December 17, 2012
Piatti Ristorante has a new look, but what do you think?

The 20-plus-year-old Piatti Ristorante reopened last week after a four-month closure for a complete makeover, I reported in this space last week.

We dropped by one recent weeknight for a looksee. The bar was jammed with well-dressed patrons (many of them regulars), the dining room was about half-full, and the servers rushed from the bar station to their tables, carrying glasses of wine and brightly colored cocktails.

The place definitely has a sleeker, more contemporary look - though we've heard a few veteran customers call it "stark," "cafeteria-like" and reminiscent of a "dimestore lunch counter."

Yes, radical changes have been made, but that's part of the biz.

The flooring, ceiling, lighting, bar top and furniture have been replaced. The atrium area has been opened up, and the booths near the bar have become a high-top dining area. The courtyard/patio is newly populated with furniture and permanent heaters. Lamentably, the fireplace in the banquet room is gone.

The menu has been abbreviated (and the chef replaced), but, thankfully, Piatti's signature ravioli in lemon-cream sauce is still listed. However, the menu type size is so small that a magnifying glass would come in handy if you actually want to read it.

The diverse wine list has been beefed up in more ways than one ($25 to $125 a bottle; $7 to $16 by the glass). A bottle of Rombauer chardonnay goes for $70; it's $32 to $35 retail. While there's nothing new about a 100 percent markup for wine in restaurants, maybe it's a practice that needs rethinking - to put it mildly.

New to the beverages list is a barrel-to-table wine program "using the most environmentally sustainable technology." Cocktails include the classic Negroni and Manhattan, plus five imaginative house specialties that look tasty. The Thyme Flies and the English Major seemed to be popular the night we visited.

We sat at the bar and enjoyed a ramekin of excellent hot Sicilian Castelvetrano olives sprinkled with toasted Meyer lemon breadcrumbs ($8), and luscious pork and ricotta meatballs in marvelous tomato sauce, topped with melted mozzarella cheese ($9; pictured).

We asked the bartenders how the clientele is handling the new dynamic.
"About half the customers like it, the other half...well, not so much," said the first.
"It will take them a few months to get over it," said the second.

Change can be difficult, especially when you're talking about a longtime restaurant with a loyal following that is accustomed to having things in certain ways.

Have you been to the new Piatti? What were your impressions? Please leave a comment.

Piatti in in the Pavilions center on Fair Oaks Avenue, near Howe Avenue, in Sacramento. For more information: (916) 649-8885,

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