Parisis Ristorante: True gourmet food in Rockford
By Brandon Reid, Assistant Editor
Medallions of vealdelivered fresh just hours before preparationare sautéed in an egg butter with medallions of lobster tail and fresh asparagus spears in a creamy sauce and are prepared and served to order by a chef with the pickiest of tastes.
Vitello Per La Principessa ($26) is one of more than 1,600 original gourmet recipes in chef Giacomo (pronounced Jac-a-moe) Parisis cookbook. Parisi, a native of Europe who has lived in Rockford for 18 years, opened Parisis Ristorante, 6164 E. Riverside Blvd., in Loves Park, about two years ago. His menu includes regional Italian gourmet cuisine and French gourmet cuisine.
Parisi began working around chefs in Italy at age 15 and later was trained under them. His restaurant offers the Rockford area a unique opportunity to experience true gourmet food at extraordinarily affordable prices. Entres, such as Veal Morels, New York Strip A La Fiorentia, and Shrimp Thermidore range from $15 to $26. Appetizers and soups, including Mozzarella Pomidoro, Crevettes Dijon and Zuppa Del Giorno range from $3.75 to $12. Desserts, including Créme Brulée and Crépe with Banana and Strawberry, range from $5 to $6.
Contrary to many restaurants that advertise a chef or gourmet food, Parisi is a true chef whose certification is displayed proudly on the wall and whose dishes are truly gourmet and truly his own.
The idea here is somebody say, Well, I ate in Italian restaurant, and I say, No, Parisi said in his thick distinguished Italian accent. Sometimes I laugh. I see [other restaurants] advertised as gourmet. They dont even know what gourmet is. When you cook gourmet, you are trained from chef there, not here. Thats when youre cooking gourmet.
Parisis restaurant is located in the corner of an outlet mall by brichicoiffure salon, Nedrebos, bella, The Window Gallery and White Bear Cleaners. The restaurant offers many fine wines and is simply yet elegantly decorated. White walls are detailed by dark wood trim and dark green carpet. The artwork of local artist Ed Ramsten, whose wife Trish performs live jazz standards on weekends, is displayed throughout the dining room. Linen cloth napkins are folded into a fan and placed atop clear water glasses and calm, elegant music fills the restaurant.
People will say, How you can say if its gourmet or not?, Parisi said. Well, if you just walk around the kitchen and look at the kind of equipment they have there. If theres a deep fryer and a microwave, then theres no gourmet food there. So, some people say, they had something authentic Italian, gourmet French, I laugh. But the people, I know, are being deceived. Thats not good. Plus, besides fine dining is not white table cloth. Fine dining is quality, flavor and presentation. When you see food piled one on top of another one, its not classical, its not gourmet. Gourmet is displayed nicely on the plate.
Everything is made fresh daily, Parisi said. You cannot prepare anything this kind of food the way I cook. Sometimes they say, Wow, you not even have had plate. Sometimes all the food is not boiling hot. but gourmet food is not supposed to be not too cold but not too hot. Its supposed to be hot, but not too hot.
The restaurant offers the finest quality foods, which must meet Parisis strict requirements. For example, Parisi said the veal he uses is used in only three other restaurants in Illinois: LaFrance, DeMarco and Robertos in Chicago. Additionally, as he said of his Mediterranean lobster: Its a real firm meat, its not flaky. Its beautiful … its the best.
Parisi said his earliest memories of cooking always included his mother, who still lives in Italy with the rest of his family.
My mama, she was and still is very great cook, Parisi said. They not let me cook over there. Over there, I do dishes. They are good cook. Everybody over there cook. See, over there, thats how it is. The mother teaches the daughter, so it goes from generation to generation. So my mother teach my sister, my sister teach her daughter.
Parisi said many of his friends encouraged him to open his restaurant in Chicago instead of Rockford. Yet, he said he wanted to cook for his people instead of those in the city.
Rockford, they dont understand what youre doing, Parisi said. But, I believe, sooner or later, people are going to realize, and were going to be packed every night.
Its real, authentic gourmet food, Parisi said. Experience a romantic night. I think everybody should at least one time come in and try and to be a regular consumer and support us because this is the only place in Rockford like it … its unique. And I dont care what people say. If you are going to eat out, thats one thing, but if you are going out for pleasure, there is no other place.
Parisi said he has received a few offers to do a television show. Yet, he said, he wouldnt consider such a venture for at least another 10 years because it would mean he would either have to sell or close his restaurant. I dont plan to give up in the restaurant business, Parisi said. Thats my life.
Somethings just natural in me, Parisi said. I see somebody doing something, I can do exactly the same. If you are eating in a restaurant, and I look at what you eat, I can look, and I know whats in it and I can make it exactly the same.
Parisis Ristorante is open 4:30-9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 4:30-9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is closed Sundays. Call 633-4899 or fax 633-6155 for reservations.