The people-watching at Piatti is excellent at happy hour. There was, for example, the bored-looking gigolo type with patent-leather shoes, the Fort Sammies in civvies concentrating on the happy part, the bottle-blonde of a certain age sitting solo, the critic taking notes... Most seemed very aware of the impending 6:30 deadline. Get that martini in under the wire, please, waiter.
There are naturally non-vicarious reasons for checking out Piatti during the 3-6:30 slot Monday to Saturday. Many of them are on the food menu, priced at $4, $5, and $6. A plate of bruschetta, generously piled with tomato, sailed by on its way to the Sammies; the single señor to my right slipped in an order of pretty looking seared tuna; and my excellent fritto misto of impeccably battered vegetables — zucchini, carrot, mushroom, and asparagus — was only enhanced by its emphatic lemon caper aioli.
The drinks menu may not offer quite the same satisfaction. Select beers and wines are $3 to $5, and three cocktails — lemon drop, cosmopolitan, and margarita — are featured at $5. Fair enough. Piatti House Cocktails, normally $9, are listed at $7, and are only slightly more adventuresome. The negroni, for example, subs in Punt e Mes for the usual sweeter vermouth in this classic with gin and Campari, and the result emphasizes the drink’s bitter side. It’s also served in a Collins glass with lots of ice and a straw, a liberty taken too far, I’d say.
The Finlandia-based Market Martini, a round of red bell pepper floating atop its murky-looking mix, is unusual in a different way. Peppers (likely muddled jalapeño) did come through, as did basil and lime, but there was also an unadvertised (though necessary) sweetness. Not actually bad — and properly served. But it’s not the glass that makes the martini.