SAVOUR THE EXCELLENCE OF TRADITION IN PARMA
All roads may lead to Rome, but if you’re a foodie you’re going to head straight to the gastronomic paradise that is Parma. Located in the heart of what is known as “Food Valley,” the Emilia-Romagna region has the highest number of European Union certified Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographic Origin (PGI) products in Europe. In the Lower Apennine valleys of Emilia, Parma has long been defined as the Italian capital of agro-food and the national emblem of gastronomic culture
Rooted in tradition and yet a leader in sustainable development, the producers of these superior Parma products—from world-famous prosciutto and Malvasia wines of the region to the Borgotaro mushroom—hail from farms, wineries, cheese and cured-meat factories that adhere to the highest of standards. Passed on from generation to generation, these standards protect their products’ superior quality and preserve their reputation of gastronomic prowess worldwide.
“Our kitchen is rich, a symbol of abundance, with the pork, butter, fresh egg pasta and the French influences that have contributed to our cuisine,” says self-professed food storyteller, Davide Bernieri. The ideal microclimate of the lowlands also contributes to the prolific production of this region’s bounty of goodness. A trained chef and seasoned food journalist (pun intended), you couldn’t ask for a better private food tour guide to explore and discover the many gastronomic offerings of the region. “My tour allows clients to touch our incredible tradition with their hands. For instance, we visit a Parmigiano Reggiano producer in early morning to see all the steps of production from milk to cheese. Later on, a visit to the Parmigiano Reggiano museum in Soragna further reinforces the respect for the tried-and-true ways of production when guests see the tools on display in the museum are the same tools they saw utilized in production that morning.”
“Our traditional production of Prosciutto di Parma and Culatello di Zibello are 100% natural and handmade—no chemicals or technological shortcut,” says Bernieri proudly. By the way, garlic is taboo in this area. “If you add garlic to your salame, for example, it means your meat is not fresh.” A big no to garlic then.
No tour is the same; Bernieri is known to organize a customized tour according to the needs and desires of the small group he meets on any given day. He once treated a group of five Canadians, who wanted an authentic Italian family meal experience, to his countryside home where he prepared a delectable meal to be shared with his wife and children. Now that’s Italian! If you wish to venture out on your own and create your own food tour, there is a bevy of information on the Internet to chart your culinary course. Bernieri advises that while the small city of Parma is perfect to tour by foot or bicycle, it is best to rent a car or hire a driver when heading out to the hilly countryside. Be sure to visit the various food museums of the region highlighting the history of the products that encapsulate the area (Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Culatello of Zibello, Felino Salame) and, naturally, to truly savour this region’s goodness, visit the Wine Museum in Sala Baganza, which ends the historical wine-making tour in the Rocca cellar with a tasting. This year, a sixth food museum will be opening honouring the Borgotaro mushroom.
PARMA IN A DISH
From farm to table, the many culinary splendours of the region will make your stay in the Italian cultural capital of the year a memorable and exquisite experience. When asked which regional dish best captures the bravura of Parma, Bernieri quickly declared that agnolini in brodo (agnolini in broth) are the best expression of Parma in a dish. Fresh pasta stuffed with Parmigiano Reggiano, eggs, grated bread and stracotta meat sauce. “It’s a typical dish for families during celebrations. It requires a lot of work to make but the agnolini in brodo is like tasting the compendium of our land with every bite.” For those with a sweet tooth, he recommends the Torta Duchessa dedicated to Maria Luigia d’Austria, duchy of Parma. With a hazelnut base, zabaglione cream, chocolate cream and candied cherries, it’s a traditional way to end one of the best meals you will probably ever have in your life.
Buon appetito and cheers to Parma 2020.
For private food tours, contact Parma Food Quality (www.parmafoodquality.com)
IF YOU GO…
The Pasta and Tomato Museums are both located in Collechio. The Felino Salame Museum is aptly situated in Felino. The Wine Museum is in Sala Baganza. The Culatello di Zibello is in Polesine. The Prosciutto di Parma Museum is in Langhirano. The Parmigiano-Reggiano Museum is in Soragna.