“I just like simplicity. I like simple songs, I like simple chords, simple vocals, simple lead guitar. I just like simplicity. That’s just the way I like it.” – Jeremy Spencer
“I wish I had invented blue jeans. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes.” – Yves Saint Laurent
“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Sensing a common theme here? Simplicity is the idea I would like to highlight in this post; not in a serious and mundane way, more so in an abstract and analytical way to see the many wonders something that appears so simple can truly hold. The depth that something so simple can hold can come off as an almost contradictory idea, but it is undoubtedly true that some of the simplest things in life can be the most splendid.
I love food. I may seem to be shifting gears in a rather rash manner, heading in an arbitrary direction, but I assure you the connection will soon become clear. I like to consider myself to be a rather worldly person and an educated consumer, and when it comes to food, let’s just say I know my shit. I can provide you with a list of restaurants spanning from local holes-in-the wall to the finest five star restaurants in the city. This past weekend, I decided to step outdoors and embrace the wonders of New York City, which I often forget exist during the chaos of the workweek, and I ventured to Nolita for an epicurean adventure. Following a tip from my brother, I decided to take out from a small, but reputable place on Mulberry Street called Parm. The name pretty much captures the essence of this restaurant; small, but character filled, cozy and local, with the occasional tourist dining at the bar, and above all, basic, but far from common.
I had checked out the menu earlier in the day, and at first glace, I thought there was a page or two missing from the on-line menu. There are five main food options for dinner, some with slight variations offered. Aesthetically bare, inadequate at first glance, and not at all what I expected to see. My initial disappointment blinded me from appreciating the humble style of this unique eatery.
Parm is not the type of place to have a million different entrees and platters frankly because that is not who they are, nor who they’re trying to be. Chicken, meatball, and eggplant parmesan are their specialty, and they are not afraid to hide it. Other dishes offered at Parm are sausage and pepper heroes, sides of vegetables, mozzarella balls, a side salad, and baked ziti.
As my appetite grew so did my anticipation to take a bite into my hero. I ordered eggplant and the person I was taking out with ordered meatball. We also decided to try the baked ziti as well as the one and only dessert choice on their take-out menu – house made coffee cake.
Now, I have had eggplant parmesan many times before, but with just one initial bite of my Parm hero, I knew this was a level above anything I had ever eaten. The thick, hearty slices of eggplant were perfectly encased in a light, yet tremendously flavorful coat of breadcrumbs. My taste buds demanded more of this delicious Italian creation, and with the generous size of the hero, they’re requests soon became satisfied.
Baked ziti is another classic but simple Italian food staple. Well, Parm once again redefines this dish by making it in a memorable and unique fashion. The baked ziti came in a brick-like shape, with well-done cheese coating all six sides. A light marinara drizzle was the finishing touch to this delightful treat, and also appeared inside this flavor blasted brick. And, of course, what would baked ziti be without the presence of ricotta cheese? The cheese to sauce ratio of the ziti could not have been more on point. Needless to say, Parm nailed the re-creation of this typical side.
I was left with a lap full of bread and cake crumbs and sat to both mentally and physically digest the wholesomeness of the meal I had just ingested. Despite my stomache feeling sufficiently fulfilled, within minutes I wanted more.
In hindsight, my full Parm experience began the second I read the menu. The skimpiness that I perceived to be a mistake of sorts was the complete opposite. The offering of only a handful of classic Italian sandwiches and sides is not a sign that this restaurant is one-dimensional, rather, it shows the ability to capture the true essence of one specific thing and highlight its greatness. Less is so often more, and in a culture defined and characterized by its excess, it was refreshing to find a place that appreciates the simplicity that is so often overlooked.