Street food is the new restaurant food–it seems like the label is being applied to everything that isn’t served on a fine china plate with an artful squiggle of tomato coulis. Along with family-owned restaurants like KouZina, corporate marketers have been quick to embrace the term. They seem to use it to mean “basically fast food but without all the institutional baggage.”
If someone else hadn’t done it already, the usage might have been invented by Chris Doody. One of Doody’s Piada Italian Street Food restaurants just opened on State St., replacing that street-food-eaten-at-a-table joint called Five Guys.
Doody is a Midwesterner who has no Italian blood at all, but what he does have is a genius for adapting Italian food to American palates and kitchens. In 1992 he and his brother Rick started the Bravo Brio Restaurant Group, which now trades on NASDAQ and operates 107 restaurants in thirty-three states. Chris started Piada in 2010 and seems almost gleefully honest that it’s all about the marketing. Speaking at an awards luncheon in his hometown of Columbus a few years ago, Columbus Business First reported, he told 600 guests that “he got the idea for Piada after spending a lot of time in 2008 at Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Panera Bread Co. restaurants, taking photos of layouts and copying menus.” Then, after a trip to Rimini, Italy, to look for some Italian food to serve in his Chipotle/Panera-type street food restaurant, he said, “We designed the restaurant literally on a cocktail napkin on the plane on the way home.”
What he discovered in Rimini was the piada, a wrap not unlike a gyro. Piada the restaurant also sells pasta bowls and salads, which like anything else, can be eaten on the street, though they’re not the usual go-to candidates.
Twice we talked to “Mike,” the manager of Piada, who promised to pass a request for an interview up the chain of command, but permission apparently never came through. We stopped in at lunchtime in early June and didn’t have the heart to chase Mike down. Every table was full, and a lunchtime line was about to erupt out the door.
Piada, 311 S. State, 780-7157. Daily 10:45 a.m.-10 p.m. mypiada.com