At first, my boyfriend rolled his eyes at the thought of driving to Bloomington for dinner. (Oh my gosh, Bloomington — might as well be Mars, right?)
But after a seriously delicious meal at Parma 8200, he was ready to declare the trendy spot his new favorite restaurant in the Twin Cities.
Talk about a first impression.
Parma 8200 — one of D’Amico’s newest members of the restaurant family — takes classic Italian and cranks up the volume, adding new twists and turns along the way. The menu is full of familiar favorites, but the flavors and in certain cases, the deconstruction of those dishes, is what truly sets Parma apart.
The restaurant describes itself as a “take on a classic Italian taverna.” And from the inside, the constant wafting scents coming out of the kitchen are enough to truly bring you to a different world. The inside of the restaurant is modern yet European cozy with classic photos surrounding the dining room featuring mustached Italian cooks and scenes of Italy.
Everything from the trendy chairs to the elegant, artsy lighting is just what you’d hope for during an evening out. Outside, a semi-enclosed outdoor patio has an edgy sophisticated feel to soak up those last summer nights and a trendy lounging area adjacent to the patio is definitely cozy chic.
It’s certainly not what you’d imagine coming from its home base — a tall, stiff office building most likely filled with corporate suits and business meetings during the work week. The entrance is a little tricky — since the exterior of the restaurant can be seen from the roadway, yet is only accessible from inside the building. Or maybe our intense drooling for the garlicky smells coming from the restaurant put us in a trance state, unable to clearly focus on anything but Italian deliciousness.
The extensive wine list has just about any vino by the bottle that you could imagine — all nicely categorized by profile preference, i.e. full bodied, juicy reds or light whites.
But I’ll be honest, all I could think about was digging into the food. We started off with a traditional appetizer served in a less traditional way. The bruschetta had all the typical ingredients — tomato, garlic, basil and extra virgin olive oil but was served in a more natural way. Instead of chopping the ingredients into a salsa-like formation, they were simply layered whole on a crispy baguette.
The flavors were phenomenal with a hearty base of garlic and a complimenting sidekick of basil. The bruschetta was messy with an abundance of oil but we were happy to dive right in.
After recommendations from our server, I decided to go with the linguine with clams, white wine and garlic — described as a light dish heavy on the scrumptious flavors. The pasta dishes are all offered in a full or half size, which makes the half-size offering perfect as a first course or suitable for family-style ordering in an effort to try them all.
The linguine with clam sauce was a perfect entrée. The pasta was filling though the delicate sauce was light enough to create a perfect balance. The clams were perfectly cooked with a rich saltiness that played in harmony with the white wine. The garlic broth at the bottom of the dish was absolute heaven when sopped up with a soft slice of French bread.
We also tried a menu item off the night’s specials — a perfectly prepared generous portion of swordfish served with seasoned potatoes and a buttery lemon sauce. It was the first time either of us had swordfish and I think it was safe to say we chose the ideal place to give it a try.
The fish itself was flakey and juicy and with a crisp skin and delicious texture. The lemon butter sauce was divine and brought the natural flavors of the fish up to an 11 on a 1-to-10 scale. At the end of the meal, I was actually a tad worried that my boyfriend was going to lick the plate clean. If there were slightly less people around, I think he might have.
From start to finish, the meal was a pleasant surprise. Not that we thought it wouldn’t be amazing but more so, it was beyond our wildest expectations.
Now the name itself comes from a combination of locations — Parma, Italy and the complex’s 8200 building. But after just one meal, I like to think of this place as a supercharged dose of flavors — Parma, to the 8200th degree.