Chicken Parmesan (Parm) has become a staple in sandwich shops across the country, predominantly in the northeast. From Philadelphia to Boston, the chicken parm grinder seems to always be a first option to many when ordering a delicious sandwich. Originating from the Italian dish of chicken parmigiana, a breaded chicken covered in sauce and cheese, Americans decided to combine the meal with a sandwich in the 1900s. With a meal that has become so popular, we recently sat down with special guest Principal Scott Hurwitz to discuss and judge the top chicken parm grinders in the local area. Featured in this year’s competition were Naples Pizza, Georges Pizza & Restaurant, Claudia’s Grinder Shop, and Franklin Ave Giant Grinder.
Each restaurant has sparked local controversy on who has the best sandwich and it’s time to finally settle the debate on the best chicken parm grinder. We evaluated the sandwiches using four tasting elements; freshness, sauce to cheese ratio, chicken quality, and structural integrity. Each element was scored out of five total points; one being the lowest on the scale and five being the highest. We then averaged the scores of all the taste testers for each category and added the totals together. The final ratings were out of 20 total points.
One of the most important elements of a chicken parm grinder is the quality of the chicken itself. In terms of chicken quality, there are a few important factors. Thickness, breading, and overall taste are a few of the factors that have the greatest impact on the quality of the chicken. The restaurants that stood out the most in this regard were both Claudia’s and George’s. Despite the superiority of these two restaurants in terms of score, Naples and Franklin Ave were not far behind. Claudia’s and George’s received scores of 4/5, while Naple’s and Franklin Ave received scores of 3/5. What set Claudia’s and George’s apart from the other competitors was the breading of the chicken, combined nearly perfectly with a great cut of chicken. While the slices of chicken may not have been the thickest, they were consistent, and proportional to the rest of the sandwich.
Another important aspect of an effective grinder is the structural integrity of the sandwich. A grinder cannot be considered elite if its contents are falling out after only a few bites. Claudia’s was the clear winner in this category, with sensational ratios, which led to a nearly perfect score of 4.5/5. Both Naples and George’s were tied with 3.5/5, and overall solid structural integrities. Franklin Ave received the lowest score in this category, mainly due to the lack of stability after several bites. Towards the end of the experience, it was a struggle to manage the contents of the grinder, which led to the rating of 2.5/5.
Freshness is paramount to a good chicken parm experience. Within this category, it is necessary to look at the entirety of the ginder and the ingredients that are included. A fresh chicken parm should be warm, with a good tasting sauce, in addition to a slightly crunchy, Italian style bread. When looking at the freshness of the following sandwiches, Claudia’s was our winner once again with 4.5/5. This sandwich was very tasty, retained its heat from the time of purchase, and was composed of high quality ingredients. George’s claimed the second spot in the freshness category, achieving 4/5. The strong performance can be primarily attributed to a good tasting sauce and cheese. Next on our list was Franklin Ave, receiving a 3.75/5. Despite being a great tasting chicken parm, our panel of “distinguished” tasters, found the sandwich slightly dry due to a lack of sauce and well toasted bread. Naples rounded out the freshness category, scoring 3.25/5. The bread used on this grinder was different to that of the competitors. After completing a series of taste tests, judges preferred a more light, airy, traditional tasting grinder roll.
Sauce and cheese act as the binding agent to any great chicken parm grinder. Adding moisture, texture, and flavor, the balance between these two ingredients differentiates a good sandwich from a great sandwich. The chicken parm that achieved the best sauce to cheese ratio belonged to Franklin Ave Giant Grinder. The sandwich included a thin layer of sauce, and a generous amount of cheese which made for a very enjoyable eating experience. George’s and Naple’s shared second place, scoring 3/5. Both these options presented a solid composition of ingredients and offered a traditional taste. Claudia’s grinder scored the least amount of points when looking at the sauce to cheese ratio. Receiving a 2.75/5, a marginal absence of sauce was responsible for the only blemish to the sandwiches overall score.
After averaging the scores, one restaurant prevailed: Claudia’s Grinder Shop. Claudia’s chicken parm grinder was by far one of the freshest sandwiches we have ever eaten. The clear cut quality of the chicken and strong structural integrity, made up for the slight point deduction in the sauce to cheese ratio. Earning an overall score of 15.75/20, Claudia’s chicken parm was remarkable.
Claudia’s Grinder Shop was established in 1997 by Sal and Nancy Cirinna. The shop is known for its classic old school grinders made with fresh meat and vegetables. Not only is the restaurant known for its chicken parm, but features a delicious italian combo sandwich and a number of other great grinders. Claudias also offers salads and soups on their distinguished menu. Claudias has served the Farmington Valley for over 20 years, and its classic taste will continue to blow its customers away.