The bustling little provincial town of Parma might not be your first choice for an Italian vacation, but this age old Roman settlement nestled within the lilting hills of the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna has a few things going for it. The surrounding area is absolutely gorgeous. Milan, the beach, Tuscany, the Alps, Bologna and other must-see hot spots are all short drives away. But unlike those places, there are far fewer tourists mingling about and prices for just about everything in Parma are much cheaper than elsewhere in the area.. And – most importantly – when in Parma, you are absolutely guaranteed to dine in fine Italian style.
Yes, the town that launched gazillion cheese wheels and probably just as many hams is a strong contender for the top spot of any true foodie’s bucket list. To be sure, the ham and cheeses are exquisite in Parma, and the fact that two of the world’s most iconic foods come from the same small region says a lot about how tasty a place it is. The shops, bars and restaurants offer Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese proudly, along with all sorts of other tasty delights as well. Plus, there’s great – if underappreciated – wines from nearby as well. Parma is as scrumptious a spot as any you’re apt to visit anywhere in the world. Here’s a list of few noteworthy spots to try the local yummies.
Strada Provinciale per Torrechiara, 45A, 43010 Pilastro
Outside of town with a view of nearby and evocative Torrechiara Castle, this attractive and homey restaurant is a great spot for an alfresco lunch. From classic regional dishes heavy on the ham and cheese, to their sumptuous and healthy “Insalata Sfizio” (with baby spinanch, steamed potatoes, apple, cherry tomatoes, raisins, pine nuts, orange, extra virgin olive oil and Balsamico) everyone will be pleased with Masticabrodo’s menu and seasonal daily specials. Try the trippa alla parmigana for a real taste of local tradition.
Borgo Giacomo Tommasini, 18 – 43100 Parma
This cozy enoteca (wine bar and shop) is located in the “old part” of Parma, which is a very relative description in this age old city. It’s a great place for nibbles or something more substantial and a brilliant setting to sample varieties of Parma ham and Parmagiano Reggiano cheese … and, of course, the local wines. The locally grown, sparkling and aromatic Malvasia is a smart choice no matter the age of your ham. Vintages from the Lamoretti vineyards are a more than safe bet. To go along with your cheese, ask your server to select an earthy red.
Osteria la Maesta
Via Case Trombi, 13, Mulazzano Ponte, Lesignano Bagni
Homespun, family run restaurant up in the bucolic hills above Parma. Ever heard that expression about not trusting a skinny chef? One look at the man in the kitchen here and you’ll be right to expect a hearty and satisfying meal. Seasonal, regional and all homemade, noteworthy reasons to dine here include the tortelli d’erbeta, the torta fritta and the handmade pappardelle.
Viale Antonio Gramsci 16, 43100 Parma
There’s a delicious chance dining here could result in the best meal you’ll have in Parma! Ristorante Cocchi is a brilliant place to keep in mind for trying the best of the best local cuisine. Upscale and more modern that the other restaurants listed in this piece, Cocchi is nonethelesss molto autentico. Enjoy the service, the attention to detail and most of all, the food! You can’t go wrong with the flan di Parmigiano al tartufo nero (Parmesan soufflé with black truffles) or the city’s favorite dish, anoli in brodo (handmade pasta stuffed with meat and cooked in broth).
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Photo: Chris Osburn