Piatanzi is a hidden gem.
The veteran Italian bistro is centrally located, tucked away off Girard and Hannett NE.
When you find it, though, some of the best Italian food in town awaits you, made from as many locally sourced and organic ingredients as possible.
The restaurant was opened by Pete and Maggie Lukes.
His training as a chef and her interior design background are on full display inside Piatanzi, and it’s a very good match – the cuisine is old-school Italian and the decor is decidedly modern, so together they’re a bit “nuovo” Italian.
And the food is wonderful.
The agnello, or lamb shank ($25), was a masterpiece. A generous bone-in shank of locally sourced lamb is covered in a tomato ragu and braised slowly, and the result is an almost buttery meat you can pull apart with your fingers.
It was smoky and flavorful but not overwhelmed with spice, which is a testament to the chef’s restraint. You won’t find grease-soaked dishes here like you will at many Italian chains.
Piatanzi’s food is subtle, its flavors about more than just concentrating an ingredient, and that probably makes it sit well; you won’t leave the place feeling as if you overindulged. The lamb shank came with freshly steamed Brussels sprouts and a delicious housemade macaroni and cheese. They were a perfect complement to the lamb, as were the slices of toasted Italian bread that came on the side, by request.
The pasta dish was also fantastic.
The pomodoro with grilled chicken ($18) was a behemoth of a bowl of linguine pasta, and it was flavored beautifully. A sprinkle of freshly chopped basil was the only dominant spice, but a delicious, almost creamy sauce that resulted from a little bit of olive oil, a lot of garlic, and the moisture from freshly cooked tomatoes filled the bowl with flavor. The chicken was sautéed just right so it was still moist and tender. Everything about the dish, from the serving size to the taste, was generous. The thick linguine noodles and bold level of garlic also make it a pretty authentic Italian dish.
Meals at Piatanzi are so large you don’t need an appetizer, but I tried one anyway – the “patate,” or french fries cooked in truffle oil and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese – and wasn’t disappointed. The serving was massive for $7, and the flavor was good, but the entrees were so memorable and so well-prepared that the appetizer was more of an afterthought.
The decor is as good as the food. Brilliant paintings, industrial light fixtures and modern linens give the place a big-city feel. It may be one of the best-designed restaurants in town.
Parking is plentiful, and the menu, full of pizzas and appetizers and familiar pasta dishes, is surprisingly kid-friendly. Even the staff is hard to overlook: My waiter’s service was outstanding.
To be sure you get a seat on weekends or holidays, call ahead for reservations. Gluten-free menu items are available for diners with sensitivities. Daily specials are also available.
There’s also a second site, at 3305 Juan Tabo NE.
Everything about Piatanzi is right. It isn’t cheap, but it’s fair, and the food is spectacular. It’s nice enough for a date, but not too casual or stuffy. And each dollar you spend there will feel like a worthwhile investment.