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Happy February and welcome back to “Boomtown Eats!”

We hope you enjoyed last month’s feature of El Dorado’s own E&R – we are still remembering those potato wedges – and we hope that everyone has had a chance to check out E&R for themselves. This month we are turning to another downtown El Dorado establishment – directly across from Sports Alley and the Bancorp South branch on Cedar Street – none other than La Piazza.

For anyone looking for a delicious and memorable local Italian dining experience, search no further than La Piazza Italiano Ristorante in downtown El Dorado. From the moment you first step inside the door at La Piazza, it is clear that you are in for a unique experience – something completely apart from the large, homogenized chain restaurant experience available nationwide. Instead, owner Baggio Krasniqi and his wife, Rudi, moved to El Dorado from the more saturated restaurant scene of Dallas-Fort Worth to fill a niche, creating an establishment reminiscent of the well-known “Little Italy” districts in cities like New York, Chicago and Cleveland.

It is a decision that has clearly paid off.

Red and black tablecloths lend an Albanian flair to the restaurant’s interior décor, each table complete with place settings and a candle. One of the most distinctive features of the experience at La Piazza is the music – ostensibly classic Italian popular, folk and even some opera music – frequently presented with accompanying video recordings playing on a television screen in the dining room and above the bar. Finally, eye-catching murals, completed by a regional artist from Camden, depict quintessential gondolas, spire-like trees and Mediterranean villas emblematic of a classic Italian village life and decorate both sides of the restaurant’s dining room.

Called by some a hidden gem in El Dorado, La Piazza is a departure from the usual small town restaurant atmosphere lending itself, with the help of a little imagination, to place oneself across the ocean to the seaside or perhaps within the historic cities of Italy for a good meal.

Jared chose this time a staple of many Italian restaurants and favorite of many locals in El Dorado, the fettuccine Alfredo. Along with the fettuccine Alfredo, Jared chose the tomato basil soup as a side dish. The fettuccine Alfredo consists of a long flat noodle (the fettuccine), along with a creamy white sauce with a light addition of Italian parsley blended in. The fettuccine noodles were cooked to perfection and with a hefty portion one could easily find it difficult to finish in a single sitting. The Alfredo sauce had a creamy consistency and taste that could rival most of the Italian dishes one could taste in any major city. The tomato basil soup chosen as a side dish was excellent as well. The soup, served warm and in typical Italian fashion, made for a great dish for which to dip the fresh bread served prior to the main dish in.

The fettuccine Alfredo and tomato basil soup at La Piazza. Contributed photo
The fettuccine Alfredo and tomato basil soup at La Piazza. Contributed photo

The tomato basil soup has become a favorite; Jared has been back several times since his first visit to enjoy. La Piazza’s creation of one of the most recognizable Italian dishes, fettuccine Alfredo, did not disappoint and Jared would recommend it to anyone in the greater vicinity to partake of.

Philip voted for the “Penne Pomodore” and chose to forgo the cheese in the interest of a plant-based option. Penne is a cylindrical pasta shape with ends cut on a bias, supposedly in imitation of a fountain pen’s point and thus named after the Italian penna. Produced by extrusion through a pasta machine, penne is available in two variations: penne lisce with smooth sides, and penne rigate with ridges. Pennoni and mostaccioli are both larger forms of the pasta, which can be served with a variety of sauces and in other types of dishes such as soups and salads.

The “Penne Pomodore” at La Piazza. Contributed photo
The “Penne Pomodore” at La Piazza. Contributed photo

At La Piazza, it is penne rigate, and the sauce – a delicious blend of tomato, garlic and basil – clings onto the noodles’ ridges for a mouth-watering and flavorful bite. Each pasta entrée comes with the diner’s choice of a soup or salad and Philip chose the salad, no dressing, with a side of marinara sauce – which can be used as a plant-based dressing for the salad and as a delicious supplement to the hot bread, which is served at the beginning of the meal. The bread also, should anyone be interested in a plant-based friendly option, can be served without additional butter melted on top. All told the “Penne Pomodore” is a delicious and memorable choice and an example of the consistent, classic quality on offer at La Piazza.

So - if you are in the mood for Italian, go downtown and give La Piazza a try - you’ll be glad you did! The food is delicious and the dining experience is certainly unlike anything else available in El Dorado.

And stay with us - we’ll be back next month!

Most expensive items:

Ribeye steak, $18.95

Chicken and shrimp picotta, $18.95.

Least expensive items:

Garlic bread, $3.95

House salad or small soup, $3.95

Philip Shackelford and Jared Smith have been eating for their entire lives. Questions or suggestions can be sent to boomtowneatsarticle@gmail.com.

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