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I wasn’t going to write this review of Parm just so soon, but a local blogger came out with his “review” of Parm (which is always a painful read since the man is a vegetarian trying to be a food critic). So, here it goes.
The three partners of the Major Food Group, Jeff Zalaznick, Rich Torissi, and Mario Carbone, are clearly in way over their heads trying to expand Parm into a chain like Shake Shack. The “better burger”, or “better Olive Garden” in this case, requires a skilled team with operational know-how. Shake Shack was so good because the staff acted like employees of a fine dining establishment rather than employees of McDonald’s. That ambiance makes New Yorkers wait 20-minutes in line for what is really just a second-rate hamburger.
At Parm, their staff are stunningly untrained, and none of the three partners seem to care. I have never seen Zalaznick or Carbone at the store yet, and I have eaten there more than five times. Chef Torissi is occasionally in the kitchen, but when an employee tells him about a major technical malfunction, he will say something like, “Why are you telling me this? That is not my responsibility.”.
The result is that the anonymous busboys sent to deliver the food to tables, which they have never met, mess up the orders at a very high rate. Maybe I am bad luck, but every single time that I have been to Parm, the order that came out was wrong.
All restaurant have problems. It’s how the management fixes them is what matters.
One time, I was at the bar and three managers were next to me. Someone else’s food was sent to me and I looked in puzzlement. The managers did not hop up out of their chair and say, “Oh my gosh.”. Instead, they just motioned to the food runner to go away. More importantly, there was no General Manager around and the problems were just covered up. The staff seem to be in fear of raising concerns about operational problems.
But perhaps I should have expected nothing better from a store that opened so amateurishly. The outside facade is ugly because they have not bothered to put up the awning, like the one on the Mulberry Street Parm. Half of the restaurant is still closed with an unsightly drape shielding it from the public. Why? They had plenty of time to construct the place since the city delayed their opening. Which company did the design and construction, or was it done in-house?
The overall theme of the interior design is to mimic the casual Italian diner on Arthur Avenue. That is fine, except that the seating is lousy. The bar seats are uncomfortable and the bar is not designed well ergonomically. The tall two-top tables are in the wrong position, right by the entrance, making it awkward to sit there. Again, who designed this?
I got a chicken parmigiana platter which was made of three round cutlets clearly meant for the round sandwiches. It was not a proper singular piece of breast meat that was pounded flat.
The pastas seem to be acceptable. However, they sure make no attempt to plate them very well. They are authentic home-style, shall we say.
The bread rolls are not toasted and dominate the bite, hiding the flavor of the inside sandwich meat.
The ice cream cakes are all wrong. They look impressive coming out due to the size, but they lack flavor and use gelato. If you blindfolded me, I would not be able to taste the difference between the different flavors.
The most recent time I ate at Parm, which will also be the last time that I eat at Parm, I carefully explained to the manager that I wanted the Ozersky roast beef sandwich to be heated in the oven. Instead of going to the chef and relaying the message, the manager told the bartender to “punch it in” as “toasted”. The manager was clearly reticent to deal with the tyrants in the kitchen. The result was as expected. They screwed it up, and the roast beef was cold while the roll was slightly toasted. The manager went to hide somewhere and did not ask me how the sandwich turned out.
Before Danny Meyer sold out and stopped running the day-to-day operations at his Union Square Hospitality Group, what made his places great was that he oversaw every detail, correcting problems well. Likewise, Stephen Starr still does this role for his large group of restaurants. With the Major Food Group, I see no owner doing any of this. Jeff Zalaznick should be the person, since Carbone and Torissi are clearly pure chefs, but he is just a former banker with no restaurant experience and seems to think he is above it all. More importantly, I have never seen Mr. Zalaznick once at the new Parm, astonishingly.
Here are some free tips from Greer Hospitality Consulting to the Major Food Group. First: Mr. Zalaznick needs to shave and stop thinking that he is some hedge fund manager so high on the food chain that he can look like a homeless man. Second: hire someone with experience running a dining room. Thirdly: stop expanding until you do the first two. Fourthly: the chefs have to stop being the stereotypical chefs that instill fear in their crew. If problems arise, they should want to hear about them.
Will Parm get business from the tourists at the WTC? Maybe. Will local families flock there as they do El Vez? No. I don’t think so. Will regulars come back? Nope.