As a result of not being able to get a table at the restaurant we wanted, we wandered along the Goodramgate and followed the aroma of pizza to La Piazza although we couldn't actually see anyone inside...but we discovered, upon entry, that all the customers were at the back of the building.
We were seated quickly into the 80's style Italian trattoria. In the background music ranged from crooners like Dean Martin to Nicki Minaj's Anaconda - always perfect for a meal. Quite.
As we had wandered about all day we were thirsty and ordered soda waters and lime, whilst looking over the menu.
The menu declared La Piazza to be "Italy's most popular place". I was aware of the Italian community and influence on food in NEW York but olde Yorke? Nah.
We asked for Bocconcinitre Colori (£5.75) which is "baby mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil sprinkled with olive oil" but instead we received Mozzarella in carrozza (£5.75) comprising "Mozzarella cheese coated in breadcrumbs, fried and served with tomato sauce and basil".
It wasn't what we wanted but due to being hungry Mrs Foodie ate it after an initial hmm. The blob seemed to be passata without any garlic or basil involved, The mozzarella was also gooey and tasteless.
Meanwhile Mr Foodie picked Grigliata do verdura della piazza (£5.75) described as "market square mixed vegetables chargrilled, marinated in olive oil, garlic and basil and sprinkled with toasted seeds". The waiter asked how I wanted it cooked. Eh? Rare? Well-done? I don't know. Turns out he thought I was asking for the Filetto Griglia (fillet steak)!
Confusion out the way or so we thought...as when it arrived the basil was unique in that it looked and tasted remarkably like chopped parsley and the garlic and toasted seeds had went AWOL but IT was grilled vegetables and it was fine if you like soggy aubergine and enjoy parsley.
The Chicken Kiev calzone (£9.00) stood out as an unusual choice on the menu and the ever-adventurous Mr Foodie ordered this as his main. We hoped that this "folded over pizza filled with chicken, garlic, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese and topped with tomato" would be the sort of thing that culinary odysseys are made of.
And as you can see the presentation is astounding. The juxtaposition of the slightly crescent calzone teetering over the edge of the plate with the Heinz tomato soup-esque pool underneath made me think of the Japanese national flag, like the rising sun creeping up on a giant gyoza...or a solar eclipse gone wrong...behold the Kamikaze Calzone...BANSAI! Keeping it full of eastern promise the insides were filled with cheap Chinese-takeaway style watery boiled chicken and there was a definite lack of garlic, dill or in fact any seasoning. The "bloodbath" was a thin tomato goo and there was plenty of it underneath but not "topped with" as the menu suggested, probably because nothing inside the calzone tasted much of anything and the chef thought that a tomato onslaught might provide some much needed flavour because at one point this was possibly made from a real tomato. Perhaps. Mr Foodie only ate it because he was starving and was not able to visit his restaurant of choice.
So would Mrs Foodie fare better with the Napoletana pizza (£8.45) topped with "tomato, mozzarella, anchovies, capers and olives"?
Sadly not really, it was the most edible thing on the night but that's not saying much, it had a reasonable base but was low on toppings and taste, not helped by the greasy olives. Where were the fresh ingredients and aromatic herbs that make Italian cuisine great?
With dated décor and dated food, we wished we had not followed our noses into La Piazza. All the food was bland and probably mostly cooked from frozen. Bizarrely they get really good reviews on Tripadvisor, we reckon it's a tourist trap but perhaps most visitors think it's quaint. Tip: most of York city-centre is old and quaint but standards are better elsewhere. Once our plates were cleared the waiter automatically assumed we wanted dessert so brought over menus again. We didn't want anything else, the first 2 courses were poor enough, so we asked for the bill, taken aback he disappeared and it seems he decided to forget our request. How dare we refuse pudding?! We were left waiting and when we did finally walk up to the till to pay we found the guy in charge, who was too busy chatting up two blondes. It seems he understood them better than he had understood me! We left without tipping. Toilets were upstairs and most probably haunted by the ghosts of classic Italian recipe books.
+ It's in York (which is pretty)
+ If you like bland food then you're in for a treat
- Waiter needs a hearing aid
- Insipid food
- Enjoy your five anchovies and eight capers!
- How dare you not want pudding!?
- Nicki Minaj!
- All the hallmarks of a tourist trap