By Tes Silverman
La Piazza’s origins began 30 years ago when the first location was opened by the Branchinelli family in Plainview. Its success led to a second location in Merrick 16 years ago, and then to its current Melville location at 972 Walt Whitman Road five years ago.
La Piazza, which means “open public square”, is easy to spot because of its huge sign and large windows that give diners a hint of what the interior looks like. Once inside, diners are greeted by a large open space filled with tables and booths that can fit parties ranging from four to eight. Managing partner Thomas Sexton oversees the daily operations and makes sure that everything is ready before diner are shown to their tables.
Sexton credits La Piazza’s longevity to the care and quality of ingredients used to create their dishes.
“We believe in providing great food and great service to our customers, and we can’t wait for them to come back and dine with us,” he said.
La Piazza’s menu offers traditional and non-traditional Italian fare.
Starting with an appetizer, the Arancini ($9), or rice balls, are similar to meatballs and are lightly fried. They’re made with ground beef, green peas, fontina cheese, tomato sauce and the dish is topped with ricotta cheese. The firmness of the ground beef, combined with velvety texture of green peas and creaminess of the fontina and ricotta cheeses create an appetizer that’s filling enough to be a main dish.
Nothing is more Italian than pasta, and diners have their choice of ordering tried and true dishes like penne alla vodka, baked ziti or baked cheese ravioli, but if you would like to try something that’s a little different, then try the Linguine Di Mare ($13 for lunch, $20 for dinner). The linguine is perfectly cooked and made with shrimp, PEI mussels, baby clams, roasted garlic, and is served in extra virgin olive oil or marinara sauce. The linguine combined with a medley of seafood results in a dish teeming with complex textures and flavors.
For entrees, La Piazza offers diners traditional dishes such as chicken piccata, veal chop Milanese and shrimp francese, but the one to explore is the Scallops alla Regina ($25.50). The sea scallops are seared and made with truffle and white bean puree, sautéed wild mushroom. They’re served with parmesan garlic toast. The sweet and mild flavor of the scallops, along with the garlicky flavor of the truffle and creaminess of the white bean puree, creates a hearty dish that’s great for the adventurous diner.
Desserts like molten chocolate “lava” cake ($9), homemade apple crumb tart ($9) and death by chocolate ($10) should not be missed. The best of the bunch may be the death by chocolate, which is made with homemade chocolate pudding, chocolate layer cake, toffee bits and topped with whipped cream. It’s the ultimate chocolate lover’s dessert.