There's an Italian restaurant tucked away behind the old Wilhelmspalais in our area. We pass it all the time on our walks with Leo, and it looks lovely, mainly because of the large summer patio with tables set up under a canopy of oak trees. The restaurant is usually packed on warm days for this reason. And since yesterday was one of the first days that the temperature hit 80-degrees, my friend and I decided to try La Piazza for our dinner out.
We arrived early, around 5pm, to start with a cocktail. At this point in the evening there were only one or two other tables filled, so the patio was largely empty. We were quickly approached by a young waiter and ordered two Hugos from him, who, when he saw Leo with me, started talking about his labrador. Then he made sure to bring Leo his own doggie bowl of water. I love this about Germany, and I tend to like the restaurants that we visit that remember to treat Leo, too.
My Hugo was not the best I've had and needed a good stir to mix up the sweet Holunder syrup with the mint and prosecco, though if you like Hugos that aren't so sweet and err on the strong side, then you'd love this one. We drank our Hugos slowly as we talked, and then flagged down a water to order our food: a caprese salad and pizza parma for my friend, and the tagliolini with truffles for me. I tried to order a pizza with spinach and gorgonzola, too, since I love to try lots of new dishes and planned on taking the rest home, but our Italian water insisted it was too much food for me, and that we should order desert instead when we were finished. I was a little miffed at not being able to order what I wanted, but by the end of the meal I realized he was right.
The caprese salad consisted of two fresh balls of mozzarella, surrounded by tomatoes and basil in olive oil -- a solid caprese. The meal also came with some lovely slices of crusty, Italian bread. We then ordered two glasses of Orvietto (white wine) to go with our entrées.
The pizza that came out was beautiful: golden thick edges with a thin bottom crust, paper-thin slices of parma ham, bright green arugula leaves, big snowflake chips of parmesan, all drizzled with olive oil. My pasta was similarly well presented: perfectly cooked tagliolini tossed in butter and served in an edible bowl of crispy fried parmesan and topped with delicate shavings of earthy black truffles. The parmesan crisp was a nice touch, and I enjoyed eating a bite of pasta with a slice of truffle and nibbling on a crispy parmesan chip. At times I thought there was a little too much butter, but it didn't stop me from eating the entire, delicious dish. It's certainly not something I could eat every day (my thighs would not be happy), but it was one of those decadent dishes that remind you it's truffle season in Italy, and so one must make the most of it.
By the time we finished our meal, the patio was packed, and hopeful parties were waiting on the outskirts of the tables for a free one to appear out of the flagstones. Realizing it was getting late, my friend and I looked around for our waiter to get the check. But every time we saw him, he saw a different table that needed his attention. So we talked and we waited and waited and waited. I finally asked one waiter, and then another, and possibly even a third. My friend and I are patient people who've both worked in the service industry. We noticed that there were two (maybe three) waiters serving such a large space, which is difficult to manage during rush hour. Despite being Americans, we also both know that service in Germany is far different from service in America. German waiters make sure you have your drinks and food, and then leave you to your business unless they are needed, in which case you have to call them -- and that's okay. But even knowing all this, the time we had to wait for our check was a bit annoying, and whether from talking or waiting, I was shocked to see that by the time we left, we'd been there for four hours!
I do think La Piazza is definitely a place you should try. The food and patio really are lovely, and I read in my Stuttgart dining book that the restaurant is run by three Italian chefs. Just don't expect a quick bite to eat unless you tell the waiter ahead of time that you'll need your check just after the food. After looking at some Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews, other customers seem to have drawn the same conclusions.
I should also note that the prices were a bit more than my neighborhood favorite, La Bruschetta, so you do pay more for ambience and presentation here. Still, the smells of the other diners' meals around us were mouth watering every time they wafted over to our table, and so there's more that I'd like to try, especially that spinach and gorgonzola pizza. Now that the weather has switched into summer mode, La Piazza looks like it will become a nice neighborhood spot.
La Piazza can be found at Charlottenstraße 11. It's easily accessible from the Charlottenplatz U-Bahn stop, and is just a two minute walk from the exit. The restaurant is in the area of the Landesbibliothek, and is just a short walk down from the Staatsgalerie or just across the street from the Schlosspark if you need a stroll to walk off the carbs.