“It’s going to have some big bubbles, some uneven crust, but that’s what the definition of rustic is. And once they try it, people love it.”
Owner David Crocetti isn’t short on enthusiasm when it comes to his latest venture – Piaza. Piaza opened its doors last week to big crowds and long lines of eager customers ready to get their hands on the brick oven pizzas, overstuffed piadas, and massive, custom salads. We sat down with Crocetti this week to discuss the ins and outs of the fast casual eatery, including what the heck a piada is…
“We’re definitely starting to see people branch out and taste the piadas,” said Crocetti. “I’ve always compared them to a burrito.” The piadas are essentially massive flatbreads teeming with meats, cheeses and toppings of your choice, rolled up in burrito form. Also stuffed inside the considerable gut bomb is pearl pasta – “the sautéed pearl pasta is in place of where the rice and beans would be in a burrito,” explained Crocetti. So far we’re picturing a massive Italian-inspired burrito…yes please!
Of course the pizzas are the main attraction on the menu, with the 1000 degree brick oven operating as the focal point of the restaurant. Pizzas can be ordered signature or ‘make your own,’ although either option arrives artfully piled high with fresh, quality ingredients. Examples of the signature pies include the Mediterranean – classic tomato sauce, mozzarella blend, artichokes, spinach, Kalamata olives roasted red pepper, feta and seasoned mushrooms – or the Piaza Pie which comes smothered in red sauce, mozzarella blend, Italian meatballs, pepperoni and sausage. The ‘make your own’ pizzas are almost enough to make your head spin, with seemingly endless options: three styles of crust, seven sauces, six cheeses, eight proteins, and 17 options on toppings. Pizzas are fed into the brick oven and popped back out, ready to devour, in two to four minutes.
For salads, the options are also endless, with signature and ‘make your own’. “The salads are very large portions with unlimited topping choices served with fresh bread baked here in our oven,” said Crocetti. Kids menu? Yep, they’ve got that too with a 6” cheese or pepperoni pizza, piadina or pasta with tomato sauce. Desserts are being rolled out soon and is to include a Crocetti family-recipe with a twist…cannoli dip. “It’s been a family recipe for 30 years,” boasted Crocetti.
The common thread throughout the menu design is fresh, high-quality ingredients. “What I’m offering is the freshest, highest quality entrees at a great value. It’s almost as if, if you’re in the area, you can’t pass it up.” Crocetti added that produce is local whenever possible and delivered daily.
Crocetti may be a relative outsider to the area (not a local per se) but with a second home here and years spent vacationing in Ocean City, it’s safe to say this is his home away from home. The store location, which is directly in front of the Wal-Mart in Berlin, was perfection for Crocetti, who noted that catering to the year-round crowd of locals was definitely a priority. Variety was also a major priority when designing the concept, with the aim to provide a menu that people could enjoy multiple times per week. “The market is growing towards fresh and healthy and we offer that as well,” he added.
While this is the first business venture on the Eastern Shore for Crocetti, he is certainly no stranger to the restaurant world. In addition to growing up entrenched in the restaurant life, Crocetti owns a Piaza in the Baltimore-area, along with four Sonic Drive-Ins. “I hope to have two more opening in the Baltimore area this year,” he said, adding that the goal is to have eight underway within the next year.
Locally, Crocetti is intensely focused on getting the Berlin location operating optimally. In fact, Crocetti encourages feedback from customers – positive and negative – so that the staff can adjust accordingly. “I’m a strong believer in this,” added Crocetti. “I’ve put together a concept that doesn’t exist out there and it’s being received very well so far.”
For more on Piaza, follow their social media pages, which include frequent contests and giveaways. And for the real deal on the fresh pizzas, piadas, and salads, stop in and taste for yourself!