“Parigi” means “Paris” in Italian. I had thought this to be the case and confirmed it while Hanna, my lovely girlfriend, and I strolled down Oak Lawn to eventually arrive at the restaurant’s patio.
The walk from the patio to our table in the back of the restaurant provided a lot to check out. First, the crowd was noticeably varied. There were casual diners on the patio with their K-9 companions, families with young children, and those who were seemingly there for a nice dinner out. The tables are elegantly dressed with white tablecloths and petite flowers. There is a massive “XOXO” sign with light bulbs, adding some fun to the decor.
The menu at Parigi changes twice a month. You can tell from reading it that Janice Provost, chef and owner, recognizes the importance of quality ingredients and takes a lot of pride in where those ingredients come from. The first page of the menu gives credit to a list of local sources.
We started with drinks and bread. The bread wasn’t warm… darn. Maybe I misunderstand the complexity of serving warm bread, but it seems like an easy thing to do to make a normal part of a meal a bit more special. My Paloma was refreshing, tequila-forward, and ultimately delightful. I don’t like martinis, but Hanna tells me her Sporko, Sporko, Sporko, as it’s listed on the menu, was quite good.
Our appetizers were the highlight of the meal. The Portobello Fries were appropriately large so that a crispy outside could be achieved without compromising the already delightful texture of the mushroom itself. It was accompanied with truffle buttermilk cream. Seriously, if something has the words “truffle” and “buttermilk” in its name, it’s almost definitely going to be good. We also enjoyed the Mozzarella Salad which was a testament to Parigi’s use of high-quality ingredients. The thick slices of cheese were fresh and the tomatoes were juicy. The end of the beginning came as we thoroughly enjoyed our Crab Beignets. Served in a dish that looked like it should’ve held escargot (which was on the menu… next time), the golden brown spheres were filled with an impossibly light and scrumptious crab mixture. If you dine at Parigi and these are on the menu, order them.
In my title, I described Parigi as “mainly disappointing.” This refers directly to our main courses. Hanna went with risotto, which changes day-to-day. On this Friday evening, the risotto included English peas, mushrooms, tomatoes, rock shrimp, and Scamorza (a cheese). The dish was watery, generally bland, and had a comical amount of peas. I elected the Pappardelle with lobster, shrimp, crab, mushrooms, and tarragon pesto cream. My dish was equally overwhelmed by a single ingredient: tarragon. The cream sauce acted more like a soup than a sauce and whatever flavor that may have existed in the seafood and mushrooms was completely masked by the tarragon. In both of our cases, the taste of the dish evaporated our enthusiasm to finish it. Neither of us did.
Janice Provost was not in the restaurant on Friday night. Maybe our dishes would’ve received extra attention had she been there. Maybe that doesn’t really matter! We ordered two entrees and we didn’t like either one of them. I would estimate that I thoroughly clean about 95% of the plates that are put in front of me. I couldn’t imagine doing so with either of the dishes we ordered. I was surprised to learn that Parigi is number 48 on D Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants, especially after dining at Salum a few weeks ago, which is absent on that list.
I’ll end on a positive note. “YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD BISTRO” seems to be Parigi’s motto, as displayed on their website. When you’re there, you’ll see people socializing beyond their own tables, drinks flowing, and staff welcoming regulars with a hug. While the restaurant left a lot to be desired in its main courses, I cannot take away that it truly felt like a neighborhood bistro.