By The Foodies
When it comes to dining at La Parma II on West Jericho Turnpike in Huntington, there’s no funny business in the kitchen.
The ingredients they use are fresh and wholesome. The portions are huge, designed for sharing among a party of three or four. The recipes are classic Southern Italian, prepared expertly and served with warm attention you’d expect from family.
That’s because the restaurant is a family affair.
One of four La Parma locations on Long Island – the others are in Williston Park, Oceanside and Port Washington – owner Anthony Castelli has presided over operations as executive chef and owner since April 1988.
“He’s still back there every day. You have to be – especially in this business,” said his son Vincent Castelli, the gregarious general manager who works the front of the house.
The base menu, displayed conspicuously on the 100-seat dining room’s wall, has stayed for 27 years. Similar signs hang in all four La Parma locations. The full menu, Vincent said, is probably “triple that,” and fresh pasta creations have emerged in recent years.
Homemade Lobster Ravioli ($32.75), capped in squid-ink pasta, is a decadent knockout, highlighted by a sweet Cognac cream sauce and chunks of lobster meat. Linguine in White Clam Sauce ($24.75) is a classic done right, boasting tender, chopped clams, zesty roasted garlic and perfect pasta. Fettucine Caprese ($28.75), a blend of fresh plum tomato, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh mozzarella and baby arugula – the chef hits the pasta with a shot of mozzarella while it’s in the pan to give it that little bit of gooey goodness – is a permanent special.
“The second we tried to remove it, we heard it,” Vincent said.
Little wonder – we’d liken it to mozzarella burrata in a pasta form, light and sunny, elegant in its simplicity and flavor balance.
On the starter side, imported Italian mozzarella di bufala ($18.75), served atop thick-cut beefsteak tomatoes, is equally impressive as a light starter, crowned with an extra virgin olive oil drizzle, pepper and a big basil leaf.
Mediterranean cuisine calls heavily on the fruits of the sea, and La Parma presents them very well indeed. Shrimp La Parma ($28.75) features a dozen perfectly prepared and plump shrimp in a robust, garlicky marinara with a nice kick and a touch of butter. Harvested from Huntington and Cold Spring Harbors, plump Baked Clams ($22.75) are topped with La Parma’s trademark cheesy, garlicky breadcrumbs with lemon zest abound, and New Zealand Mussels Marinara ($21.75) practically melt in your mouth.
Veal Chop Valdostana ($54.75), a rack of veal, pounded thin and filled with mozzarella, prosciutto and fresh herbs and spices, is then closed up, re-pounded, lightly breaded, fried and served in a light brown sauce with mushrooms and artichokes for melt-in-your-mouth flavor. Chicken Napoli ($29.75), once a special that graduated to the main menu, is a pair of tender, juicy chicken breasts topped in a light brown sauce, shitake mushrooms, asparagus and melted Fontina cheese, crowned with jumbo shrimp. And Chicken Scarpariello Campagnola ($36.75) is a must-have for pepper lovers – a medley of grilled chicken, sweet Italian sausage, red peppers and onions.
Warm, sesame seed-flecked Italian bread gets you off to a start; rainbow Swiss chard and escarole with black olives, both $14.75, are offered amongst an array of traditional sides.
La Parma’s wide-open dining room makes for malleable seating arrangements, perfect for large parties. Amidst the traditional trappings, one notable splash of modernity is the classic brick-trimmed bar, which is punched up by colorful LED back-lighting. They also keep up with evolving dietary needs thanks to an array of gluten-free pastas and other offerings, and stand ready to alter dishes to meet a guest’s needs.