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Review of Parm Restaurant on the Upper West Side and a recipe for an Italian American Classic: Sausage and Peppers

Review of Parm Restaurant on the Upper West Side and a recipe for an Italian American Classic: Sausage and Peppers
The Original Parm at 248 Mulberry St. NYC
        Italian cooking is such an ingrained part of the American diet that dishes like Pizza and Spaghetti and Meatballs are barely labelled Italian anymore.  They’re just good old American staples at this point. But as Lasagna and Eggplant Parmesan and Polenta and Baked Ziti are now about as exotic as a hot dog, some Italian dishes seem to have been left by the wayside.  In New York, three young partners, Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick, have made a career out of  “Red Sauce” Italian Restaurants.  Out of the 5 restaurants their Major Food Group has opened four are full-on Italian American where they’ve made their reputation with items like Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan.  But at their latest offering and uptown branch of their first Parm, Parm at 235 Columbus Ave. (70th -71st Street Tel: 212 776-4921), there’s one item that is conspicuously missing. That is, of course, the subject of today’s post: Sausage and Peppers. But before we get to that, a brief review of Parm on the Upper West Side.

          After what seemed like ages, Parm finally opened in the space formerly occupied by Lansky’s, which was called an “Old World Deli”. Its closing signified the changing tastes on the Upper West Side as much as anything else.  Lansky’s old Jewish deli food was perfectly fine but its largely elderly following is fast being replaced by the young and the hip and the pastramiless.  Parm jumped into the breach and attracts a huge following among Upper West Side daters looking for reasonably priced food.  They’ll find it there, along with one the highest decibel noise levels anywhere.  Even at a table for two, on a Saturday night, it’s virtually impossible to carry on a conversation. The only way we avoided the cacophony was to sit on the street side of the place, where, because every time the door opened we froze, no one else was seated.   And how was the food?  There’s a garlic bread that so good, I would conceivably go back just to eat that alone. There’s warm mozzarella that’s house made but after how are you going to serve rubbery mozzarella after they’ve had Buratta?  There are 5 familiar pastas and 4 main course selections, the most expensive being a Whole Roasted Seabream for $27.00.  And there there’s the Parms…Chicken Parm, Meatball Parm, Eggplant Parm which, along with the somewhat incongruous House Turkey and Chicken Francese, come three ways: On a Roll, in a Hero or as a platter.  For my taste, there’s an awful lot of bread to contend with in the first two, I’d likely recommend the platter, which comes with salad or pasta. All in all, the young staff could not be more pleasant and if you don’t mind the ear-splitting noise level you may be happy at Parm.  It’s not inventive, it’s good solid red sauce Italian American. But you could have a lovely Italian dinner right next door at Pomodoro Rosso (229 Columbus Avenue, NY NY TEL: 212 721 3009) where, for very little more money, you might be able to hear yourself think.    But back to the subject at hand: where are the sausage and peppers on either of their menus?


Note the sign at the San Gennaro Festival

Sausage and Peppers is New York Street food.  Street fairs in New York are as common as potholes and almost as annoying. Long stretches of our Avenues are closed completely to all but pedestrians creating nightmarish traffic jams.  One of the most famous of these is the San Gennaro Festival. It is held for 11 long, long days in September. San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples.  To celebrate, what’s left of Little Italy, which is now surrounded by Chinatown, is closed off to vehicles and some 200 vendors set up shop. A tremendous number of them sell Sausage and Peppers. Some park themselves directly in front of the original Parm at 248 Mulberry Street.  The boys may have an item called Pork and Peppers at that location but that didn’t make the trip to our uptown Parm.  And that’s a shame.  The dish, like the festival, hails from Naples where its variation uses hot fennel sausages, melted mozzarella and tomato sauce.  North of Naples is closer to the version made in this country.  There’s no tomato sauce or mozzarella and sweet sausage is used. Instead there are plenty of peppers and onions.  It’s frequently served on doughy Italian bread.  But for a dinner version of this dish, you can cut out the bread and serve this immensely satisfying dish carb-free!         

Street Food Version with Bread

Unlike many Italian sauces, this recipe doesn’t require hours on the stove.  Quite the contrary, this dish was on the table in 45 minutes.  Sweet Italian Sausage is found everywhere in New York. In fact it’s hard to find plain pork sausages.  Ours came from Fairway.  The sausages are partially cooked and browned before the essential onions, green and red peppers are added to the skillet.  Red Pepper Flakes and lots of garlic add to the flavors and stock is used to make a sauce that brings the whole dish together.  You could serve this with a side salad but I saw no reason to. It’s was a perfect one dish dinner.  Here’s the recipe.

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