The Italians are famous for liking their food simple but great. If you go for pizza with an Italian, they probably won’t order a pie heaped with toppings but rather go for something plainer so they can fully experience the flavour.
We experienced this recently at one of London’s most authentic Italian restaurants, In Parma. So intimate and authentic, the owner served us himself. We were meeting a friend but couldn’t wait to dive right into the menu as soon as we arrived. Our charming host explained the premise of the restaurant, traditional ingredients and dishes brought straight from Parma, cheese and meat platters to start and classic pasta to devour.
Of course when in Rome, I mean Parma, you have to try their famous fizzy wine, Lambrusco of course. It’s served in bowls, called Fojeta, as is the traditional fashion. Who are we to argue?
Truth be told, I didn’t love the Lambrusco, it wasn’t exactly the way I enjoy my wine. But I did appreciate the experience of trying something new in such a lovely environment and I’d be keen to give it another try.
Up first on our Parma adventure was of course, meat and cheese. You can either get a tasting platter of different meats or choose individual meat and cheese boards. We went for Morzola (mortadella and gorgonzola) and Parmella (prosciutto with buffalo mozzarella). You need to order the bread separately.
I loved the Morzola, unsurprisingly, as I am a huge gorgonzola fan and this was creamy and punchy. Mortadella probably would never be my first choice of meat but I enjoyed its silky fattiness. I think for next time I would order something with more personality than the mozzarella as it was a bit bland. The focaccia bread was very average compared to others I’ve had, rather stale actually. I prefer mine salty and oily, the kind of carbohydrate I’d sell my soul for.
For the mains, my boyfriend went for the traditional Parma dish, Cappelitti in brodo. I decided to see what that old student classic, ragu bolognese, tasted like in the hands of real Italians. And our friend went for their pesto dish.
First impressions of the dishes were that they were all small portions, for between £12 -£14. Though pasta is never served as a main course in Italy so this is probably intentional. There is a difference between American-Italian, where plates are heaped high and huge with noodles and sauce, and real-Italian where food is intended to be savoured. Don’t get me wrong, I love both styles.
I am sure I am going to sound like a pleb here but the bolognese really underwhelmed me. Funnily enough, a colleague had brought in bolognese for lunch that day and gave me a taste and it was packed with flavour. This one, however, was much more subtle and lacked a lot of personality.
The pesto dish was my favourite of all three and its flavours sang out, still simple but very satisfying. However, our friend declared it hugely under seasoned and proceeded to lace it with salt.
Onto the Cappelitti in brodo, known as the richest dish in Parma and containing beef and veal slow cooked and served in a meat broth. The menu describes the ravioli as ‘hat shaped’ but they more look like little spaceships to me. Despite being known as the richest, it seemed quite understated to me. It gained high praise from the rest of the table but you know how I feel about food in broth 😉
Last but not least, dessert. The best thing about these lighter dishes is that of course you have room for something delicious. Being traditionalists we had a tiramisu and semifreddo. The tiramisu was light and creamy but I only had eyes for the semifreddo. Mixed with crunchy amaretto biscuits, it was the kind of dessert you want to eat tucked up in bed with no one else around.
In Parma is well worth a visit if you enjoy experiencing traditional dishes and chatting with the staff about the origins of the food. I thought it was such a charming restaurant and London definitely needs more places like this. Why go to soulless chains when you can meet the proprietor and understand their true enthusiasm for the food?
Find In Parma:
10 Charlotte Place,
London, W1T 1SH