A Flavorful Serenade
Palma's Italian Grill in Deming is not your average spaghetti joint.
Story and photos by Peggy Platonos
If you open the 2010 Rand-McNally Road Atlas, you may be surprised to find that one of the three restaurants listed as "Best of the Best" nationwide is located in Deming. It is Palma's Italian Grill, and even if you think you don't like Italian food, you might want to try this restaurant.
Palma's Italian Grill is a family-run enterprise, with Harold and Palma Richmond at the helm, and two sons and two daughters pitching in to provide assistance. In addition to the name, Palma brings to the restaurant her Sicilian heritage and recipes that came to the United States with her grandmother. Harold brings training in classic Continental cuisine, along with his family's New England food traditions.
"I apprenticed for three years as a Continental chef in the Double Eagle in Old Mesilla, so the food does have a little international flavor," says Harold, who does a large part of the cooking. "And I borrow from my family's recipes, which is why you find an East Coast touch in my Southwest beans." It is also why you often find Boston Cream Pie as a dessert option, not to mention a thoroughly decadent "Death by Chocolate" cake.
Palma oversees the front of house and catering gigs, keeps the accounts, does the bookings, and still finds time to personally make the Italian dressings and some of the other traditional Sicilian items on the menu.
"Traditionally, a new bride in Sicily learns to cook from her mother-in-law," says Palma.
"Presumably so the son doesn't suffer by having to eat food he isn't used to," chimes in Harold.
In a New World twist to this Old World tradition, Harold was taught Italian-style cooking by his father-in-law, Larry Semprevivo, who, with his wife Jo Marie and their family, owned and operated a restaurant in Deming in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was called Chef Daniel's, and was, in fact, where Harold, working as a busboy, was introduced to the restaurant business. It's also where he and Palma became seriously interested in one another.
Palma's Italian Grill was founded in 2003. It is located in a building that was constructed in 1889 as a bank, and operated as a bank until sometime in the early 1970s. One of the old vaults still exists and is used as a serving station. A second vault has become an office.
"Harold was running a country club in Ruidoso, and we were coming back to Deming regularly to visit our son and his family, who were still living here," Palma explains. "We saw this building for rent, and our daughter said to us, 'You guys are always making money for other people. Why not start a restaurant of your own?' So we did!"
The family rallied around them. Their oldest son, Bill, helps whenever his teaching duties allow. Their youngest son, Johnathan, serves as cashier. And daughters Marie and Jo Marie work as waitresses.
One of the personal touches that give the restaurant its unique personality is Harold's frequent appearances, microphone in hand, as he cruises the tables and sings to the customers, in true Italian fashion.
"That was kind of a fluke," he explains. "I always liked to sing, but I never sang in front of people until I was about 30. Then I started singing in a church choir. And soon I was singing solos; then I was tenor in a men's quartet at church. Shortly after that, I discovered karaoke."
Harold sang on karaoke nights at a now-defunct coffeehouse, and was so popular that the owner encouraged him to sing in his own restaurant and loaned him equipment that would allow him to do so. The rest, as they say, is history. He sings periodically at the Performing Arts Center in Morgan Hall; he sings every year at the local Cancer Society Benefit, which is usually held in Palma's; and he has recorded a CD called "Singing Standards" that is available at the restaurant and a number of other businesses in Deming.
Palma's Italian Grill is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a wide variety of pasta dishes and Italian-style sandwiches as well as old favorites like Philadelphia Cheesesteak, French Dip and Grilled Chicken Breast sandwiches. And some rather imaginative salads, too. Prices range from $4.95 to $11.95.
The dinner menu is available all day long, and features an even larger selection of pasta dishes, a variety of chicken entres, herb-grilled pork chops, seafood selections and knockout steaks ranging from filet mignon to ribeye. Prime rib is served on Saturdays. Prices range from $7.95 to $22.95.
On Sunday, the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a buffet available that has something for every kind of taste, from sliced roast beef au jus and mashed potatoes, to signature Italian dishes like manicotti, eggplant parmigiana and chicken alfredo with fresh vegetables. The buffet includes beverage and dessert and costs $8.95. Customers also have the option of ordering from the regular dinner menu on Sunday.
Palma's Italian Grill does catering and will also deliver meals. For more information, call (575) 544-3100. The restaurant is located at 110 S. Silver Ave. in Deming.
Send Mimbres freelance writer Peggy Platonos tips for restaurant reviews at email@example.com or call (575) 536-2997.