3350 Buford Drive - Building B, Suite 200, Buford
· Open since: July
· Location: Parma Tavern is on Buford Drive near the Mall of Georgia, located across the street from the Sam's Club
· Hours: Kitchen hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
· Owner: Parma Tavern is owned by Dave Pazienza, Jeff Newsham and Rob Caswick. The three also founded Artuzzi's Italian Kitchen, with five metro Atlanta locations. Caswick also owns Cyprus Street Pint and Plate in Midtown and Hearth Pizza Tavern in Sandy Springs.
· Atmosphere: Parma Tavern recalls co-owner Dave Pazienza's childhood in Boston's North End. The rustic tavern-esque interior is modeled after the Italian restaurant Pazienza's father owned, and the dark wood accents promote a homey feeling of familiarity. Photos from Panzienza's childhood hang along the walls, family heirlooms of the restaurant from his youth. The peculiar lights, with the filament exposed within, are custom-ordered Thomas Edison bulbs circa 1920.
The bulky but approachable wood bar, crafted by an Atlanta company, is softened by games of Connect Four and flat-screen televisions. While booths line the majority of the restaurant's interior, the center is filled by large communal tables, and a small patio allows for the impeccable pairing of a balmy Gwinnett evening and the friendly spirit of Parma Tavern.
· Menu: The cuisine is divided into small plates, salads, pastas, pizzas, sandwiches and burgers. The traditional dishes are given a unique twist, with the addition of herbs and unconventional ingredients transform the familiar Italian dishes into quality, upscale dishes without a high price. The recipes, many of which are derived from the Pazienza's Boston restaurant, incorporate fresh produce and bold, strong flavors.
"At the other restaurants (Hearth Pizza Tavern and Cyprus Street Pint and Plate), everyone was kind of asking for pasta," said co-owner Rob Caswick. "So we said, 'Hey, let's kind of do the same theme with the tavern but focus more on pizza.'"
Parma dices and blanches its own potatoes for its parmesan truffle fries, served with truffle aioli for dipping, and the eggplant chips are made from fresh eggplant, which is breaded in Panko bread crumbs, sliced and served with a chipotle sun-dried tomato aioli to give it a sweet and smokey flavoring. All sandwiches and burgers are served on toasted ciabatta, and all of the sauces for pasta are made in-house from scratch.
· Things you might not know: Parma Tavern prides itself on being a locally-owned and operated restaurant experience. Caswick is a Gwinnett resident, and Parma uses ingredients from local food companies. The toasted Ciabatta bread is made by a local bakery, and the sausage used in many of the dishes are from Atlanta Sausage Company in Snellville. The gelato, Italy's ice cream variant, is made in Woodstock.
The restaurant's local tavern feel is evident in the way in which Caswick and his partners approach their customers. The aim was to create a restaurant that was different from the corporate chain atmosphere of other restaurants in the immediate vicinity.
"We wanted to do the neighborhood thing," Caswick said. "We try to talk to every table, get to know them, find out where they live, where they're from, kind of opposite of the corporate chains that are up and down the street here. It's still family-friendly."
Parma also serves a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The menu includes pancakes and eggs, as well as omelets and breakfast sandwiches.
SideBar: On the menu
· Parmesan truffle fries - hand-cut potatoes, parmesan, parsley, truffle aioli, $4
· Penne bosco - sliced chicken, roasted mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, scallion, fresh basil, Marsala wine, cream, chicken stock, parmesan, romano, $11
· Meatatarian pizza - pepperoni, Atlanta Sausage Co. sweet Italian sausage, applewood smoked bacon, premium whole milk mozarella, pizza sauce, herbs, $8 for 8 inch, $14 for 12 inches
· French dip - roasted top round beef, caramelized onions, gruyere, truffle aioli on toasted ciabatta, $8
· Maytag burger - 1/2 pound fresh black angus, gruyere, caramelized onions, gorgonzola on toasted ciabatta, $9