Family Album: Paean to the Parm

a plate of chicken parmesan on top of a plate of pasta and red sauce

It's a mainstay at Italian restaurants and a multi-generational favorite among Davidsonians—chicken parmigiana (or parmesan).

Breaded chicken cutlets covered in cheese and tomato sauce—what’s not to like? In this issue of the Journal, we consider and appreciate the parm. The dish originated in southern Italy and was made with eggplant. Italian immigrants to the U.S., where chicken was more affordable and widely available, created a new twist on the classic staple.

This beautifully plated parm came ready for its close-up thanks to Davidson’s Executive Chef Craig Mombert. 

Do you remember this dish from your Davidson days? What does it mean to you? Write to us at

At my 15-year reunion this June, "chicken parm" ( as we called it) came up as my friends and I recollected on days past. I remember my friends planning to get to the cafeteria early to beat the lines when chicken parm was on the menu. This dish was the favorite of "Commoners," students who had meal plans in Commons. 

One December, due to the dish’s popularity, Dining Services announced they would serve chicken parm every day during finals week. I believe they served it for lunch and dinner, but maybe it was just dinner. (My memory is a little fuzzy on that detail.) Either way, everyone was ecstatic--except me. 

I had never liked chicken parm. It was nothing against Davidson's recipe; I just didn't like it in general. So that week, in addition to the dreariness of winter exams, I was miserable at meals, watching my friends eat it over and over. By the end of the week, I hoped to never see or smell chicken parm again.   

After my last exam, I drove home for the holidays. My mom greeted me at the door, "We're so glad you're home, honey! Dad has been cooking a special meal for you all day!" A vaguely familiar smell was emanating from the kitchen. "What?" I asked nervously. "Chicken parmesan!" she smiled, and then was so confused when I burst into tears. 

I ended up submitting my own favorite family chicken recipe to the Commons staff: Poppy Seed Chicken, which they cooked several times before I graduated. We confirmed over Reunion weekend that they still serve it!

Lauren Cunningham ‘09

This article was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2024 print issue of the Davidson Journal Magazine; for more, please see the Davidson Journal section of our website.