Frugal Forager: Parma Italia more than a pizza joint

Sunday, May 6, 2012
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Parma Italia Restaurant

WHERE: 1505 Route 8, Halfmoon. 952-7201, parmaitaliapizzarestaurant.com

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $31.78 with tax and tip

MORE INFO: Children’s menu available. Credit cards: MasterCard, Discover. Wheelchair accessible. Delivery available.

— Mom and I did lunch recently at the Parma Italia restaurant in Halfmoon Plaza on Route 9, and we had a pleasant time and enjoyed our meal very much.

Parma Italia has a lot to love. Opened about three years ago, it makes the most of a roomy storefront with plate glass windows, and its decor is in a neutral palette. Everything was tidy and spotless. I grabbed a Diet Coke ($1.75) from the cooler near the door, and we stepped up to the counter. There were four kinds of round pizzas on display, and a pan of fresh garlic knots were visible cooling in the oven.

“It smells good in here,” said Mom, as we perused menus at our table in front of the window. Although their web address (parmaitaliapizzarestaurant.com) might lead you to believe that Parma Italia is primarily a pizza restaurant, it’s a significant step up from a pizza parlor. There are about a dozen polished wooden tables in the dining room, which offers a full dinner menu. And they recently got a liquor license to sell wine and beer.

Starting points

I passed up the chicken wings ($7.99 per dozen) for a Caprese salad ($5.99). The menu offers starters, mostly fried, although they include greens and beans. There is a good selection of salads, hot and cold sandwiches, and specialty sandwiches, all reasonably priced.

Sandwiches come with chips and a pickle. Dinners cover a lot of ground, with chicken, veal, seafood, and “Parma Classics” such as stuffed rigatoni a la vodka ($12.99) but top out at $16.99. Chicken parm is $11.99 including pasta; they add garlic knots if you’re eating in.

“I just made some eggplant Parmesan,” said the server, the only employee in sight on a quiet afternoon. Perfect. Mom was planning on the eggplant parm sub ($6.99) anyway. Our orders were taken and we cracked the soda open and caught up on news.

Speaking of news, the flat screen TV that faced the dining room showed a local news station, which could have done without so much sound. Otherwise, the restaurant was cheerful and pleasant.

Satisfying salads

I was impressed with Parma Italia’s Caprese salad, made with fresh soft mozzarella, good enough tomatoes for this time of year, a few basil leaves, and lots of baby spinach drizzled with thickened, slightly sweet balsamic vinegar. Olive oil was dotted here and there, and salt and finely ground pepper provided the perfect seasonings for the dish. It’s enough for two. I finished the spinach and took home most of the tomato and cheese.

The side salad ($2.99) is a mix of iceberg lettuce and spinach, with thinly sliced purple onion, tomato slice, carrot, cucumber, and black olives. There was a plastic cup of zesty Italian dressing on the side. Mom was pleased with it.

Her sub came with three layers of thinly sliced eggplant topped with melted mozzarella, a cup of fresh marinara on the side. The roll was crispy and warm. “And not too thick,” said Mom, showing me. “You don’t want too much bread.” Mom made Italian subs when we were kids, and my job was to take the soft fluffy insides out of the split, crusty Italian bread loaves to make more room for whatever went in. She’s got a point.

In an effort to be healthy, I ordered the Mediterranean wrap ($6.99), which promised veggies and pesto inside. “I toss the vegetables in a vinaigrette and add lemon juice,” the server said upon inquiry. He didn’t add that it was grilled on a panini press, but maybe that’s a given now. My favorite local restaurant (sorry, not telling) does that, too.

Just right wrap

It was just what I wanted, and I really enjoyed it. The grill marks made it handsome, and the filling of red and green peppers, tomatoes, mixed greens and more of that fresh mozzarella tasted delicious. Parma Italia gets points for getting black olives by me, and for chopping the vegetables to just the right size for the wrap and for the small salad. The dressing leaked out the bottom a bit and soaked the crisp curly fries, which made my lunch a little less healthy, but I ate most of them anyway.

We didn’t order dessert; there are several homemade desserts available. But don’t think I forgot the pizza. Mom took some home and reports that their pizza crust has cornmeal on the bottom and was delicious, and had good quality sauce and cheese.

So everything was good. Parma Italia is reasonably priced, uses fresh ingredients, and puts everything together right there just for you. You can’t get much better than that.

 

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