new Things I Ate in Cambodia: Piatti: Oh God It's 1994 Again

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Piatti: Oh God It's 1994 Again

Piatti Restaurant and Catering
571 Pavilions Ln
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 649-8885

Entering Piatti is rather like stepping into an upper middle class vortex. Passing by the upmarket shops of Pavilions and steering around many expensive yet tasteful vehicles, you enter Piatti, a serviceable simulation of an authentic Italian "bistro" with real "flavor." Alas, it is just that: a simulation of a soulful regional Italian restaurant that fails to deliver.

On our visit, Piatti was inundated with chattering, well dressed Upper Middle Class People, mouthing off in a Sophisticated Fashion about various wine blends and foreign vacations and god knows what, pretending to understand what the cute Italian phrases on the menu meant. Middle aged and botoxed Ladies Who Dinner picked at steaks and horselaughed. The dining room itself was dark - too dark - the main light source coming from the admittedly impressive woodburning stoves that graced the open kitchen.

Our giggly server handed us menus. Piatti, being a curious hologram of an actual Italian restaurant, reflects this in the menu: wood burning everything juxtaposed with trendy-in-the-90's ingredients like lemon peel and pomegranate and polenta fries, you know the game. You've got pizzas, you've got salads, you've got meaty entrees, and you also have your rather lucrative order-seperately sides. Bam! (says Emeril.)

Piatti is known in the Sacramento area for the garlic, balsamic and olive oil dipping sauce that comes with the bread basket, although I believe this was only interesting and exciting circa 1994 (how embarrassing, Sacramento!) Since I am not exactly a bread whore, I took a polite bite. It tasted like bread dipped in olive oil and vinegar.

We began with the strati($7.95), which was described as a layered dish of grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, and goat other words, a throwback to the dread and outdated custom of Really Goddamn Tall Food. How'd it taste? Since tall is not a flavor, it tasted...fine, although I detected a curiously flat Chef Boyardesque flavor that I was not loving, although the goat cheese did add a decent tangy kick to matters. The flatbreads were pedestrian and there were too many of them - how many carbs does one meal need?

My dad moved on to the zuppa di zucca ($5.95), a creamy butternut squash soup with toasted pepitas. This came out in a scarily huge bowl, but was tasty enough, with a dense creamy flavor and a good crunch from the pepita seeds. Still, it was incredibly rich - for the good of the public, maybe they should try serving it in a cup instead of a pail. Maybe.

Entrees anyone? I had the salmone ($22.50) (god, enough with the Italian), which was composed of seared Loch Duarte Salmon and Brussels sprouts with fennel and preserved lemon - I substituted the braised savoy spinach with lemon for the potatoes. The main theme of the dish, unfortunately, was profuse quantities of salt: the fish was only a little overcooked but had a salt crust that made it less enjoyable then it could have been. The idea of the roast brussels sprouts was good, but they too were slightly overcooked, rendering them a bit more chewy then I would have liked. The spinach was good, but let's be honest: tasty spinach really isn't what gets asses in seats at restaurants.

My mom had the linguine with manila clams and chili flakes ($16.95), which also fell victim to the Dreaded Salt Curse - she said this made the pasta pretty difficult to eat, and I agreed. The clams were tasty enough, but she reported they had some grit. Messing up dental work: not cool, guys.

My dad went with the caesar salad ($7.95), but asked that they substitute the salmon for the prawns ($12.95). Our server did explain that she wasn't sure if the menu could do that, or if they would charge him the full 22.50 price for the salmon filet - but she ran back and said they could do it.

We discovered on the check later that they did end up charging the full 22 bucks for the salmon, although apparently they comped the 7.95 for the salad itself. Wish they'd explained that a little more clearly. The salad was lemony and a decent rendition of the old standby, although his salmon also had Salt Disease.

Dessert menus arrived without prompting, but since we were highly oversalted as was, we passed.

Verdict? Piatti is a pretty considerable disappointment, a mediocre Italian chain venture doing its damndest to simulate a honest regional Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, it both fails in providing decent food and overcharges in the process, which is really a bit inexcusable. Seriously, you can do better, and you won't have to listen to squawking ladies-who-lunch in the process either.


Anonymous said...

How do you know how things were in restaurants in 1994 when you were 3 years old? Reruns of T.J. Hooker?


Faine said...

Nah, but I do read a lot of food writing in which food conventions in 1994 were roundly bitched about. (And I do remember how food was in the late nineties at least, when I moved past the whole chicken fingers-and-pizza stage most American kids go through.

And hey, I'm 19! I was at least five then, man!

Anonymous said...

Ate there last night (not in Sacto). Homemade pasta with bolognese is surprisingly good