Chicken Parmigian-icles: Pronto Cucinino

Chicken Parmigian-icles: Pronto Cucinino
Photo by Sam Brown

I love chicken parmesan. It's one of my top-three foods. If for some reason I went crazy and routinely executed a number of innocent humans -- for whatever reason; I'm not being specific -- and then somehow regained my sanity with spare time enough to choose a last meal, chicken parmesan would be on the menu.

With this in mind, I've set out on a mission to find the best chicken parmesan in this beloved city of ours.

Pronto Cucinino was my first stop on what will surely be a many-legged trip around Houston's Italian restaurant scene in search of the best of this classic comfort food.

Pronto Cucinino is one of the Mandola family restaurants. There is an array of pricier, fancier versions, but I live right around the corner from the Montrose location of Pronto, and it has yet to fail me.

The chicken parmigiana is very reasonably priced at $8.95. It comes with a side -- I recommend the green beans (another side can be added for $2.50) -- and a roll, which is always the first thing to go, for me. The roll has a crusty outside and light, garlicky-salt topping. I know from watching the hustle of the kitchen once dinner service is in full swing, that the rolls are only pulled fresh and plated once your food comes off the line.

As a restaurant, this place isn't poorly named: the food comes out steaming, hot and fast. I've been here a number of times and never had a bad meal.

I've never found myself thinking "...this whole 'pronto' bit is really a crock of shit." They really are quick.

It's definitely a family place. To-go orders whiz out the door to frazzled soccer moms and dads just wanting to put something in their bellies after a long, hot day of recreational sports with the kids, but the food is solid and filling.

Not too much cheese, nice crust around the edges and a decent red sauce make for an excellent version of this simple dish. A little touch of red pepper flake was required to satiate my palate's more adventurous side, but otherwise the sauce stands up on its own. Baked into the cheese were some nice, fresh rips of basil leaves, giving an admittedly heavy dish a lighter, more herbal note throughout.

Enjoyable, convenient and priced to sell, Pronto Cucinino's chicken parm certainly hits the spot if you are craving some breaded, crusty chicken baked into a red-sauced, cheesy mess.

A clean plate doesn't lie.

Tell them I sent you, and you'll get absolutely nothing whatsoever.

Where should I go next? Where is your favorite place to eat chicken parm?

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Pronto Cucinino

1401 Montrose
Houston, TX 77006


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