Emilia-Romagna Antica Corte Pallavicina
We went up to Antica Corte Pallavicina in Polesine Parmense ("Verdi and Guareschi country") for the night. It is an area we really enjoy. Have been going there for more than 35 years, ever since we first went to the late great Peppino Cantarelli's (the father of the Italian movement, after World War ll, to great, well prepared regional food) place in Samboseto, and then as the years went by to La Buca in Zibello to eat "Miriam's" food and other restaurants and trattorias.
Right along the Po, with argine to walk on, the area is a special place. When walking on top of the argine, we've passed by Antica Corte many times, but for some reason never went. A big mistake on our part, but finally it was corrected.
We had a superb meal there last evening, really superb. Everything about the restaurant works well and it is very different from Massimo Spigaroli's trattoria Il Cavalino Bianco just down the road. Massimo's base is in the restaurant, not the trattoria...and it shows. He is there all the time during dinner hours, cooking away and greeting guests. Last night there were only two other couples (both Italian) in the dining room. Didn't matter, he was there all evening (we have many long time close Italian friends in common, all restaurant owners, so it was lovely for him to have the time to reminisce with us).
A lovely open dining room, perhaps for forty people when full. Excellent ingredients, outstanding dishes (dishes that make great sense; very little if any fusion here), fabulous cooking technique (excellent stuffed pasta), perfect plating. The service is friendly and professional, attentive, but not overwhelming; the pace of the meal just perfect... about three and a half hours last evening. Even reading his tasting menus, something we never order, made a lot of sense. The wine list is very good and reasonably priced. And on top of everything else, he has a fantastic dessert menu, something rarely seen in Italian restaurants.
Here's what we had. A little nibble of a thick crema di zucca served with a "canederli" of ricotta and a very thin slice of deep fried polenta. Then, obviously a trio of culatelli to start. Your're in the heart of culatello country and he is a master at it; the culatello cellar is wonderful. I liked the aged 27 month best, my wife liked the 37 month from black pigs bred on the property. For the primi: I tortelli d’erbette alla parmigiana al doppio burro d’affioramento delle vacche rosse; Un savarin di riso in ricordo di Peppino e Mirella Cantarelli (as rich as could be as only those in ER along the Po can do). For secondi: Lo storione dei racconti cotto nella sabbia con le sue verdure (fantastically cooked al cartoccio); L’anatra germana leggermente speziata con una royale d’erbe e grani di senape (also perfectly cooked, extremely flavorful duck). For dessert, both of which were truly outstanding: Il pan perduto al nocino, noci caramellate e sorbetto di cachi; La crostatina tiepida all’olio e mela cotogna con spuma di calvados. Four different mignardise including a spectacular cream puff filled with apricot preserve. We had a bottle of 2005 Barbaresco, La Spinetta Starderi. The cost for the food was 150 Euros (excellent value!) and the Barbaresco was 160 Euros.
We stayed there. The rooms are in the ancient Antica Corte. Comfortable rooms in "the old style", very spacious, very clean with a great modern bathroom, well lit. The room itself needs much more lighting. If you want to read, bring your backlit IPad:) Very good Internet service.
Overall, this place, on a first visit, is outstanding. We'll be back in the next few months and hopefully it will continue to be so. We don't see any reason it shouldn't be.
We took a pasta-making class that came with lunch at Antica Corte a year ago and it was outstanding. Some of the best food I've ever had in Italy (or elsewhere). Massimo also showed us the culatello cellar which blew us away. Many famous restaurants/chefs from all around the world have their culatelli aging there (this can also be seen on Anthony Bourdain's Emilia Romagna episode). The place is also just incredibly beautiful.
The embankment above the river (or the road). In Polesine there is the road which goes from well east of Zibello to Villanova sull' Arda (cherry town). You can walk, ride a bike and even drive a car on it (though there are few cars). It is delightful.
Eventually, believe it or not, the road will go from the Adriatic to Torino. Bike all the way. Eat all the way. The argine that I'm referring to passes within a 100 meters of La Buca and Antica Corte.
My partner and I traveled to E-R with another couple just a year ago and our two nights at Antica Corte were the highlight of our trip. Outstanding, from top to bottom. Our friends were feeling a bit tired on our second night, so as my partner and I ventured down the road to dinner at The White Horse, the staff set our friends up in the dining room of the house (not the restaurant) and asked simply, "What would you like?" and proceeded to serve them fresh fruit, some cold cuts, and sweets. It was so very generous of them, and we can't wait to return.