Saturday, March 5, 2011

Review of New Restaurant: La Piazza of Linglestown

On the main street in Linglestown, there stands an old church building. The Chocolate Cafe resided there for a time, offering full lunch and dinner service. In March 2009, the restaurant's doors closed, leaving Linglestown with an empty feeling on its streets. The people of Linglestown were left wanting, and the recently-opened La Piazza seems to be fulfilling that want.

We had an opportunity to try out La Piazza for dinner Saturday evening. Our expectations weren't the highest, having tried and been disappointed by the Chocolate Cafe. Upon our arrival, however, we began to think this would be an altogether different experience. For one, the parking lot was much fuller than it had been on our previous visit to the locale. Stepping inside, we noticed a wonderful display of hand-glazed pottery on the shelves to our left, and ahead, the church's old pulpit was cleverly being used as the hostess station.

After a brief wait for the hostess to return from seating diners than had arrived just ahead of us, we were led to a booth in the corner of the dining room. Both high chairs and booster seats are available for children; our six-month-old got a high chair, but a booster seat wasn't necessary for our three-year-old.

The dining room is nicely decorated, using the old church windows well for a warm, open feel. The table had a tan linen tablecloth, a floating candle as a centerpiece, and a small carafe of olive oil in addition to the salt and pepper shakers. It felt like a good place to have a nice night out without being uncomfortably formal. The menu has a half page of appetizers, a half page of pizza appetizers, a page of soup and salads, three pages of entrees, as well as a list of kids' entrees, desserts, and beverages.

Portabella Tower
Our waitress came by quickly to get our drink orders, and once they arrived we ordered the Portabella Tower as our appetizer. This dish did exactly what an appetizer should do: it got our appetites going and got us ready for our entrees. The mozzarella was high quality, the balsamic vinegar reduction added the perfect amount of acidity to the plate, and the eggplant was beautifully cooked. It's very easy for eggplant with the skin on to end up bitter, but this appetizer was not bitter in the slightest.

For our main courses, we ordered the pasta carbonara, which includes a salad and bread, and a seared ahi tuna salad. Our son got mini hamburgers with cheese and fries. The entrees arrived in a reasonable period of time, and our first impression was the sheer quantity of food our son received in his $5 dish: three large hamburger sliders and a generous side of frees. Ketchup for his fries was served in a small bowl, which was a nice touch of class above the expected tableside bottle.

Seared Ahi-Tuna Salad
The ahi tuna was cooked a bit further than the requested "medium" to more of a "medium well," but was deliciously seasoned. The salad it was served on came with an asian dressing that appears to be a standard store-bought dressing. It would be nice to see a house-made dressing available on the menu, but if there is one, it was not evident. The salad had the unfortunate side effect of dulling the seasoning on the tuna somewhat, which would likely not be a negative to the average customer, but for those who prefer the spiciness, it ends up lacking.

Pasta Carbonara
The pasta carbonara was the star dish of the evening, however. The sauce was beautifully creamy, the noodles were perfectly cooked, and the prosciutto took it over the top in deliciousness. The only issue with the dish was primarily aesthetic; the prosciutto was unevenly distributed on the plate. Also, both dishes were presented with a dusting of parsley on the rim. The plates would have a much cleaner appearance without it.

The full brunt of the dinner rush had hit by this point, and it was becoming evident that there were not enough waiters and waitresses to handle the load. Our waitress did not come back to check on us until after we had finished our entrees. At one point, we noticed that she was also serving a table in the opposite corner of the dining room, which seems like an inefficient use of personnel.

Creme Brulee
Our waitress did apologize for the delay when she returned to get our dessert order. Our son got the kid's sundae while we ordered a creme brulee to share. The desserts arrived after a longer delay than we would have expected. The creme brulee was unfortunately disappointing; the caramelized sugar crust was not very thick--there was no satisifying crunch when breaking through it--and parts of it had a burnt taste. The sundae was, naturally, eaten in its entirety by our son.

Overall, La Piazza is a great new restaurant. The entrees were reasonably priced at $10-18. The food is high quality and the locale is warm and welcoming. Once some additional staff is hired to handle the bustling dining room, La Piazza will be a truly wonderful place to celebrate a nice night out.
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