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The Burlington Mall gets a saucy addition with Manhattan’s Parm

Consider it the lower-cost, suburban version of the Back Bay’s Contessa.

The eggplant parm platter at Parm.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Where to: Parm at the Burlington Mall.

Why: To sample the first Boston-area location of the popular Manhattan Italian-American chainlet.

The backstory: If you can’t afford a night out at the Back Bay’s Contessa — or can’t zip down to Greenwich Village for a coveted seat at Carbone — Parm is a good alternative. It’s Major Food Group’s lower-priced red-sauce alternative to their splashier restaurants. Carbone evokes a 1950s night out, with ice-cold martinis and tuxedo-clad servers who slink about the dining room like Cheshire cats; Contessa twinkles atop the Newbury Boston and looks like a cross between a Palm Beach mansion and the Beverly Hills Hotel. The group also owns The Grill, a midcentury chophouse at the Seagram Building, as well as other splashy affairs in Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Miami, and Tel Aviv.


The original Parm opened in Little Italy in 2011. The Burlington Mall is a long way from Mulberry Street, but owner Mario Carbone sees atmospheric similarities.

“The [mall] is its own little neighborhood, right? It’s very energetic, there are tons of people, there’s walking about, there’s shopping, there’s commotion. When you take the original Mulberry Street, the ethos of it, the energy of it, I find tons of parallels in little pockets like that and gravitate towards that being its own little neighborhood and its own little ecosystem and energy,” he says, speaking by phone from Dallas, where he’s opening another restaurant.

There are plenty of tristate-area institutions in Burlington now: Frank Pepe, Rosa Mexicano, Shake Shack (RIP, Jimmy’s on the Mall, a true Boston original).

Another Parm will open in Copley Square in June.

The chicken parm sub at Parm.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

What to eat: Parmesans of all persuasions: chicken, eggplant, meatball, either as a platter or as a sandwich. Their tomato sauce is “brighter than most tomato sauces; we cook it much quicker than you would normally,” he says. “We like that brightness in color and in flavor.” Carbone does not coat dishes in sauce; he prefers crispy edges. Parm’s mozzarella is made fresh every day, and each parm is finished with grated Parmesan, then broiled with fresh basil.


“Either on freshly baked bread, or on a platter with some salad or pasta, is as good as it gets for stick-to-your-ribs Italian-American,” Carbone says.

The cannoli at Parm.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The parms are tasty and hefty: the sauce is indeed bright and fresh; the mozzarella is light and stretchy; the chicken ($26), in particular, doesn’t fall prey to a rubbery fate. However, I think the must-order dish is actually rigatoni Carbone ($16), made with spicy, salmon-colored vodka sauce. Many a food blogger has tried to replicate the creamy, fiery, top-secret recipe, Carbone says.

“I’ve never seen anyone get it, which is funny, because it is a simple recipe — deceptively simple,” he says, mysteriously. He declines to tell me the ingredients (“I’d have to kill you”), but no matter: I detect Calabrian chilies, heavy cream, and garlic. The sauce clings to each rigatoni tube like a cheap suit. It’s glorious. Speaking of cheap: While another version at Carbone goes for $32, it’s $16 here. Also on the menu: pizza knots and tomato sauce ($10); lightly (very lightly) fried zucchini slices ($9), and a roast beef hero ($17) skinned to translucency on a very thick, very dense seeded roll. (“There was a lot of chewing,” my husband reported.)


The Sunday salad at Parm.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

To offset the carbs, be sure to get Parm’s Sunday salad ($14), a tangy mountain of iceberg, roasted red peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives, and a feisty, oily house Italian dressing.

What to drink: Though Parm does a brisk takeout business, there are also 120 indoor seats and a 40-seat patio, where you can sip an Aperol spritz or Negroni before heading into the mall.

The Takeaway: The parms are good, but definitely get the rigatoni and that salad. Not the food-court Sbarro of your youth.

75 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, 781-328-8003, www.parmitalian.com.

Parm, a new restaurant in Burlington.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.