A recent girls' night brought me to the North End to check out Parla. I arrived in the area a little early and walked around, listening to cheers and cries as seemingly everyone watched a World Cup game. I stopped into neighborhood favorites, Cocoanuts and Salumeria Italiana, and then I headed over to the Wine Bottega to meet my friends for a pre-dinner rosé tasting. After we sipped and sampled about 15 rosés, and purchased a couple of bottles each to bring home, we headed down Hanover Street to Parla.
The small, intimate restaurant is in the former Il Vilaggio spot and has been called an Italian-themed speakeasy. The dining room is small and rectangular, with a bar along the back, and -- in this weather -- an open window along the front, perfect for people watching. While taking in the artwork on the walls, we ordered some cocktails and narrowed down the choices on the dinner menu until we decided on a handful of dishes to share.
First to arrive was the burrata fritta, or fried burrata. The first bite revealed that the burrata was cool and creamy inside with a warm, crunchy coating. I was a little thrown off guard by the cool cheese (I think I was expecting something more like fried mozzarella initially), but then I adjusted to the two temperatures and was soon shoveling up eggplant caponata and red pepper puree with each bite of the mild cheese.
Some wild boar meatballs in a dish of house made tomato sauce were tender and flavorful, as you'd expect from a good meatball -- definitely a crowd-pleaser.
The best of the appetizers were the braised oxtail arancini (and I'm not just saying that because the accompanying sauce was served in an adorable miniature skillet). The rice balls were so crispy on the outside and the rice filling was slightly creamy with a nice portion of oxtail in the middle. I could have eaten all of these myself if I didn't have to share!
After making our way through the appetizers, we opted to split a bottle of rosé. Pink wine is definitely a go-to for this group when the weather gets warm, and I think our earlier wine tasting had us all in the mood for more.
For entrées, we stuck to the pasta side of the menu, ordering three of the four options. The squid ink gnocchi were impressively light, almost fluffy, and came topped with wild boar ragu, basil, and shaved Parmesan. A garlic bread puree artfully smeared on the rim of the dish added extra flavor when swiped up with a piece of gnocchi.
The prettiest dish was definitely the lobster and uni ravioli, which featured its namesake ingredients, along with homemade ricotta, lemon cream, diced tomatoes, and a scattering of fava beans and edible flowers. (My photo doesn't do it justice.)
And last but not least, my favorite was the quail egg carbonara. After we all oohed and aahed over the tiny egg atop the twirls of house-made pasta, our friend stirred the egg in, and we all scooped up a portion. Some found the dish a touch too salty, but for me it was just right. The pieces of pancetta strewn throughout were nicely crisp and meaty, and the leaves of spinach helped the dish feel a little light in spite of the rich egg and cheese.
We didn't have room for dessert, but maybe next time!
I found Parla to be a cozy North End spot with interesting and tasty Italian fare. It was definitely a good choice for a girls' dinner out but would also be a great date night spot.
Which dish would be your favorite?