Parma John's Italian Family has been serving hungry patrons for just over a decade, which would seem to indicate that the folks there are doing something right.
Specializing in pizza and classic Italian dishes, Parma offers a relaxed dining experience with a great menu at affordable prices. It delivers and caters events.
Owner and manager John Scarpanito started Parma John's in April 1999. Working in the restaurant business was something he did as a kid and ultimately came back to.
"I started because I wanted to make money," Scarpanito said. "But I really came to love this."
The modest Italian restaurant occupies two dining rooms, big enough not to be cramped, but not so big that you have to shout to be heard, giving it a nice homey feel. This neighborly quality is one of the things Scarpanito strives for.
"One of the best parts of the community is how it's like a big family," Scarpanito said. "Everybody knows everybody and everybody is friendly. I know my customers by name. I know what's going on in a lot of their lives."
Having this type of relationship with his clients and the community is really important to Scarpanito. Parma John's sponsors the Hopatcong football and wrestling teams. It offers discounts for sports teams' parties and makes frequent donations to local churches, beach clubs and the Civic Center.
While the main menu is pretty constant, Parma's has weekly specials perfect for those looking to change things up a bit. Popular dishes include chicken parmigiana, homemade lasagna, cold antipasto, Cluck-U-Wings and tenders featuring six different sauces and pizza, of course. Pepperoni is the most commonly ordered topping, but Scarpanito and his staff have made all kinds of pies, from the basic cheese pie to shrimp scampi pie and just about everything in between.
Always wanting to please the customer and up for any challenge, Scarpanito said, "If you can dream it up, we'll make it."
Parma John's also offers dessert in the form of a full-service ice cream parlor, open from April 1 to Nov. 1. The ice cream parlor has 12 flavors of hard hand-dipped ice cream, soft frozen custard in vanilla, chocolate, and twist, a variety of toppings for sundaes and any flavor ice cream can be made into a delicious shake. Parma's also makes ice cream cakes and ice cream sandwiches.
The secret to Scarpanito's success is simple.
Scarpanito follows three easy rules: make everything fresh to order, only use fresh high-quality ingredients, and be consistent. Everything from the homemade sauce to the original pizza dough recipe is prepared the same way every time to ensure his patrons are happy with his product.
"We just always try to do our best and satisfy every customer every time," Scarpanito said.
Here's a Q&A with Scarpanito:
What's the best part of this community? The people. I like the (family) atmosphere, the personal one-on-one connections I have with my customers.
Why has being located on Lakeside Boulevard been a plus? It's a double-edged sword; it's nice being centrally located but its hard with the parking. Fortunately, we deliver!
Favorite Parma dish? Everything's great but my personal favorite is penne and pink vodka sauce with chicken.
What are some of Parma's goals? Our main goal is to consistently serve a high-quality product and satisfy any customer that walks through the door. It's been difficult during the recession; it's tempting to use cheaper, lower quality products to save a couple of bucks. But it's not worth losing my customers. Even though our profit margin keeps on dropping I haven't raised prices in the last two years. If we hold on long enough we'll make it through.