23 February 2014

Italian comfort food & cool jazz at Parma 8200

The heaviest snowstorm of the season (so far) almost spoiled our plans to have dinner with friends. We had a reservation at an Italian restaurant in Minneapolis. Then we planned to drive to Parma for an after dinner drink and to listen to the sounds of Benny Weinbeck who performs there every Saturday night.

With the roads covered with packed snow and ice, we wanted to minimize the amount of driving. So we changed our dinner reservation to Parma and spent the whole evening there. Good decision!

Parma 8200 is part of the D’Amico family of restaurants. I admit that I’m a fan. Their restaurants are reliably good. My favorite is Café Lurcat (which I’ve written about before; click here). But even though Parma is quite close to our house, we’d never eaten there previously. DSC00752

To start with, we had a little trouble deciding on wine. Parma has a good wine list with many choices at reasonable prices. The trouble was, we couldn’t find one that appealed to everyone at the table. Our server was very patient and helpful. He brought tastes of several wines. Finally, the women decided on a bottle of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand. I had a glass of chianti, and my friend had a glass of California cabernet.

Like the wine list, the food menu at Parma also offers a nice selection to appeal to different personal preferences. For antipasti, they offer a variety of cheese plates and ‘salumi’ plates in addition to traditional Italian starters. We skipped those and went to salads. The women shared an apple salad which featured romaine, hazelnuts, and gorgonzola dressing. I had a ‘blistered’ romaine salad with radicchio, pecorino cheese, and a sherry vinaigrette. The romaine had been grilled gently until it was slightly wilted and blistered. The slightly smoky flavor complimented the slightly bitter taste of the radicchio. My friend had a Caesar salad. It’s not on the menu; you have to ask. You can have it with anchovies (he did), but you also have to ask for that.

The pastas on the menu can be ordered either as entrées or as a ‘primi’ course. One of their specials for the evening was a lamb tagliatelle, and that’s what I ordered. I loved it. The pasta arrived covered with a tomato sauce with tender, flavorful pieces of shredded lamb. The server offered a sprinkling of grated cheese and cracked pepper, which I took.

It was easy for our group to find appealing meals among the ‘secondi’ entrées. My friend asked about the brasato. The server described it as being like pot roast. (Looking online, I see that the beef is braised in wine, so it’s not an ordinary roast.) It was served with soft polenta. The presentation looked very appealing, and there wasn’t much left of the meal when he was done. The women each ordered chicken. My wife had grilled chicken and our friend had lemon chicken. Both women requested and received grilled mixed vegetables on the plate with the chicken instead of potatoes or other starch.

The menu offers several side dishes, including risotto, potatoes, polenta, Brussels sprouts, and butternut squash. We didn’t order any, nor did we have dessert. Instead, we took the remainder of the bottle of white wine into the bar and listened to the music until Benny closed the piano at 10:30.

At the end of the evening, we all agreed that if we had gone to the other restaurant, we probably would have skipped the music and gone home after dinner. Instead, we had a leisurely dinner, friendly conversation, and entertaining music after dinner. Very fun.

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