I was in Emilia Romagna last week, doing research for both of my new books. Mostly, I was in the countryside south of Parma cooking with Rezdore. Roughly translated a Rezdora means ‘queen of the house’ or, more importantly, ‘queen of the kitchen’ (I’m thinking t-shirts, right?) After two full days spent rolling out dough, stuffing pasta and stuffing myself, I decided to tack on two extra nights in Parma to have time to see my friends Ari, Tammie and Grace.
They were in town again, continuing research into Parmigiano Reggiano, and so I tagged along to taste some more cheese and pet some more cows.
I’ll be reporting on ALL of this in the two books, which come out next year. I know, it’s a long time to wait, but it will be worth it. Promise. But for now I wanted to share the handful of places I discovered in Parma, since a lot of you have asked. And I would hate to have you visit Parma and go hungry. (as if)
This is the restaurant that tops most lists for Parma. And in fact, every person I asked in Parma mentioned this as one of the best. I was a bit worried when I first saw it, since it’s in the ground floor of a hotel. But the restaurant is quite separate (not a ‘hotel’ restaurant)
To start off, before we even had a chance to order, we got a glass of prosecco and small plates of truly excellent Parmigiano Reggiano and Salame di Felino. And I have to say that if you don’t eat meat, you are going to have a hard time in this part of the world. You’ll get by, no worries. But meat, and specifically cured meat, is the thing here. Although I eat a lot of cured meats in both Umbria and in Rome, it’s nothing compared to the extraordinary quality of what I had during this trip.
To start out we got a plate of the silkiest, more tender lardo that I’ve ever had. It was paired with little logs of crispy fried polenta. We also got a platter of mixed cured meats to share, which included culatello, pancetta, coppa and of course prosciutto. These were eaten on torta fritta, fried puffs of dough, served piping hot.
The Tortelli di Erbette were excellent. Although they are the specialty in Parma, and you’ll find them everywhere, it pays to order them over and over, to see how differently the various restaurants prepare this ricotta and Swiss chard stuffed pasta. We also ordered the the Savarin di riso, which is basically the creamiest risotto made with parmigiano wrapped in a paper thin layer of prosciutto cotto.
Via Gramsci 16A
Open daily, lunch and dinner. Closed Saturday.
Trattoria del Tribunale
Another Parma institution, Trattoria del Tribunale’s dining rooms stretch out over two floors in the heart of the old part of town. Again, we ordered a ton of things to split, but if you have to choose just one dish I’d suggest the Tagliolini al Culatello, which is a tangle of eggy, homemade noodles flecked with slices of culatello and bathed in cream. Insane.
What I wish we had gotten was more cured meats with torta fritta, which is what everyone else was ordering. But we were a bit cured-meat out by then.
They also have tables outside, so make sure you mention you’d like to be outside if you reserve in nice weather.
Trattoria del Tribunale
Vicolo Politi 5
Open daily, lunch and dinner.
I hung out at one of the outside tables of this bar both evenings, watching the Parmigiani (yes, that is what people from Parma are called!) stroll and bike along Strada Farini. The enoteca has an excellent wine list , especially by the glass, and the perfect nibbles to go along: mini fooccia stuffed with – of course – cured meats and other goodies. Since it was a balmy spring evening, everyone was outside. But I took a look inside, and the wood paneled back room is large and inviting. And then went right back to my campari soda and prosciutto-wrapped grissini.
Strada Farini 24A
Tuesday – Saturday 12-2:30; 5-10.
Extremely delicious gelato made without any additives at all. The fruit is fresh and either local and/or organic and they have all the classic flavors as well as some creative ones like burnt wheat (which was only slightly strange.)
Ciacco, Strada Garibaldi 11
Tues-Thursday 12-11; Friday – Sunday 12-12.
If you feel like you don’t want to go through cured meat withdrawal when you leave, then make sure you stop by this store to stock up on prosciutto, culatello and salame. I dare you to walk in without leaving with at least a kilo of pork. This is also one-stop shopping for Parmigiano Reggiano.
La Prosciutteria, Strada Luigi Carlo Farini 9
Open daily. Monday – Friday 8:30am-1:30pm, 3:30pm-7:45; Saturday 8:30-7:45, Sunday 9-1.
This sweet little store (discovered by my friend Grace) features local, heritage varieties of cheese, cured meats, grains and breads. They have a small selection of prepared items like salads and soups, as well.
Rural Market, Borgo Giacomo Tommasini 7/b
9:30-13:30, 17-20. Closed Sunday and Monday.
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