It’s a question many Teessiders often wonder: where does our traditional Teesside dish come from? Where did it start out and what’s the story behind our famous Parmo, Teesside’s favourite takeaway? Proud Teessider Chloe Tempestoso investigates the history and story behind the Middlesbrough dish.
The history of the Parmo starts not in Teesside but in Italy with the Parmigiana, a shallow fried filling coated in cheese and tomato, then baked in the oven. Most found in southern Italy, the filling wasn’t always a meat one. The earliest recorded parmigiana was made with sliced aubergine.
Although the Parmo’s birthplace has been disputed, its origins are widely attributed to post-Second World War Middlesbrough and it is believed by many Teessiders to have been invented by Nicos Harris, a chef with the United States Army during the war. He was wounded in France but was brought to the United Kingdom to be treated in a British hospital. Eventually, he moved to Middlesbrough and opened a restaurant, The American Grill, on Linthorpe Road. Here, he created the Parmo, serving the first in Middlesbrough in 1958 and making the famous Teesside dish over 63 years old. It is believed that he based his speciality on a dish, based on the parmigiana recipe from Italy, that he’d tasted in his childhood in the US in the 1930s.
In recent years, the Parmo has spread further than the land of the Teesside to become a symbol of the area and a massive part of Teesside culture. The Parmo has featured on TV shows such Masterchef, and Middlesbrough’s Steph McGovern has chatted about the Parmo on BBC breakfast. The dish was also voted in Britain’s Top 20 best takeaways. Often today, the Parmo is the first thing people think of when they think of Teesside. It’s in our blood.
Article by Chloe Tempestoso