1129 NW Johnson St., 478-0619, piazzaportland.com.
[ITALIAN-AMERICAN CLUB] "Piazza"
loosely translates as "plaza" but, in the case of Piazza Italia, it's
more like "community center." This tony block of the Pearl doesn't look
much like Little Italy, but this tile-floored and jersey-bedecked
Italian joint is heavily populated by Lavazza-sipping, soccer-watching
Italians shouting in their mother tongue surrounded by the throngs who
come here for fat, homemade pappardelle. As the staff—there's enough
on-the-clock bodies to man another restaurant this size—watch the
Timbers-Sounders match with the inadvertent condescension of people
accustomed to watching the game played at a much higher level, families
and couples feast on a salad of tuna, sweet corn, avocado and Parmesan
(insalatona, $12.75) and little nubs of soft bread dipped in oil and
balsamic. A simple antipasto plate ($10.50) comes with outrageously good
olives and prosciutto but very average cheese. Pastas are perfectly al
dente by the Italian definition, a feat you won't accomplish with 100
boxes of Barilla and an infrared thermometer. Pasta sauces have some
pop. For dessert, get the chocolate hazelnut cake, which tastes like a
large, triangular Ferrero Rocher.
Ideal meal: Caprese ($10.75), antipasto (if only for the olives), and pappardelle al cinghiale ($16.50).
Best deal: Rigatoni Bolognese ($14).
Pro tip: They take reservations, which is a good idea since this place is always crawling with people.
11:30 am-3 pm daily, 5-10 pm Monday-Thursday, 5-11 pm Friday-Saturday, 5-9 pm Sunday. $$.