Italian-American food has almost fallen out of favor in the restaurant scene, with places now offering more specific regional specialization. The chef at so-and-so restaurant has a mastery of the cuisine of Umbria, while “this one” cooks dishes from Emilia-Romagna. But there’s a reason Italian-American food has earned itself a place in the hearts – and stomachs – of so many. It’s comforting and delicious, and you can find a good variety of those dishes at DiParma Italian Table in Seekonk.
While DiParma does bill itself as “a touch of Tuscany,” and the décor certainly reflects the earth tones that have come to signify the warm glow of that coastal region surrounding Florence, the enormous menu choices show off its Italian-American roots. As if the menu wasn’t indicative that this is a New World restaurant, the requisite photos of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin on the walls would give it away. But unlike a lot of places that carry that too far with a heavy mob movie design scheme, DiParma tends to be more understated and less The Godfather. The restaurant almost feels like two separate places, with a definite sports bar feel in the back and more family-friendly dining up front. The bar has an array of large screen televisions and there’s live music on Friday nights. I’m sure the place is packed on the weekend.
It was pretty busy on a Monday night too, which is when I went with my family. Honestly, with small children, Italian food is one of the least difficult choices for dining out, and the fact that our server Susan was so helpful and great with the kids was wonderful. I had my in-laws along as well, and they greatly enjoyed themselves.
Probably in response to one of those big Italian food chains, DiParma offers unlimited salad and rolls with everyone’s dinner, and while I won’t say it was the most unique tossed salad I’ve had, the white balsamic vinaigrette dressing was good and the rolls were leaps and bounds above chain bread offerings I’ve tasted. Though as the saying goes, “don’t fill up on bread,” because the portions at DiParma are very generous. We started with that staple of Italian food here in Rhode Island, Calamari Fritta ($11). It’s served with hot red pepper rings, basil, garlic and Roma tomatoes. The calamari was perfectly fried, not too heavy, and definitely crispy. In a little bit of a different touch the peppers were fried too, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would. The basil, garlic and tomatoes made for a good marinara with it.
For dinner we sampled an array of classics, and one dish that sounded too good not to try. The entrees were Linguini and Clams with Red Sauce ($15), Shrimp Scampi ($17), Classic Chicken Parmesan ($15), Eggplant Parmesan ($14) and Sicilian Fire Chicken ($17). We passed things around and everyone enjoyed each dish, though the Sicilian Fire Chicken is definitely on the spicy side and may not be loved by everyone. (I was thrilled with it.)
The first thing I happily noticed as I tasted all the dishes was that DiParma’s cooks did not skimp on the garlic. There was a lot of it. Sometimes Italian places get timid with garlic. Sure, it can be overpowering on some dishes, but with the Shrimp Scampi and the Linguini and Clams, I loved the garlic punch. Both the Classic Chicken Parmesan and Eggplant Parmesan were very well made. Both had good breading and frying, without any greasiness, and the eggplant held up nicely. Of course, they each came with a side of pasta and the over-abundance made for good lunches the next day. The Sicilian Fire Chicken was made up of spicy marinated chicken tenders sautéed with roasted red and green peppers, caramelized onions and mushrooms in a spicy Madeira wine sauce served over angel hair pasta. As I said, spicy - but there was plenty of sweet Madeira in the sauce to combat the heat.
We saved room for dessert, not that we couldn’t have polished off our meals and been sated for days, but our server Susan said the cannoli were very popular. I see why. My wife and I almost polished off two excellent Chocolate Chip Cannoli ($7). My in-laws tried the Chocolate Decadence ($7) dessert, which tasted fine.
Every person in my family, from two-years-old and up loved the food at DiParma Italian Table. The menu items are comforting and delicious, as well as plentiful and well-made. Good Italian-American restaurants like this one aren’t going anywhere. DiParma perfectly illustrates why they shouldn’t.