Culatello at Antica Corte Pallavicina – When life gives you a pig, you make Culatello. Prosciutto so prized it has a different name. And the best Culatello in the world can be found in this old castle perfectly situated by the foggy Po. After you visit their legendary cellar, ride their bikes, and play hide and seek with their black pigs, you are ready for this “Podium”. Three Culatello aged 18, 27, and a black pig beauty aged 37 months sitting on top like miss universe.
Eggs with Black Truffles at Locanda Mariella – An hour south of Parma in the hamlet of Calestano in the mountains, there’s this foodie paradise. Mariella is at the helm, and will take care of you like no other woman. She knows her wine, and she knows how to make eggs, among many other things. Richness and creaminess levels I have yet to discover out of eggs. And Black Truffles, mightier than some whites we’ve had days before, were the icing on the pan. Quite possibly the best egg dish I ever had.
Tagliata Fassone at Cocchi in Parma. The star of a fine meal at this Parma legend was not surprisingly the all too dependent Fassone. This Piedmontese cattle continues to surprise me with its lean, but sharp flavors. Add some artichokes, aged balsamic vinegar, olive oil and of course Parma cheese and you got yourself a major crowd pleaser. Cocchi, albeit a bit touristy, felt like one of those local institutions one needs to experience, with its ancient menu, and old timers that even speak English. Try the terrific Sformatino as well.
Minestrone Fritters at Hosteria Giusti in Modena– Perhaps the biggest taste/look ratio of the trip as those fritters didn’t look very hot, but after tasting them they looked rather perfect. They add to Minestrone soup that is thickened overnight, Parma cheese, flour, egg, and deep fry a spoonful at a time. Sprinkle some of their own ultra aged “Traditional” balsamic vinegar and the result is outstanding. Mario Batali’s favorite restaurant in Italy delivered quite a few punches that afternoon.
Salumi at Salumeria Garibaldi in Parma – At this busy Salumeria in Parma, grab one of the two little tables on the right, and watch the locals do their thing. Try the prosciutto of course, the wonderful Felino dubbed “King of Salami”, and the Strolghino, a fresh thin Salami made out of the lean leg of the pig and the “prosciutto” of Culatello, among other leftovers. They dont throw out anything in Italy
Burrata with Bottarga at Sale Grosso in Bologna – Yes, there’s also great seafood in Italy’s food capital. Hidden in a quiet alley near the university, this newish joint dishes out quality Puglia inspired Seafood day after day. And some dishes fairly unique, like this Bottarga, sticks of salted dried tuna roe, coupled with creamy Burrata that was oozing with deliciousness.
Tortellini in Brodo at All’Osteria Bottega in Bologna. “I live here all my life, and this is best in Bologna” our trusted waitress warned us. Who are we to argue. After sampling Tortellini in Brodo on a daily basis in the region, we saved the best for last turned out. Done the traditional way, but with an added oomph, or “Love” according to the happy owner. While I haven’t written a post about All’Osteria Bottega, I highly recommend spending an evening there.
Pork Ribs at Vicolo Colombina in Bologna – Another no brainer here. Ribs are slow cooked for 40 hours Sous Vide style (I used my regular “I cant wait that long, we have a flight tomorrow” joke. Didn’t work too well here). Great texture, not too fatty, crispy where needed but mostly tender, wonderfully juicy, flavorful meat. Here in NYC we pay a lot more for similar and less successful dishes than the 15 euros we shelled out for this. This particular dish was a recommendation by Carmelita Caruana who runs a popular local cooking school http://www.cookitaly.com/
Piada at Trattoria Via Serra in Bologna – There were quite a few memorable items from this Slow Food gem, including the outstanding organic house red. But this dish stood out for several reasons. Piada or Piadina is a flatbread typically made with lard, a delicious traditional snack normally associated with the coastal Romagna towns. Here it was a Sunday special served with fresh eye popping Squacquerone cheese from the nearby Castel San Pietro, and prosciutto. There was something about enjoying this fun snack on a lazy Sunday afternoon with local families at that moment that its hard to put into words.
Parmigiano Reggiano at CiaoLatte in Noceto – Best 10 euros I spent in the region was at this dairy producer near Parma. You get a tour with Serena who speaks English, almost unheard of in the Parma dairy producer universe. She will guide you through the entire process if you show up early enough, and let you spend some quality time your camera in the ageing room. And the tasting of the various aged Parmigiano Reggiano will make you go straight to Eataly when you get home.