Sometimes, you pass by a place for a few months or a year, and just don't go inside even though you have heard good things about it. Sometimes, you find yourself in that place in an unplanned but happy accident. That's what happened the other night.
A Houston franchise of the Piola founded in Italy and owned by Florence's own Michele Cencini, Midtown's Piola is an unassuming little pizza and pasta spot characterized by an explosion of colorful lighting and a welcoming garlicky air. Of course, there's less competition here for Italian food than there is in Italy, so that helps. But that smell is so welcoming.
We found ourselves there as accidental tourists, and we were pleasantly surprised. Not only is the menu huge, but it's reasonably priced and includes a number of ingredients flown over directly from The Mother Country. Portions are more than generous - three of us couldn't finish three plates.
Check out the Valle dei Templi - imported creamy, massive burrata and shaved Prosciutto crudo with cherry tomatoes and the largest basil leaves I've ever met:
Apparently they don't have good basil in Trinidad, as you can see by Corey's demonstration of herbal happiness ...
The Roka Cabana insalate featured arugula, mozzarella, diced tomatoes and bell peppers, pistachios and pomegranate dressing. It was light and fresh with a citrusy hint, though I would probably try another salad next time as the texture wasn't quite what I imagined.
And the pizza, wow. There are dozens to choose from, and we tried the Prato with sauteed shitake mushrooms, arugula and shaved Grana Padano. The crust was crispy and thin, and the tomato sauce was so zesty and fresh. A little olive oil and pepper on top made this one of the most delicious pizzas ever!
If you're looking to bring back memories of a trip to Italy, practice your Italian or just enjoy some great happy hour specials, head to Piola. You'll leave happy, full and not broke!
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