There are people who will say that LA winters are “mild,” that “it doesn’t even snow,” and that “it’s literally 70 degrees most days.” And... yeah, all of those things can be true, but I can still want to order a crispy, salty, comforting fried chicken cutlet, drenched in melted mozzarella and parmesan. It makes me feel like I’m wrapped in a warm blanket of marinara, which is exactly what I need to combat these chilly 50-degree nights. And I get the feeling I’m not alone, which is why I made this guide. Here are seven spots across LA that serve tremendous chicken parmesan.
Dan Tana’s is pretty much The Godfather of LA chicken parmesans (and not just because it feels like Don Corleone definitely ate here). This Santa Monica Blvd. spot has been open since 1964, and this dish is a throwback to the days when no one in West Hollywood worried about portion size, trans fats, or putting three pounds of cheese on top of chicken and calling it a meal. The chicken is tender, the seasoned breading is crunchy but not overpowering, and the marinara sauce is a perfect balance of sweet, herby, and salty. If you’re going to make someone an offer they can’t refuse, you do it at Dan Tana’s - and you do it over a plate of their chicken parm.
This is going to ruffle some feathers, but this relatively new Italian spot - they opened more than 50 years after Dan Tana’s - challenges their elders for the best chicken parmesan in the city. The $28, thinly pounded breast is massive - big enough to feed two people for two meals. I’m not convinced it didn’t come from the emu farm where Disneyland gets its “turkey legs” (just kidding! Please don’t sue me!). But size isn’t the only reason I love this dish so much - the chicken is moist, extremely crispy, and tender enough to cut with a fork. The marinara sauce is made with deeply caramelized tomatoes. The parmesan on top is broiled until it’s golden-brown, and then the whole dish is flaked with huge leaves of fresh basil. In other words, every element makes this a basically perfect parm.
Venice’s Ospi does things a little differently with their chicken parmesan. First, it’s not really on the menu - you have to order their butter chicken “parm-style” for an extra five bucks. Second, there’s no marinara sauce involved; instead, you’ll find heaping portions of their excellent spicy vodka sauce over their chicken cutlet, which is pan-fried with butter and lemon. The dish is showered with parmesan cheese, and fresh purple and green basil that give it an herbaceous punch. I don’t usually like when people f*ck with perfection, but this new take on a classic is a major exception.
You know about Eastside Market for their massive, nap-inducing sandwiches, and the chicken parm is no exception. They’re not doing anything groundbreaking with this sandwich, which is actually a special (even though it’s on the menu every day). But what they lack in innovation, they make up for in girth. The chicken is pounded thin, then lightly breaded and seasoned with Italian herbs. It’s slathered in salty marinara sauce, topped with melted provolone and parmesan, and served on a pillowy, house-baked sub roll. Get ready to be horizontal when you finish.
With a name like Parm Boyz, you better make a damn good chicken parm. And while they’re not reinventing the (cheese) wheel at this pop-up, they are doing an excellent take on a classic parm. The chef grew up in Lynn, MA, near Boston, and - not surprisingly - this version reminds me of some childhood dinners in the North End at Italian restaurants like Joe Tecce’s and La Famiglia. There’s a beautiful red sea of incredibly rich sauce that would almost make you forget the chicken is the star of the show, if that chicken wasn’t so beautifully crispy and tender. By the way, don’t leave without an order of garlic bread stuffed with burrata, mascarpone, and cream cheese - it’s perfect for sopping up some leftover marinara sauce.
Another spot that eschews marinara in favor of vodka sauce, Ggiata is a pop-up Italian deli running out of a kitchen in Pico-Rivera. Their chicken parm sandwich is called the Spicy P, and the breast cutlets are loaded with some extra-spicy and supremely Romano-heavy vodka sauce, then hit with just enough pesto that you get a bit of basil in every bite. The whole thing is served on a seeded baguette from LA’s Bread Bar, which contains the contents of the sandwich quite nicely. Be on the lookout - Ggiata’s got a brick-and-mortar opening up in February in East Hollywood.
Dear John’s take on chicken parm isn’t the messy affair you usually expect from this dish. It arrives from the kitchen looking like a breaded and fried chicken tender with a wing bone sticking out of it. (It’s called an “airline cut,” for those of you who, like me, never flew Pan Am.) But once you cut into the meat, melted mozzarella and rich marinara sauce ooze out of it, giving you all the tomato- and cheese-filled flavors you hope for in a parm. It’s sort of a hybrid with a chicken Kiev, and, even though I miss the mess, I appreciate that you can actually taste the moist, crispy chicken.