The great chicken parmesan showdown

By Brendan Murphy

In a college town the size of Amherst, there are a lot of competitive restaurants on the scene that serve up a mean chicken parmesan. The unsuspecting underclassman can get lost in a sea of mediocre meatballs, everyday calzones and sub-par parmesans. Although the ingredients are simple in a chicken parm, and the preparation is standard, there are various mitigating factors that can make or break this quintessential comfort food.

The quality of ingredients that goes into this Italian classic is key to making a killer chicken parm. This article seeks to address the quality of bread used, the amount and taste of the marinara sauce, the preparation of the chicken so integral to this sandwich, portion size and the overall taste and value. There are roughly six delivery places where chicken parmesans are available in this town. For the purposes of this article, the top three in town are scrutinized in terms of their excellence. When all is said and done, use this guide to break through the sea of delivery joints and follow the light to the end of the tunnel, where the ultimate chicken parm awaits. Without further adieu, here are the results.

Bronze Medal
The Sub and Pizza

The Sub and Pizza, in downtown Amherst, is a staple of any University of Massachusetts student’s delivery diet – and for good reason. Their chicken parm is filling and very tasty for the median price of $6.75. The strength of this place is in its variety of toppings. If the customer so chooses to order ‘the works’ and get every topping imaginable, they give the most generous portions in town and don’t compromise the amount of chicken in the sandwich. Other more unscrupulous restaurants may substitute the veggies for meat, and charge the same amount. Not the Sub and Pizza. They mix in their toppings too, so it’s a harmonious mix of chicken, sauce, cheese and veggies with every bite. Additionally, their sauce is pretty good and the chicken quality is on par for the town. The consumer won’t find a dry bit of chicken in this sandwich. It has a nice uniform coating of marinara is applied to all areas of their breaded chicken. The bread quality is a little disappointing, as it arrives flat and flaky to the door. But overall, this parm is a quality sub, and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Silver Medal
Amherst House of Pizza

A newcomer to the restaurant scene in town, Amherst House of Pizza is located in North Amherst. They’ve been open for about two months now, and they serve up a wicked good chicken parm with some high quality ingredients, also for $6.75. Their bread is fresh, fluffy and delicious, and has no trouble containing the goodness within its soft-yet-crispy exterior. The chicken quality here is just as good as the gold medal winner. The sauce is also extraordinarily good here as well. There are two reasons why this place doesn’t make #1 in the quest to the ultimate chicken parm: meager toppings and too little sauce. If one wants peppers and onions on their sub, they are out of luck here except for a few thin strips tucked away deep within the crevice of the sandwich. Additionally, there were barren, sauceless peninsulas of chicken jutting out from the sub even after asking for extra marinara. But on the whole it doesn’t matter. What they lack in toppings they make up for in quality of ingredients and portion size. The taste of chicken, sauce and bread alone vaults them to the number two spot on our list. Just remember to ask for a side of marinara when ordering.

Gold Medal
Primo Pizzeria Too

At Primo’s, located on Triangle St. towards the start of downtown Amherst, lies the Holy Grail of chicken parmesans. The sub here is fantastic. The bread is fresh and fluffy and plentiful, barely containing the delicious ménage a trois of chicken, sauce and cheese that awaits inside. This is some quality chicken too that simply can’t be beat elsewhere. Additionally, the sauce is good and very plentiful – uniform throughout the sandwich. Veggies are placed generously throughout the sub as well, and not stuffed into a segregated area. Each bite is a heavenly mix of melted cheese, crispy fried chicken breast and savory sauce. It’s 10 cents more expensive for this sandwich than the bronze and silver medal winners, but it’s a dime well spent since Primo Pizzeria has the best chicken parm in Amherst.

Honorable Mention
La Piazza Pizza

Their 12-inch chicken parm, like the rest of their subs, is only $4.99. For the value alone, they must be mentioned. On its crispy exterior, the chicken parm is just a mix of fried chicken breast, a little provolone and some marinara sauce – a classic Italian meal. But the consumer has to look beyond the crust and peer into the saucy insides to gauge the true value of their chicken parmesan. There are many charlatans out there that will try and sell a second rate sub for the same price, so be wary- the distinguished honor of having the Ultimate Chicken Parmesan in Amherst goes to Primo Pizzeria Too.

Brendan Murphy can be reached at [email protected]