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Parma Ristorante owner learned the art of Italian cuisine from RI’s top chefs

By Paul Lonardo

For David Ashworth, owner of the recently opened Parma Ristorante, 266 Putnam Pike, Smithfield, having the place may have been his destiny, but it took a lot of hard work. And being in the right place at the right time.

David began his career in the restaurant business inauspiciously enough, washing dishes in the back room of a restaurant when he was 12. But even then, it was as if he knew that one day he would be seeing these plates from the other side; before the patrons had eaten off of them.

Growing up, he worked in a number of different restaurants. By 20 he was working at Giancarlo’s Ristorante in Woonsocket, and his love for the culinary arts having taken root, started to bloom. He spent 13 years there, then three more at The Florentine Grille, a wildly popular and highly-regarded eatery in North Providence, absorbing all that he could about the operation of a successful restaurant, learning the business inside and out, from the backroom to the front office, from the menu plan to the account ledger. In the kitchen, he couldn’t have had better teachers.

“I learned from chefs who had a couple of the best Italian restaurants in the state,” David says. “Giancarlo Iannuccilli and Nick Iannuccilli were legit. We’re talking top-notch Italian chefs. They’re brothers, whose families are from Italy. Nick trained there. They showed me how to cook from household recipes from Italy and put them on a plate. It’s more than just imitating the style. The ingredients and the passion in the food is what separates this kind of cooking from what you could get anywhere else.”

David benefitted from this tutelage and hands-on experience. He didn’t become the chef that he is today in the traditional way by going to cooking school. It was more old school: studying under the guidance of some local masters.

“I put a lot of hard work and effort into my career,” David says.” Although I didn’t go to school, I learned from the trade. Whether that is the best way or not, I don’t know. For me, it worked out. Would I tell someone to go to school? Yes. But the training I got, they don’t teach you in school.”

There was plenty to learn, however, and it took a time to develop his own unique style, but David soon made a name for himself, and he was poised for success.

In 2016, David was the executive chef at Mile and A Quarter in Providence when an opportunity to own his own restaurant presented itself. A perfect location, always important for any business, became available on Putnam Pike when La Cucina closed its doors. Right off I-295, with North Providence on one side and Johnston on the other, David couldn’t pass it up.

“I worked for people my whole life,” David says. “You eventually get to a point in your life where you either do your business or get off the pot, so to speak. Not only is it a great spot, but also Smithfield is a wonderful town, and I have a chance to cook some amazing food for people and start a family business here. It worked out perfect.”

For those who remember the Florentine Grille, the taste, flavor and style at Parma will be familiar. The dishes that many people had a lot of passion and love for are coming back to the area, and David believes that a lot of people are excited about it. In fact, he’s banking on it. He has surrounded himself with the most qualified and talented people who share his goal of preparing and serving authentic Italian cuisine with an old-school flare. The Parma motto, ‘To serve you the way we serve family, from the heart’, is something David and his staff take to heart.

Speaking of the heart, Parma is a great place to take your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day. The regular dinner menu will be available, along with some chef specials, as well as wine and Champagne specials.

“I’m a working owner,” David says proudly. “I open the doors in the morning and lock them at the end of the night. I’m there every day. I love it.”

Visit www.facebook.com/ParmaRistorante/ for more information or call 401-349-0079 for reservations.