Fresh made piadas. Photo by Piada Italian Street Food

Piada Italian Street Food, the growing popular fast casual restaurant group, has opened its first Pennsylvania location on Forbes Avenue in Oakland. Taking yet another spin on the assembly line Chipotle concept, customers build personalized wraps with a “piada,” an Italian flatbread similar to a tortilla. Fresh pastas, chopped salads and Italian-inspired sides also play a big part on the menu.

So what exactly is a piada?

Made from olive oil and flour, the piada gets its name from piadine, a thin Italian flatbread popular in Rimini, Italy, south of Venice. Most often, they’re sold freshly made in kiosks along the street, and are often stuffed with cheeses, meats or vegetables and sometimes sweet fillings like Nutella. Variations can be found throughout Italy.

In fact, it was an encounter with an Italian piada vendor that gave owner Chris Doody the inspiration for the restaurant concept. Doody is the restauranteur behind the highly successful Bravo and Brio chains. He believed the rolled flatbread concept with an Italian twist would translate well with U.S. diners looking for fresh and fast lunch options.

Photo by Piada Italian Street Food.

Customers at Piada Italian Street Food choose from a selection of build-your-own piadas, salads and pastas. Seasonal specials and chef favorites, in which many of the choices are already made, are also on the menu. Some current features include a fall steak and avocado piada and a pesto pomodoro meatball pasta. Prices for an individual wrap, or bowl of pasta or salad, generally range from $7-9.

The piada process begins with a hot pizza stone used to heat up the grilled flatbreads. Diners build personalized wraps, pastas or salads from a selection of grilled items like calamari, chicken, steak, Italian sausage, fresh salmon or veggies. Sauce choices include pomodoro, red or green pesto, spicy diavolo, or creamy parmesan. All of the sauces are meatless. Cheese options are mozzarella, parmesan and feta. There’s also an abundant selection of fresh vegetable toppings like peppers, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, arugula, avocados and olives.

Both salads and pastas (all angel hair) can be either an entree or a side and are individually tossed to order right in the line.

Side dish options include meatballs, garlic dough, soups and hand rolled bread sticks made with piada dough, pepperoni and parmesan cheese. Sweet cannoli chips and a selection of Italian sodas and teas round out the menu.

Chopped salad with grilled chicken. Photo by Piada Italian Street Food.

The Piada Italian Street Food concept, which started in Ohio, now has more than 40 locations mostly in the midwest. Pittsburgh currently represents the most eastern outpost for the group and its first location in the state. Oakland was selected because of its close proximity to a concentration of potential student and business customers.

“We are completely enamored with the reception that Pittsburgh has shown us,” says VP of Marketing Matt Eisenacher, adding “Knowing the city and its fantastic culture, we had high hopes for our entry into the market. Our opening hasn’t just surpassed our expectations, it has shattered them. We look forward to what the future holds for Piada in Pittsburgh.”

Tom O'Connor

Tom O'Connor is a photographer and writer currently based in Pittsburgh.