YORKVILLE – I gotta confess something before we move on with this Mystery Diner review: The longer I am alive, the more nervous I get to try new Italian restaurants.
Listen, I’m a creature of habit. I know my go-to dishes when it comes to Italian food and, as any Italian food snob might agree, I have a hard time straying from what I know. I’m talking fettuccine alfredo, vodka penne pasta with Italian sausage – I’m sure you get the picture.
I will give credit where credit is due, however: Parma Pizza Bar, 107 W. Van Emmon St., helped me expand my horizons on what I thought I liked in Italian cuisine.
As I looked around the restaurant, my first impression was that the atmosphere of the place is very modern, rustic Italian – rougher-textured brick walls, but in cool color tones. My guest also remarked that it was the perfect balance between fancy and casual – it would be perfect for a nicer family dinner, going out with friends or even a date with a special someone. With us going to the restaurant in attire leaning more toward casual than business after a day’s work, we didn’t feel at all out of place.
For starters, my guest and I had the hand-rolled meatballs – beef and pork, beef gravy, hand-shaved Parmesan and basil – at the recommendation of our waitress (more on this later). They were served warm, they were well-seasoned, and those who do not like to hop on the spicy train will do just fine with these.
The meatballs were served with house-baked focaccia, a type of Italian flatbread. My guest said it best: You know how it can be apparent whenever an Italian restaurant serves day-old bread? That was not at all the case here. There was a crunchy exterior, a soft interior and it was delightfully warm. A 10 out of 10 Italian bread-eating experience.
I had the Parma Pasta, which included capellini pasta, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, butter, cracked black pepper and basil – and was served with focaccia. Here’s where the recommendation from our waitress climbed to a new level: Not only did she recommend the meatballs as a straight appetizer, but she also recommended saving a few to eat with my pasta. And, let me tell you, I’m really glad I listened to her.
The pasta was exactly what I look for in a pasta – cheese, cheese, some seasoning to offset the cheese and then some more cheese. Imagine a carbonara recipe, but without guanciale or tomatoes and add a lot more well-aged cheese, and that’s what this entrée reminded me of.
I loved it just as it was on its own, and even the leftovers of that dish kept very well when I ate the rest the next day. Eating the pasta with the meatballs was indeed, as our waitress said, the perfect counter to the cheese.
My guest had the buffalo chicken pizza, which included chipotle cream sauce, buffalo chicken, shredded mozzarella, shaved celery and homemade ranch dressing drizzled on top of the pizza. They said the celery was a nice touch because it provided a nice crunch that you don’t ordinarily find in a buffalo chicken pizza.
My guest said the chicken itself was also very good and the sauce wasn’t too overwhelming. They said there still was a little bit of a kick that you would expect from this type of pizza – non-spice train-hoppers, be advised.
And, because it always bears mentioning: Waitstaff was very attentive to allergen concerns.
Overall, we recommend not only the food from Parma Pizza Bar, but also the all-around dining experience there. We definitely forsee another trip back very soon.