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Aug 28, 2012 08:38 PM

Sept/Oct visit to Emilia Romagna

We will be driving from Milan Airport to Modena, I wonder if there is any good place to shop for food and wine for picnic? Also any suggestion of a scenic picnic spot?

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  1. I can't answer your question directly. Indirectly this might help (from 2011). It is an hour and a half from Malpensa.

    For those old enough to remember, Franco Colombani owner of the restaurant Sole in Maleo, who along with Peppino Cantarelli owner of the eponymous trattoria in Samboseto, were the “founders” of the movement to regional Italian food during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Franco, before his death in the mid 90s, was the mentor of many e.g. Antonio Santini of Dal Pescatore in Canneto sull Oglio. Chefs revered him. Maleo was priceless, as was Franco, a very warm and giving man.

    Nine years ago, one of the waiters at Maleo, Giacomo Verdelli started his own restaurant/hosteria, Da Giacomo, in nearby Pizzighettone, a very small town not too far from Cremona and Lodi, about an hour south of Milan. We’ve been meaning to get there for some time and finally did yesterday. What a find. This is the country restaurant that you always wanted to go to.

    Located next to a 12th. Century chiesa, in a town that retains the wonderful charm of a bygone era (think 1910-1935), the food is very similar to Maleo except much better. A small restaurant/hosteria with seating for about 30, it is simply but tastefully decorated with tables well spaced but with a feeling of intimacy in the one large dining room (in warm weather there are a few tables outside underneath the portico of the street). Look at the excellent web site (address below) to see the restaurant, the current menu and the complete wine list.

    You’ll recognize every ingredient in every dish; no molecular cuisine here. The tastes of the classic dishes of the area are exquisite and adding to the allure is a simply fantastic wine list, with all regions represented and the wines very reasonably priced. It really is a stupendous list for a restaurant like this. As Giacomo said, “if I don’t sell the wines, I just drink them because the list reflects what I really enjoy.”

    Yesterday we had: Tortelli con farina di grano saraceno ricotta, erbette e vellutata di melanzane; the classic marubini ai tre brodi; coniglio disossato alla ligure (a classic Colombani dish and one of the few that were not Lombardian) and scaloppa di storione con salsa all ‘Ageno .” All were cooked extremely well and you thought you were back at Maleo in 1985.

    Some other dishes on yesterday’s menu were: Tortino di patate e Agoni (sarde di lago); sformatino di asparagi; insalata di pernice rossa con capperi; zuppa di lenticchie e zafferano; risotto con asparigi; piccione semidisossato; baccala alla “Cappuccina.” Good dessert menu as well. Wines by the glass as well as the full list.

    Giacomo is the consummate host, warm, engaging, and concerned that your time there should be one of pleasure. You could see it in the people at lunch yesterday. They were happy. Go!

    Da Giacomo Piazza Municipio 2 Pizzighettone

    1. allende's link doesn't work for me, so here it is again:

      allende's recommendation for Pizzighettone sounds like the kind of thing that makes a visit to Italy off the tourist track really the high point of a trip if food is your priority. Plus, Pizzighettone looks like a sweet town to see:

      I'll also point out that it is just about a 2 hour drive from Malpensa to Modena. If you are picking up your car rental by 9am, you might just drive directly to Modena and have lunch, and plan a picnic for another day.

      However, if shopping and a picnic is your priority (and it is not raining that day!), most Italian food shopping is inside towns. Open markets are held on specific days, and are usually over by 1pm. You can look up towns along your route using this website to find out which days they are having a food market:

      You can usually pick up wine at the AutoGrille stops.

      Most of the area between Malpensa and Modena is flat and given over to industrial farming, but maybe a tailgate picnic in view of the basilica of San Bassiano in Lodi Vecchio would be enjoyable. The church also has a beautiful interior, probably closed between noon and 4pm.

      On the other hand, just driving into any of the smaller towns along the way -- Sant'Angelo Lodigliano, Cortemaggiore -- and eating a plate of cured meats and cheeses at a local bar in the heart of town is likely to be atmospheric. Most of the old towns have castles, arcades, or historic paths that were part of the via Francigena. It is often very difficult to time a shopping expedition in Italy if you don't know where you are going or where to park, and get everything you need before the shops close for lunch.

      6 Replies
      1. re: barberinibee

        What about ducking into Zibello to pick up Zibello ham from the culatello at La Buca? They will slice and wrap it for you. IMO, this was the best cured meat we tried, and different than Proscuitto (they use the rump instead of leg). You can also pick up a jar of their mostardo. Perhaps someone else can recommend a bakery in the area and you are set. I found this region very pretty in a rustic agricultural way, I think you could find a stopping place on a farm road to picnic.

          1. re: barberinibee

            I am not sure, we went over lunch. Here is a link to their site:

        1. re: barberinibee

          Id recommend a visit to a Busseto, a pretty historic town quite close to the A1, where you can go to either Sapori della Bassa or the Salsamenteria Verdiana
, which serve the culatello and other regional meats. If you didnt like their casual ambience (you could be very happy eating in the plaza there), you could take it over to the riverside at Polesine Parmense - past the Spigaroli Cavallino Bianco restaurant before you come to Zibello along the river there is park like pretty riverfront along the Po. that might be a pleasant place to stop

          1. re: jen kalb

            Busseto does look ideal for a picnic if they can get there during opening hours for the shops. Can you tell when Salsamenteria Baratta is open?

            1. re: barberinibee

              hit their contact link and send them a note. they were open on saturday night when we were in town, with a counter in the back and big tables full of young people enjoying boards of meats with pickles vegetables etc, (normal bread, I think not the fried stuff) hard to think they are not open at midday too.
              Sapori della Bassa, is more of a deli shop type format with some tables out front, well respected by the Parma food site amioparere
     i- I think it closes early eve, though.
              Here's the review of the Salsamentaria on the same site

              We were too stuffed that day by our lunch at Il Cavallino Bianco to even EAT dinner. Id say this town is a good simple wayside stop however. The tavern area at the latter place (in Polesine Parmense) would also be a good place for a quick platter of meats after a stroll.. I would love to go back there again.