By Sue Botos
“If you build it, he will come,” said the voice in the film “Field of Dreams.”
Piada Italian Street Food was built, and they did come – for a chance at a free weekly meal for a year.
Starting soon after dark on Nov. 15, tents started sprouting up in front of the restaurant in the Rockport shopping area on Center Ridge Road. The hearty campers were getting settled in for the night, hoping to be part of the first 100 customers through the door the following day at 10:45 a.m., when the new eatery opened for business. Those initial customers were rewarded for their wait with the free food.
Both veteran and new Piada foodies tucked away their gear and lined up in front of the door in the morning, most stating they didn’t really get a lot of sleep. April Bell, from Parma, had a tent set up on what will be the restaurant’s outdoor patio in better weather. She said she had been camping out since about 8 p.m. the day before. Although she said she has never tasted a Piada sandwich, salad or wrap, she was confident she would enjoy it. “I like Italian food, and 52 free meals can’t be bad,” she said, showing the orange wrist band that marked her as one of the lucky 100. Although the weather was relatively mild, she said that some campers pulled up stakes after a few hours.
As customers waited, a man in a turkey costume strutted about and others tossed a football. Shortly before 10:45, a worker raised the “Open for Business” sign and called out to the gathering, “Is everyone ready? The doors are now open!” The crowd, some still clutching their coffee cups, cheered.
Lee McNulty of Lakewood said that she had been camping out since 6 p.m. the day before. Although she had never visited a Piada before, it came highly recommended by her daughter, who has eaten at the location near the University of Dayton. “She said, ‘Mom, you have got to go!’” she recalled.
Samantha Tompkins, her mother, Tracy, and friend Berlin Camrena made the trip from Columbus, where the restaurant is based, to attend their third opening. “It’s totally worth it,” she said. The chain has been doing the opening-day food give-away for about a year, and passes can be used at any location.
The lucky 100 received a high-five from Jenna Franz, of Piada’s marketing department, along with an orange plastic case, containing the year’s worth of passes, plus a voucher for a free meal that day.
Piada will be open daily, 10:45 a.m. until 10 p.m.