese. She states that she still prefers mine… I think she just likes coming over for dinner! Gotta love her! The bruschetta was also good with perfectly diced cubes of tomatoes, garlic and basil on big thick slabs of country bread. The generous plate of antipasto – which contained a variety of Italian cold cuts and melon was shared between three people.
Brains, Frenchie and I ordered the Tortellini alla Gigi which came in a creamy rose sauce, with small but visible pieces of prosciutto or pancetta (I couldn’t tell) generous portions of thickly sliced button mushrooms. I also ordered the Chef salad that came with copious amounts of red bell peppers and tomato, the portion was enough to be shared between the three of us, with leftovers to boot. The plates of tortellini were also big double portions that I doggy bagged and took home with me to eat the next day.
“Nonna Cocodei “ordered the Pappardelle Puttanesca, thick slabs of fresh noodles with a spicy tomato sauce and a fiery kick; which she added an additional teaspoon of hot peppers to. I am surprised she did not go into liver failure and I discovered a new thing about Nonna, this feisty seventy six year old grandmother likes it hot!
Cugini a.k.a. Ms. Diana Ross started with an entree of eggplant parmesan. Served in a large metal bowl with a generous amount of red tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella au gratin, it was tender and downright homey. As a main meal she ordered the fusilli with rapini and sausage . She said it tasted a little bland and it hardly had any morsels of sausage or rapini for that matter, she added lots of parmesan cheese to bring up the flavor. Her husband a.k.a “The Count” had the Fusilli Bolognese, it came drowning in a thick Bolognese sauce, but he had no complaints and said it was good.
Our famous cugini Joe “the Attore-from Mambo Italiano fame” had the veal scaloppini al limone with grilled vegetables which also received no complaints and was nominated as passable.
For dessert, we all had a piece of tiramisu cake to celebrate Nonna’s birthday and good espresso coffee to end the meal.
This group must have been very hungry cause judging from the pictures, they dove into their plates before I had a chance to say wait…
All in all, we got what we came for, except as a perk we got a manic evening filled with loud cockroach music escalating to piercing sounds of big group party revellers cheering and dancing. Mixed in were the sounds of the big screen TV above our heads and two inches from our faces blaring the Saturday night hockey match .The heat of the kitchen created extreme hot flashes throughout my body, were I wanted to run out into the cold naked .We were disturbed by incessant restaurant patrons passing by in the dozens behind us as they entered or exited the restaurant. The chef began dancing and flaying his arms above his head behind the kitchen counter creating a very festive atmosphere and quite a show for Nonna. Who was staring and laughing at his antics and finally remarked, “I guess he really enjoys his job”. Two hours into the evening the tempo and the scenery got very crazy and surreal that I felt like I was in a Fellini flick! I got a terrible headache and threw in the towel and called it a night. Thus was my experience at Piatto Pieno. Short & Sweet!
Sorry cugini’s see ya next time for Pizza at my place!