Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Parma Cucina Italiana
Italian kitchen trying hard to make it stick in quasi-cursed Hillcrest spot.
I liked Caffe Vergnano (they had good coffee), and I thought Taco Bahn was a cool idea even if it was only open for about 14 hours before closing and turning into Urban Eats. I never even got to go there before Ed Bedford revealed that Urban Eats was closing and Parma Cucina Italiana would replace it. Cue the wild calliope music, right?
Anyways, I didn’t bother to check out the Italian spot right away because I guessed it would close immediately, to be replaced by a vegan barbecue joint or something equally non sequitur. It turns out that Parma has managed to stick around and that the food is actually pretty tasty! They also have a commendable wine menu with all sorts of Italian bottlings to divert tipplers.
Stopping in for dinner, I had some carrot and farro soup ($6) that highlighted the meal with its creamy texture punctuated by the chewy bites of stewed grain. Underneath the brassy tasty of the carrots lurked a deep flavor of celery. A sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese wasn’t necessary, but certainly didn’t hurt.
Following the soup, tagliatelle ($12) swam in a meat ragu that tasted of red wine and “low and slow” cooking. The egg pasta doesn’t have the chewy texture of dried pasta, but it holds flavor admirably and the delicate noodles weren’t overwhelmed by the ragu, which can be a problem with this kind of dish.
I wasn’t hungry enough to move into the meat dishes, but the braised beef ($16) and roast pork ($14) both called to me for a future visit. Instead, I used my final bites to put away a tiramisu ($8), sweet and big enough for two, although with less coffee and booze flavor than I like to see in this dish.
The simplicity and brevity of Parma’s menu shouldn’t divert from the potential excellence in execution. While humble, the cooking was very good and almost, but not quite, cheap enough to be a regular stop. For the casual and occasional bite, Parma is just about right.
3850 5th Avenue
Fri-Sat 11-11, otherwise 11-10