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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.

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  1. Im so glad you liked it. We love this place and are looking forward to a chance to visit the Antica Corte. We had a sturgeon dish over at his other place (before the Antica Corte restaruant opened) and think its one of the unsung foods of this region. Great report!

    1. Thanks for the write-up Allende. Definitely the highlight of our 2011 trip!!

      1. 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.

        1. Sorry, but can you tell me what "argine" means? Thanks!

          2 Replies
          1. re: DavidT

            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.

            1. re: allende

              a couple miles walk along there was our first real stop on a trip to the region a few years ago, developing a bit of appetite for lunch and recovering from jet lag. a normal life type of heaven.along the river.

          2. 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.

            1. We are at ACP now - outstanding but I could use some guidance on tipping. Everyone has been wonderful from beginning to farm tour to dinner to (presumably) tomorrow's departure and we of course will leave a gratuity. I have no idea how to gauge how much. I should have thought of it before, but didn't. Help?

              4 Replies
                1. re: allende

                  The servers from our two dinners, the staff who carried our luggage upstairs, the young man who gave us a tour of the farms (and shared that they share their tips but graciously made it clear that it was totally up to us). Boar the Labrador retriever already got belly rubs, so not him.

                  1. re: EAOrelup

                    The servers from your two dinners probably 10 E each, but not necessary.

                    Definitely not necessary for the staff that carried the baggage. These people were part of the administrative staff and that is their job; at least they were when we were there. They were not bellhops at a hotel. The young man who gave you a tour of the farm, and should never ever have mentioned a tip, shared or unshared, gets nothing. Again, that's part of his job and even if it weren't, whenever someone even mentions a tip, we give nothing... and we are very generous tippers.

                    It's just plain rude (and i'm being nice in describing it that way) when someone talks about expecting a tip... and too many Americans fall for the ploy.

                    1. re: allende

                      Thanks. To be clear, my husband asked him about gratuities and he did his best to deflect the question (no doubt understanding that talking about it would be rude or worse). He was delightful and knowledgeable.

              1. Would you recommend choosing to eat here over La Buca? We will be having lunch in the area and I am having trouble deciding between Antica Corte, Da Ivan, and La Buca. We may return to have a second meal somewhere during our 5 day stay in the area.

                7 Replies
                1. re: JazzyK

                  Two different types of meals. Antica Corte is a restaurant, not a country trattoria. La Buca is unique. It is a meal out of postwar Italy. It is the place that Italian restaurateurs (e.g. Nadia and Antonio Santini of Dal Pescatore, among many others) go to because they want to eat the real thing. Wonderful trattoria food, for us the best culatello (far better than Antica Corte); a few dishes that for us are best in class e.g. tagliatelle con culatello.

                  However, the food is not refined. It is trattoria food. It has a very good wine list, very good service... and then, of course, there is Miriam who is one of a kind and a legend while still alive.

                  If you want to see how people have eaten in trattorie in the Bassa Padana for the last 125 years, go to La Buca.

                  1. re: allende

                    Do you think it would be too much to have lunch at La Buca and then dinner at Da Ivan? We could explore the area in between, perhaps taking a walk along the Po as you suggest. Would it be okay not to eat 3 courses at La Buca? Also what is the earliest we could eat dinner at Da Ivan? 7pm? We would have about an hour drive back to our hotel after. My original plan was to eat lunch at Da Ivan and then head back towards Parma. But La Buca sounds so interesting.

                    1. re: JazzyK

                      You do not have to eat three courses at La Buca, but it would be rude to have just one.

                      Da Ivan does not serve at 7. 8 and after.

                      1. re: allende

                        I was thinking maybe just two courses at La Buca, and then spending some time touring the area. Logistically, maybe it would be better to go back another day and have lunch at Da Ivan. Then we could do a full 3 courses at La Buca.

                        Thank you for your response.

                        1. re: JazzyK

                          La Buca has three very nice inexpensive rooms if that matters

                  2. re: JazzyK

                    I don't recall the food at La Buca being heavy. We had lunch at around 1:30; had a small pasta appetizer, roast chicken, and zabaione (which was HEAVEN). I don't know about you, but by the time 8 pm rolled around, I had no problem enjoying dinner.

                    1. re: crixie

                      I am leaning towards visiting La Buca one day, and then on the day we drive from Reggio Emilia to Piemonte, stopping for lunch at Da Ivan on the way. We just prefer to be a little closer to our hotel in the evenings and we have a free hotel in Reggio Emilia for 5 nights. Thanks for the help!