To say I’ve been looking forward to the opening of Parm on the Upper West Side is the understatement of the year. Since the announcement came in February, that the old Lansky’s Old World Deli, located around the corner from my apartment, would be transformed into a restaurant specializing in my all-time favorite food (Eggplant Parmesan), I’ve stared. And waited. And looked inside. Every. Single. Morning. Yes, this might sound slightly ridiculous; family members telling me “it’s only a restaurant.” But this is something so much more. This is proof of the changing culinary landscape of the Upper West Side. With Parm’s arrival, the neighborhood begins its slow ascension to the land of ‘cool.’
Opening night attracted a steady crowd to the large space on Columbus between 70th and 71st. Unlike the Mulberry location, the uptown spot offers a much fuller menu, with main courses and pastas, alongside their namesake sandwiches and variety of vegetables. The space itself is radically bigger, with an extremely open front area with a large bar, deli display, and a few two-top tables. The open kitchen lines the front dining room, while the back room creates a slightly more intimate setting.
We arrived on time for our reservation, with the hostess asking us to wait a few minutes. The bar was completely filled, but numerous tables in the front dining room were fully set up and empty. We stood awkwardly, taking in the restaurant before the hostess led us to one of the vacant, plush red booths nearly ten minutes later.
A more extensive cocktail menu sets apart the uptown location from the original spot. The drinks, however, are slightly confusing. With Caribbean themed names like “Blue Parrot” or “Havana Banana,” I feel like these drinks should be served in a small beach town or at a Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. The waiter helped steer me from the wine list, back to the drink menu, vaguely describing the drinks in much clearer language. I ended up ordering the Osso Nice, a Rye based cocktail with a mild kick of spice. My sister went for the Parma Colada.
Served in a plastic coconut, the Parma Colada feels out of place among the strictly Italian menu. It’s an identity crisis of sorts. The downtown location uses extremely city specific names, like the “Chinatown Sling” and “Nolita Sunrise.” I wonder why the Torrisi boys didn’t take advantage of the Upper West Side landmarks, like Strawberry Fields or Sheep’s Meadow when naming their drinks.
The Osso Nice, a cocktail found on their downtown menu, is served neat in a traditional glass. It’s delightful, with a mild kick and smokiness from the rye. Now this, this is a cocktail I want to sip between bites of garlic bread and thin slices of prosciutto.
Begin by ordering the made-to-order, warm mozzarella with a side of prosciutto before deciphering the rest of the menu.
Served with warm, crispy garlic bread, sprinkled with a thin layer of Parmesan and fresh parsley infusing each piece with flavor.
Do yourself a favor and order a side of Prosciutto to accompany the warm mozzarella.
Sliced thin and topped with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh cracked black pepper, it adds a saltiness to the subtle, rich cheese.
Sliced thin and topped with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh cracked black pepper, it adds a saltiness to the subtle, rich cheese. With all of your ingredients laid out in front of you, it’s time to assemble the ultimate bite of cheesy, meaty, garlicky goodness. Top of a piece of garlic bread with a slice of prosciutto and top with a large piece of the warm, gooey mozzarella. It’s salty, tangy and of course, cheesy. Be sure to dig in while the cheese is still nice and warm, neglecting the menu until everything has been quickly devoured.
We enlisted the help of the waiter to help with bits of the menu, since many of the dishes are described in the most vague fashion. Spicy Tuna Bruschetta translates to Tuna Tatare in a spicy sauce, prepared in a fashion that mimics the tomato version. At first the waiter apologized that this dish was unavailable at the current time, and then quickly came back telling us otherwise. We’re extremely glad this dish was available because it proved to be one of the most exciting dishes of the night.
At first glance, the dish really looks like diced pieces of tomato sitting on top of crispy bread. Instead, pieces of raw tuna are coated in a spicy sauce, with Italian seasoning. It’s a marriage between the east and west, that works in inexplicable ways. I will take this every single day please.
Of course, we needed to order a variation of “Parm.” Eggplant Parm, being my all-time favorite food, was instantly the decision, but we still needed to decide the preparation; roll, hero or platter. We opted for Roll (a sweet semolina, to be exact),which is the smallest version of the three.
After one bite, we quickly ditched the sweet semolina roll, instead eating the eggplant parmesan with a fork and a knife. The bread was too sweet, too soft and overpowered the main star inside. Without the bread, the eggplant parm was outstanding. Thinly sliced pieces of eggplant are sweet, and soft, perfectly prepared. Parm avoids the over breaded and greasy flavor I fear every time I order my precious dish. Layers of cheese are thin, showing serious restraint in the kitchen. It allows for the eggplant and sweet tomato sauce to shine, with the salty sprinkle of parmesan cheese lingering in the back of your palate. Next time, splurge and order the platter to capture the full essence of the eggplant parm.
For our sides, we ordered three different vegetables; beets aranciata, Brussels sprouts and spicy rabe.
We immediately neglected the spicy rabe. What the waiter had described as a mild spice proved to be completely unbearable. One bite with very little red sauce destroyed our taste buds, leaving an unappetizing bitterness behind. Our charismatic bus boy, Michael, acknowledged the weird vegetable when he cleared our table with the bowl full of the rabe. Avoid this veggie at all costs, even if you do love spice.
The other veggies shined. The Beets are prepared with slices are of oranges and Macadamia Nuts. They are sweet, slightly salty and a mild crunch.
And the fan favorite, Brussels Sprouts with pickled red onions and a sprinkle of parm hit the spot.
The veggies are all unique; and for the most part (*cough, spicy rabe, cough*) are prepared with a delightful twist on a traditional side dish. They are small in portion size, so sharing multiple among a few people is necessary.
Make sure you save room for dessert. Classic Ice Cream cake gets an Italian twist with layers of Gelato and Praline held together by whipped cream and topped with rainbow sprinkles, cookie crumbles and of course, a cherry on top.
Not only is this cake gorgeous in presentation (and on Instagram), but it’s damn good. If you happen to be slightly lactose-intolerant like myself, bring along a lactate pill and dig in. It’s that good. The cookie crumble takes you back to elementary school, mimicking the flavors of the Carvel crumbles you loved. The ice cream is creamy and rich, without being over powering. Dig in and feel absolutely no guilt.
Welcome to the neighborhood, Parm. I’m so happy to have you. You have a few kinks to figure out, and some drinks that need a little bit more explanation (and better names?), but overall for a launch day, the majority of service and meal went off without a hitch. I can’t wait to become a regular, that girl sitting at the bar in post-gym wear eating an platter of Eggplant Parm and Ice Cream Cake to face. Don’t judge.
Parm – 235 Columbus Ave – New York, NY
Location: Upper West Side, NY
Perfect For: Casual Meal, Take Out, Date Night
Reservations: Available via OpenTable
Favorite Dishes: Warm Mozzarella, Eggplant Parm Platter, Ice Cream Cake