If you are like us, you grew up dining with the fam at the local red sauce joint for Sunday supper. Of course, the benchmark for judging any Italian-American restaurant was (and still is) the quality of their chicken Parmesan. Though conceptually straightforward — breaded and fried boneless chicken, blanketed in tomato sauce, melted mozzarella (or provolone), and topped with grated Parmesan cheese —, a solid chicken parm is the result of attention to detail. With this in mind, here’re eight chicken parms that get it right every time.
Parm Boyz – Los Angeles
Chris Amirault and Jake Kolack, Boston natives who grew up on Italian-American fare, are big fans of LA institution Dan Tana’s chicken parm. The only issue? So is every other Angeleno. One (drunken) night, when the duo was unable to score a table, they decided to recreate their childhood favorite dish and posted their results. Friends were miffed at the missed invitation to the “parm party” and, long story short, Parm Boyz was born. Breaded with panko breadcrumbs to ensure crispiness when hit with the thin layer of sauce, Parm Boyz’s parm is crowned with a triple threat of cheese (provolone, mozzarella, and Parmesan) and served atop a mound of saucy spaghetti.
Blue Collar – Miami
Chef and owner Daniel Serfer spent a lifetime eating this Italian-American mainstay and perfected it at his global, comfort food eatery, Blue Collar. His iteration starts with a classic prep — pounded chicken breasts dredged in flour, egg, and Parmigiano-and-herb-flecked Italian breadcrumb coating. The chicken is fried up and cloaked with a simple sauce of San Marzano tomatoes, onions, garlic, high-quality olive oil, and finally, finished with a melty, molten layer of provolone cheese.
Chef Bill Kim’s Pizza & Parm Shop – Chicago
Growing up in the Windy City, Wednesdays were pasta and parm night for James Beard-nominated Chef Bill Kim. Those nights were also the inspiration for his latest take-away and delivery-only concept, Chef Bill Kim’s Pizza & Parm Shop. Known for his bold flavors, Chef Bill’s version of the classic chicken parm sandwich offers a surprising crunch. The three-cheese (mozzarella, brick cheese, and pecorino) and chicken sando is served on a toasted brioche bun with fresh basil and zesty homemade marinara sauce. The unexpected kicker? Butter pickles and homemade mayo.
Quality Italian – New York and Denver
The classic cheese pizza and chicken alla parmigiana unite in harmony to form Quality Italian’s oh-so irresistible, hybrid chicken parm pizza. The handcrafted “crust” is basically a giant chicken meatball that’s lightly breaded and fried then topped with housemade tomato sauce, mozzarella, pecorino, and Parmesan cheeses. Designed to be sliced, the pie is topped with Calabrian chili honey, dried chili flakes, house-dried olives, and a house-dried seasoning blend of oregano, garlic, and herbs. If you’re craving something richer, try the creamy Alla vodka version.
Jon & Vinny’s – Los Angeles
The playlist, the merch, the curated bottles at Helen’s (their snug wine shop)— Jon & Vinny’s had us at “hello”. The deal was truly sealed, however, the first time we tried their chicken Parmesan. Finished in their blazing hot pizza oven, their spot-on chicken parm achieves speckled brown, bubbly cheese perfection while the chicken remains steamy at first cut. To get that fresh-out-of-pizza-oven at home, reheat in a 450-degree oven for 3 to 4 minutes (or until the chicken is warmed through). Whatever you do, heed their advice, and under no circumstances re-heat chicken parm in the microwave. Mamma mia, that’s a no-no!
Tony & Elaine’s – Boston
Named after owner Nick Frattaroli’s parents, who were restaurant servers in the North End, Tony & Elaine’s is a nod to the neighborhood’s old school, Italian-American eateries. The menu, which reads like a greatest hits list of red sauce classics from spaghetti and meatballs to shrimp scampi, has one bestseller: the chicken parm. The thin, crispy cutlets are topped with marinara sauce, fresh fior di latte mozzarella, and of course, Parmesan cheese. It’s all baked until the cheese is gooey and served with a generous helping of their fresh, housemade pasta.
Grassa – Portland
The only chicken parm on this list prepared with thigh meat. For that reason, Grassa’s version is extra juicy, tender, and packed with flavor. The brined thigh meat is breaded in good ‘ole Progresso Italian breadcrumbs (why mess with a classic?), deep-fried, then garnished with fresh basil. After that, it is concealed with a layer of mozzarella and Provolone which is heated until lava-like. The parm is served with spaghetti tossed in a buttery tomato sauce with a healthy dose of Parmesan cheese and Calabrian chili for added heat.
And the newest addition…
Mamma Parmigiana – Miami
Whether you fall into the chicken parm sandwich camp, the parm-and-pasta camp, or the parm-pizza camp, Mamma Parmigiana has you covered. For those that like theirs between the bread, Mamma Parimgiana’s chicken parm sandwich is served on a toasted, garlicky-buttery sesame seed bun then stacked with a crisp, golden brown breaded chicken breast topped with signature sauce and oozy mozzarella. For purists, stick to the classic parm prep served with a side of penne Pomodoro. If you’re in the sharing mood (or super hungry), go for the 10-inch chicken parm pizza, with a chicken “crust” base, which technically feeds four. Tack on an order of classic Caesar salad and finish with a trio of cannoli—chocolate chip, pistachio, and classic. Oh, and don’t forget the red checkered table cloth.