The only way to arrive at Quality Italian is with an empty stomach. The red-sauce joint, which sits smack in the middle of Midtown Manhattan, is not known for small portions. Pasta, seafood, steak — they’re all doled out like you’re training for a marathon. So when orders start hitting your table, and you see what looks like a medium-sized cheese pizza come in, you think: Oh, that’s not so big.
Then you realize it’s not a pizza. It’s a mother-clucking chicken parmesan. The hugest one you’ve ever seen. Chefs list it under the “Old School For Two” section of the menu, which is questionable when you see the 14-inch round get cut into eight individual pieces.
Chicken parm’s been one of Quality Italian’s signature dishes since the place opened, and over the years, it’s gained somewhat of a cult-like following. Nearly every group that walks in requests one, so the chefs have gotten crafty with their prep: They freeze a surplus of the chicken base — which consists of house-ground chicken that’s molded into a pizza crust shape. “We try to have 200 made at any given time,” says executive chef Nick Gaube. That way, when dozens of orders fly into the kitchen at once, all they have to do is coat the pie with an egg wash and breadcrumbs and toss it in the deep-fryer. “It’s just something we always have to have.”
Like all things deep-fried, this one’s better topped with cheese. Chefs toss a three-cheese blend of parmesan, pecorino, and mozzarella on top of the chicken crust, then broil it until it’s nice and bubbly. It gets a hit of basil before coming to the table, where it’s served with an arugula salad (because #health), dried olives, red pepper flakes, the house spice mix, and a jar of Calabrian chile honey. A word to the wise: You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t top a few bites with the sticky stuff.
Cry all you want that you and your friend won’t possibly finish the whole thing alone. Trust: You will. Luckily, the restaurant’s dimly lit — so no one will see you reach down and loosen your belt buckle.