Parma = Foodie Paradise
We arrived a bit frazzled and hungry after a long drive from Tuscany. Located in Coloreto, on the outskirts of Parma, Ai Due Platani gave us a warm welcome to Parma (thanks ekc for the rec!). Of course we started with a plate of Proscutto di Parma and torta fritta. The prosciutto really was as tasty and fantastic as we anticipated and whoever invented torta fritta to accompany the meat deserves a Nobel Prize. Simply brilliant! Torta fritta are fried dough squares, hollow, more flakey like pasty than doughy, and the tender ham just melts on it. Wanting the full local experience we had our first bottle of Lambrusco that was surprisingly nice, fizzy, not too sweet and most pleasant. The long drive was already long behind us. Then the pasta…
Flashback: Our last night in Florence a few days prior we are eating pasta at our favorite restaurant. The papparadelle was light and fine and oh so tasty with a rich venison ragu, and the pasta with squash blossoms and saffron was heavenly good. Anticipating our upcoming visit to Emiglia Romagna I said “This pasta is so amazingly good, maybe the best we’ve ever eaten, I can’t imagine how it can possibly be that much better in E/R”…
When we took out first bites of the ravioli with rabbit and the tortelli erbette we both had the same thought “OMG, this is so great; NOW we understand; the pasta really is that much better in E/R”. (We had this same thought over and over again during our 6 days in Parma and Bologna). It is lighter and fluffier and too good for me to describe completely with mere words. No secondi for us, instead we shared a plate of Tortelli di Zucca (stuffed with pumpkin). Yummy! Then to complete our first taste of Parma we finished with a plate of cheese. 30 months aged Parmagiano-Reggiano was softer than expected and not too sharp or grainy for an aged cheese. Slightly sweet, and not too sharp; Really good. We knew that we could not finish the way-too-large portion so asked if we could take the rest with us. I was slightly embarrassed, unsure if a “doggie-bag” was something that was done in Italy (I had never seen anyone leaving a restaurant with a bag) but they graciously packed our surplus cheese to go (We had a bottle of Brunello we brought with us from Montalcino that would go great with this cheese back at our B&B)
We had one of our best meals in Italy, dinner at Trattoria del Tribunale. A perfect trattoria filled mostly with locals. The pasta was divine, cappelletti in brodo was fantastic tortelli was even lighter and better than at lunch, this time with mushrooms and noci (walnut sauce), then a roast rabbit that was impossibly succulent and melanzane parmigiano that was wonderful (senza the heavy breading found in the eggplant parm I grew up with in NY). We enjoyed a good regional Sangiovese di Romagna.
Next day lunch at Ristorante Cocchi. The most highly recommended place in town lived up to its reputation. The service at Cocchi was impeccable, but not the least bit stuffy or pretentious. There were a few tourists, but more smartly dressed business people. Culatello and Prosciutto served with (hard to believe) even lighter and flakier torta fritta. The pasta was sublime: Tortelli stuffed with mushrooms and potato and anolini in brodo. Boneless rolled rabbit stuffed with prosciutto was tender and yummy, and the braised guancciale di manzo (beef cheeks, but interestingly translated on the menu simply as “pot roast”) was very rich and prepared to the perfect tenderness, served with polenta (it was just like pot roast and maybe mashed potatoes might have been better ), it was maybe a bit too rich for lunch on an unseasonably warm autumn day, but no complaints. Tutto bene.
We couldn’t resist stopping in Pasticcieria Torino and bought a few tiny pastries. Yummy. We stopped back the next morning and enjoyed some breakfast pastries and good café macchiato at the tiny counter bar. An adorable little place with super pastries.
We had planned to dine at Il Cortile located on the far side of town over the bridge. Instead we decided to take advantage of our prime location in the heart of Parma and returned to the fantastic Trattoria del Tribunale. Even better on our second visit and sitting at the table next to us was the single elderly gentleman we noticed the night before quietly enjoying his regular nightly meal and bottle of wine. It made us feel like “regulars” and the dinner was again fantastic. [Aside: We recently decided that instead of feeling compelled to try every restaurant in town that if we find someplace great that we love, why not return. Frankly, the menu is pretty much the same at every place in Parma as it is the same at nearly every place in Bologna or Florence or wherever, especially for tourists like us looking to sample the classic dishes of the area. Tribunale was a perfect place to return to and in addition to another round of great pasta we shared one of the best meat courses of our trip, sliced steak with radicchio and Grana that was simply perfect. Far superior to anything we ate in Tuscany] We again reluctantly passed on the Degustione di Parmigiano, a course of cheeses of different ages. (Gluttony has its limits ... Siamo Molto Pieno).
The amazing food is reason enough to visit Parma. But there is more to Parma than just ham and cheese (and pasta!). It is a fun town to visit, away from the mainstream tourist track, and we enjoyed it completely.
Trattoria del Tribunale
Vicolo Politi, 5, Parma, PR 43100, IT
Via Alberto Mario, 26, Rome , IT
"and melanzane parmigiano that was wonderful (senza the heavy breading found in the eggplant parm I grew up with in NY)"
I am so glad you said this. When we were at Trattoria del Tribunale in December 2009, I ordered this dish simply because we were in Parma. I just knew it had to be good. As someone who grew up with an Italian-American mother who everyone said made the "best" eggplant parmigianna, I have to admit I never liked the dish. But at Trattoria del Tribunale? Simply superb. Light and just cheesy enough without being gloppy and heavy like its bastardized American cousin. I dream of going back to Trattoria del Tribunale one day. Thanks for your excellent report AWG.