Quick-service Italian comes from many places — delis, pizza parlors, and those uniformly grim but occasionally tempting mall food court outlets that serve garlic knots and pans of baked ziti cloaked with cheese. Now we have it from a place that looks an awful lot like Chipotle. Da Via Italian Market Eating in the Perimeter Place Shopping Center in Dunwoody seems to have taken a page from the burrito chain’s book. Or several pages, from the room design to the menu format.
It’s a good looking place with dark-stained wooden tables and benches, and a menu presented on the wall with clean, spare graphics. You choose to start with a salad, a (disposable, biodegradable) bowl of spaghetti with your choice of sauce, or a rolled flatbread sandwich called a piada. You pick either a protein (salmon, sausage, chicken or meatballs) or mixed vegetables and then add as many or as few toppings as you’d like.
The salad is just like what you would expect from one of those fancy salad places — lively greens and some choice toppings to toss and pile into a bowl. This grilled salmon salad with a honey-pistachio vinaigrette definitely hits the spot for $8.25.
The pasta seems an odd fit for this format — kind of a square peg/round hole thing going on.
The spaghetti and meatballs ($6.75) both come out of holding bowls rather than, say, hot water or a saucepan, get a ladle or two of sauce (I picked spicy marinara, but there was also a mild version as well as bolognese sauce and a creamy pink number) and then get passed down the way to the toppings station.
“These are toppings for the pasta?” I asked.
“Any and all you want,” said the counter server cheerfully. Hmm…cucumbers? Raw mushrooms? Feta cheese? I got some peppadew peppers and artichoke hearts as well as a huge flurry of mild, soft cheese that looked (and tasted) so different from the parmigiano reggiano advertised that I triple checked it.
The pasta was pretty tasty once I picked out the ill-considered peppers and artichokes. It just wasn’t very hot, which seemed a problem with the ordering format. Pasta needs to steam or it gets boring fast.
While we didn’t try a piada, I did order a side piada stick ($1.95) that the counter server heats up for about 30 seconds on a flattop griddle and then wraps in foil. It was like an extra-large Totino’s pizza roll, or maybe a gush-less Hot Pocket. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The house tiramisu, scooped from a pan, makes for a nice dessert.
I like the idea of a $6-$8 custom bowl of pasta for lunch, but I think these guys need to go back to the drawing board to make this concept work.
- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog