Monday, January 13, 2014

“It Will Be a Half-hour Wait.”

Let’s back up four hours from yesterday’s blog. We arrived in Glendale for the Glow at about 4:30 p.m. to meet Raina and Jesse for dinner at La Piazza al Forno. (For background on La Piazza al Forno, see our blog of January 1st of this year.) Given that the main streets were closed and everyone with parking was charging $10.00 for the privilege, I soon realized that the Glow was a bigger deal than I had anticipated. So I was prepared for some wait, given that the restaurant is directly across the street from most of the evening’s activities.

So a half-hour wait didn’t seem unreasonable, especially since we specifically wanted one of the few tables on the sidewalk patio. A half-hour came and went, and we were approached by the hostess. We could have the available four-top inside if we wanted, but we decided to wait.
A half-hour became an hour so Jesse approached the hostess again. “You’ll be the next ones seated.” he was told. So we fought our way through the constantly growing crowd to take our place at the front of the line. The hostess grabs four menus and proceeds to lead us onto the patio. Surprise. Someone had snuck another party into what were to have been our seats. We were not happy. And neither was the hostess. But soon a table inside opened, and we made sure it had our names on it. And by the way, at this point the hostess was telling would-be diners that the wait would be an hour or longer.

Soon after we were seated, our server brought a plate of bruschetta to the table—compliments of the restaurant in apology for the mix-up.
I must admit that this “freebee” went a long way in easing our pique. The mix of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic (lots of garlic), and basil sat on lightly toasted bread slices and was dusted with grated parm. It was very good indeed.

As appetizers, we ordered the fried calamari and one Margherita D.O.C.—San Marzano tomatoes D.O.P. house-made mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh basil.
As I wrote in the earlier blog: “If you are going to judge a VPN pizzeria, this is the pizza to start with since it has no distracting embellishment. You want to judge the thinness of the crust and taste the light char that comes from the high heat oven. You want to taste the brightness of the sauce—tomatoes and salt and nothing else. And you want to judge the dairy richness of the fresh mozzarella…”

I have always considered the fried calamari at Andreoli Italian Grocer in Scottsdale to be the gold standard, but La Piazza al Forno’s is so close a second that I am not sure that, in a blind taste test, I could tell the difference.
The calamari did come with a small cup of marinara but after eating one piece with the sauce, I decided that the marinara was a distraction.

As were finishing our appetizers Raina and I noticed a plate being served to the woman at the next table that looked like a large cinnamon roll with icing running over the sides. “What is this?” we asked our server. It turned to be Chicken Pesto Lasagna made from a family recipe with chicken, ricotta and homemade pesto cream sauce in and baked with mozzarella.
Since we had decided to wait until after our appetizers to order further, Raina and Jesse decided to share this for their entrée.

I only had a taste of the white cream sauce which had a mild pesto flavor. Raina reported that the chicken had been ground and mixed with the ricotta and that, in her opinion, it needed something to “jazz up” the flavor.
While Raina and Jesse were sharing their entrée, Chuck and I shared another pizza—another Margherita but this time with the addition of Schreiner’s Italian sausage.
Schreiner’s Meats is a highly regarded Phoenix purveyor of specialty sausages and hot dogs, and Chuck and I have purchased bratwurst from them that we liked a great deal. At one time, the very famous Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix used Schreiner’s Italian sausage on its pizza but the current on-line menu doesn’t specify if this is still the case.

At any rate, Schreiner’s Italian sausage wouldn’t be the one I would choose for a pizza of this caliber. I thought it a bit dry and at the same time overpowering. But that’s just my opinion.

Time to take a break outside (I know. Smoking isn’t good for me.) and as I was passing the hostess station I heard her saying that the wait was now three hours! Egad! And people were adding their names to the list.

With my break over, I head back to our table and see Chuck looking at me with a bemused look on his face. “What?” I asked when I sat down.

“How about another pizza?” he asked. (Is he kidding? No, he’s not.)

So he signals to our server and says to her “We’d like to order dessert. We’d like the Salvatore.”

At first she thinks he's kidding. “You want to order another pizza?” she asks.
So, as the finale to our meal, the four of us shared this pizza made with San Marzano tomatoes, house-made mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, and Prosciutto di Parma (crudo).

I have mentioned our server at numerous points in this blog, and I would be remiss without singing the praises of Michelle. In the midst of what was an extraordinarily busy evening, she maintained her calm and—even more important—good humor as she attended to her tables. She made an evening that began unpleasantly a warm and personal experience.
I would love to again give La Piazza al Forno another 5.0 Addie rating, but just can’t overlook the foul-up with our table. So the rating will be lowered to 4.5 Addies. I still strongly recommend this restaurant but probably wouldn’t return on a Saturday evening.

Especially when there is a special event in downtown Glendale.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.