Ann Arbor, like every other college town in America, is always looking for the next great food place that sits a step above fast food and a step below places you could pay for if you had real income. While there are definitely a few around campus that fit this mold, there’s never been any really good fast Italian place. Enter Piada.
The fast casual chain has locations in Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Indianapolis and throughout Michigan and Ohio. They decided moving into the State Street location, where Five Guys was previously, would be an enticing enough spot for hungry students coming to and from class. They might have hit the jackpot.
Piada started with a soft launch earlier this week and proceeded with a full opening this past weekend. I was lucky enough to get a spot for dinner on Wednesday night during the soft launch. While it’s clear that they weren’t 100% ready for a major dinner rush just yet, this place has a chance to eventually make a huge splash in the Ann Arbor food scene.
For lunch or for dinner, you have a few different options: There’s three pastas and salads already on the menu, but you can mix and match with different sauces, dressing and toppings for both. They also offer piadas and tascas, two different sandwich types with a variety of toppings, as well.
We decided to try one tasca, one pasta and two sides. The easy choice was The Farm Club Tasca, a mix of fried chicken, Pepper Jack cheese, avocado, tomato, arugula and pancetta. It was a delicious mix of the chicken, cheese and avocado, exploding with different flavors, and the tomato and arugula acted as a salad within the sandwich.
For a pasta, we went with the Chicken Diavolo, which is really quite simple: crispy chicken, spicy diavolo (really just tomato) sauce, parmesan cheese, tomatoes and onions. It comes in a massive bowl with endless angel hair pasta and tons of pieces of chicken. The sauce was just spicy enough to add a kick, but mild enough to remain bearable, and you’d be hard-pressed to find more food for $8.00 that tastes this good.
On the side, we opted for the Orzo Crunch, an orzo salad with almonds, peas, pecans, currants, peppers and lemon basil dressing. It’s the perfect compliment to heavy Italian food, and it falls into their “Seasonal” category, along with a Tuscan Kale salad and a quinoa that we didn’t get to try.
For dessert, sometimes the best option is the most obvious one. It sits in the “Street Sides” section of the menu, but make no mistake, it’s most definitely dessert. These cannoli chips, sprinkled with enough powder to make Pablo Escobar proud, are truly delicious. It’s an extremely generous portion, and the chocolate chip creamed icing is exactly what’d you want with a cannoli.
So, what did we miss? Other people tried salads that looked really good, and on a cold Ann Arbor day, I’m sure they’ll serve up some delicious tomato basil or lobster bisque soup. But, you can only eat so much in one sitting, and we at least had to make sure we covered the basics.
Overall, Piada appears to be one of those places Ann Arbor has been desperately craving and will be an excellent addition to the fast casual food market. The food is made fresh, the options are endless and the range from very healthy to downright dangerous is all encompasing. Piada’s April opening positions them well for a test run throughout the summer, and they should be up to speed (and well on your radar) when Fall 2016 classes start.