CULTURE

Il Parmigiano: The good, the basic, the lovely

At the two-month-old Il Parmigiano Cafe in Erythraia, the unbearable lightness of good eating begins with an atmospheric contrast, as logs of wood stand out against industrial gray. The third store in the Il Parmigiano chain in Athens (with a fourth one on Myconos), the chain is not defined solely in terms of Italian cuisine, but rather as a restaurant offering basic pasta and pizza, and other main courses. «Creative bistro cuisine,» is how Executive Chef Dionysis Hariates describes his work here. Hariates – executive chef of the Il Parmigiano chain as well as Indian-oriented Shalimar – mixes the simple with the innovative, providing Il Parmigiano Cafe with a particularly Mediterranean touch. So prepare for your visit with a healthy appetite and begin with a Parmigiano Cafe salad, for example, where fresh leafy spinach welcomes warm goat cheese on aubergine, accompanied by walnuts in a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, or else a beef carpaccio in a Dolcelatte sauce and celery, or even a bowl of rich pumpkin soup with parmesan cheese. On the pasta section of the menu, an intelligent choice has to be made between such platters as spaghetti with lemon and asparagus, trenette with truffle oil, lasagna with broccoli and leek, or ravioli with pears and gorgonzola cheese. Also, keep a look out for the risotto offerings, with variations such as artichoke and prosciutto or mushroom ragout. The pizza stands in a crunchy league of its own, with a various specialities, such as the «Mare e Monti» combo – including mozzarella cheese, mushrooms and seafood – or the more traditional «Quattro Stagioni,» with mozzarella cheese, tomato, ham, salami, mushrooms and peppers. And then check out the main courses, where lamb combines with artichoke fricassee, duck’s breast with black olives and rosemary or beef fillet with a gorgonzola cheese sauce. On the seafood front, check out the prawns with red pepper sauce and zucchini. A rich ending lies ahead as the dessert course promises mascarpone cheese mousse with raspberries, chestnut semifreddo with cinnamon cream, or else a piece of bitter chocolate tart bathed in espresso cream. The restaurant – a clear departure from its Il Parmigiano’s siblings on Kifissias Avenue and in Kolonaki – is open from early morning, through the lunch hour (with an added menu of sandwiches and other lighter platters) and all the way through dinner, with the possibility of brunch on Sundays. The really good news is that you can enjoy an Il Parmigiano Cafe meal in your own home, as the restaurant offers a dynamic home delivery service with the majority of choices from the restaurant’s main menu available.Il Parmigiano Cafe, 40 Ekalis, Nea Erythraia, tel 010.6254151. The only other landmark in the area is a life-sized replica of the Athenian triremes which the British Trireme Foundation in collaboration with the Greek Ministry of Culture (at the time of Melina Merkouri’s tenure) and the Hellenic Navy helped produce in the mid-’80s. Unfortunately, however, the ship has since been falling apart, although there are plans to renovate it for an exhibit in Germany next year.