Written by Joy Robinson, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 10 May 2013 00:00
“Early Sunday mornings, I remember my grandmother and my mother making those meatballs in the red sauce — they called it Sunday sauce. By the end of the day, there would be hardly any meatballs left in the pan because nobody in the family could stop eating them,” recalls one of La Parma on the Bay’s owners, Tony Gralto. He and partner Dominick Gregorio, in business since 1984, both have ancestry from southern Italy, so Mother’s Day is a fond occasion for them to watch other local families enjoying the family-style meals they grew up on.
Cold and hot antipasto, rigatoni a la vodka made with a touch of crème and a little prosciutto, steak pizzaiola in a red sauce with mushrooms and peppers, chicken and veal parmesan, lasagna — all popular favorites among the crowds that fill up the room fast at this Italian Ristorante. “For appetizers, people love our hot antipasto that consists of baked clams, fried calamari, stuffed mushrooms, and shrimp oregonata; it feeds four,” said Jerald Gralto, manager and son of owner Tony Gralto.
Gralto said that back in Italy, eating was like an “all-day event for the entire family and that’s how the family-style dining concept got started.” Gregorio is originally from a town in Italy called Avalino, where his grandmother did all the cooking. Eventually, they all moved to America and kept the tradition going for many years. Gralto and Gregorio met in the late ’70s at a restaurant called Don Pepe’s in Ozone Park — perhaps the inspiration for opening up their very own family-style restaurant. In 1984, the first and original La Parma opened on Willis Avenue in Williston Park, N.Y.
The fourth La Parma on the Island, the Port Washington location, brings in the busiest crowd during the warmer months. Spring and summer are their bustling seasons, beginning with Mother’s Day and then Memorial Day. Traffic comes in from the many water taxis and private boats that dock nearby. “We didn’t even need to advertise the first couple of years,” said manager Gralto. Mother’s Day reservations were three-quarters of the way booked by last week. There will be three seating times: 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m. Regular off-the-menu ordering will be available with special pre-fixed menus for larger parties of 20 or more.
“It’s always Sunday at La Parma on the Bay,” says Gralto. For more information or to make a reservation, please call 516-439-4960.