PIACENZA - Stuffed pasta, focaccia, Lambrusco and Sangiovese red wine, cold cuts and cheeses are the jewels of the Italian region of Emilia Romagna, a food valley where gastronomy is gleefully celebrated. Here, food is all about emotions.
Here's an initial geographic itinerary across this gastronomically rich region in northeast Italy:
In and around Piacenza, look immediately for coppa, which I consider the best cold cut ever. In the mountain village of Groppallo, the Salini brothers own a typical osteria and produce unbeatable coppa. Within the city limits of Piacenza, don't miss the dishes by the chef Filippo Dattilo Chiappini at the Osteria del Teatro. His tortelli con la coda (tortelli with tails) and pisarei e faso (bread dumplings with beans) are to die for.
In the village of Ziano Piacentino, the tortelli served at the Agriturismo Racemus owned by the Civardi family are excellent too. A few days ago, at the Agriturismo Casa Nuova in Rivergaro, I tasted the best pisarei of my entire life. Everything should be served with the sparkling red Gutturni wine, or the white Malvasia. I rank the Vin Santo degli Eredi Conte Otto Barattieri di San Pietro di Vigolzone in my personal top 10 best wine list.
Tasting the meat cut culatello from Zibello at the Antica Corte Pallavicina or at Cavallino Bianco restaurant in Polesine Parmense is a good reason for a trip to the Parma area. The owners of the two restaurants, the brothers Massimo and Luciano Spigaroli, raise a unique breed of pigs. The culatello must be tasted with the Fortana sweet sparkling red wine. Then, head to "Osvaldo Colombo liqueur- distillery" in Salsomaggiore Terme to taste the traditionally produced Nocino (liqueur prepared from an alcoholic infusion of unripe walnuts) and Bargnolino (liqueur obtained by the infusion of the Prunos Spinosa berry).
In the nearby village of Tabiano, the Tabiano Bakery produces a delicious local focaccia.
In the city of Reggio Emilia, try the erbazzone, a savory pie filled with tasty spinach and green chards. In Brescello, don't miss the spongata, a traditional cake usually eaten at Christmas time.
In Modena, which is the reign of Lambrusco wine, my favorite spot is Osteria Giusti. In the village of Zocca, Ilvano Prostrati, owner of the Montanaro restaurant, bakes the typical muffin-type flat bread tigelle. Try them with a bit of lard and pepper. In San Propstero, Mec Palmieri produces the best mortadella ever.
In the regional capital Bologna, the delicatessen Tamburini has the world's best tortellini. The most amazing meat is sold in the Zivieri family's butcher shop in Mozuno. My favourite trattoria of the year, Il Borgo, is in the village of Monteveglio.
In Ferrara, the meat cut salama da sugo is amazing, and you can find it at the Rizzieri brothers' butcher shop. Here, you'll also find the best bread in all Italy, the coppietta ferrarese. It is delicious with the eels from Comacchio valley. Franco Rizzati's pastry specialty is the Tenerina cake.
In Lugo di Romagna, in the Ravenna area, the Cooperativa Botteghe e Mestieri produces the pasta cappelletti and passatelli.
The amazing formaggio di fossa (underground cheese) Pellegrini and Gianfranco Rossini mature in the pits of Santa Caterina, in Gambettola and Sogliano al Rubicone in the Forli-Cesena area. In Forli, the chocolate with salt and the chocolate with formaggio di fossa produced by the Gardini brothers are wonderful.
Finally, Gambero Rosso in San Pietro di Bagno Romagna is a great traditional restaurant. In the same area, near Rimini, taste the local thin flatbread piadina and the Sangiovese wine in Coriano, which is the Montalcino of the Romagna region. Try also the pecorino hard cheese from Buon Pastore in Montefiore Conca and the soft cheese squacquerone from Pascoli in Saignano sul Rubicone.
Then, there is the raw ham from Parma and Modena, the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, the balsamic vinegar from Modena and Reggio. Each one deserves an entire book. This happy and rich land is the best place possible for an unforgettable and delicious tour of tastes.
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