Parma has many good restaurants as you would expect. Sadly they were closed in the evenings due to Covid restrictions but here are a couple of good ones that I went to for lunch. You’ll find these and other untried suggestions on my Google map.
Ristorante Cocchi (High Intermediate A), 16/A Viale Antonio Gramsci, www.ristorantecocchi.it
Cocchi is an institution in Parma . It’s a bit out of the way, on the other side of the river in Oltretorrente but worth the walk. I liked it so much I went two days on the trot. It’s a fairly formal place but the prices are reasonable and the menu has lots of local specialities.
Click on the photos to get the best view.
On my first visit I began with a glass of Franciacorta, a kind of northern fizz that is rated over Prosecco which has a much larger production area and therefore more variable in quality. This came with some aged thirty-month-old parmesan which Daniele my helpful waiter (and I think the restaurant owner) told me was the maximum age that locals would consume the cheese as after that it’s considered too strong to eat. Also some Salami Felino, considered locally as ‘the prince of salumi’ (cured hams).
For the primo, Tortelli di Patate con Tartufo Negro di Fragno; potato stuffed pasta covered with shavings of a local black truffle. The use of potato distinguishes Tortelli Parmensi from other preparations. To drink, half a bottle of Gutturnio Superiore Vignamorello, a fruity red from nearby Piacenza.
For the main event, the northern classic of Bollito Misto, which I first experienced in Turin (post here). At Cocchi this involves six kinds of boiled meat; Cotechino (a large pork sausage), Zampone (like cotechino but encased in the hind leg), veal tongue, veal ribs, beef shoulder and beef cheek. And the trimmings are; a slice of egg omelette, mashed potato, carrot sauce, tomato sauce and Mostarda (candied fruit such as quince, pears, apples and cherries in a mustard sauce). This is all served from a dedicated trolley as Daniele demonstrates in this video. It was great, especially the sausages (less so the veg ‘sauces’), but it’s a real belly buster so make sure you’re hungry!
Nearing the finishing line, I could only manage a light Panna Cotta ai Frutti di Bosco. This with a glass of Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria (from a small Sicilian island off Tunisia) which Daniele considers the best Italian sweet wine (it’s certainly the most expensive, perhaps because of the distance it has to travel). A Macchiato coffee with a local Nocino: a local digestivo made with young walnuts. My friend Melanie was surprised that Daniele allowed me to have a ‘stained’ coffee as the milk can add another layer of digestion. According to Italian dining rules, it should only ever be an espresso!
I came back the next day for a slightly lighter lunch. This time I had the seasonal special Flan di Zucca su Fonduta di Parmigiano: pumpkin flan made with parmesan sauce, which was very light and fluffy. For the main, another local speciality, Savarin di Riso alla Parmigiana; a risotto with tiny veal meatballs wrapped in prosciutto. Not a looker but very tasty. This time I finished with a Semifreddo and a glass of Maculan Torcolato 2015, a Passito from Veneto. To finish, a shot of Elixir di China (a medicinal preparation based on alcoholic extracts of Cinchona bark), this version by Clementi being an old long lost friend and one of my most favourite ever bitter digestivos.
Osteria dei Servi (Intermediate A), 1 Piazza Ghiaia, www.osteriadeiservi.com
Following a tip from my local contact Marianne, I came here (appetite fully restored) for Sunday lunch and my final meal in Parma. It’s a lovely restaurant in the market square with lots of seating outside. The food was great but my only quibble was being seated next to a constantly ringing phone by the front entrance. My friendly young waiter kindly let me move outside for the second half of my meal though, which is where I should have booked my table in the first place.
As soon as I arrived, a locally cured salami arrived at the table which kept me busy while I ordered. My first selection was probably an overkill on the charcuterie front but I really wanted to try Torta Fritta aka Gnocco Fritto (and other names depending on the Emilian town), which are little deep-fried pillows of dough over which the prosciutto is draped with and eaten while they’re warm. With this some more thirty-month-old parmagiano with a balsamic reduction on the side.
For the pasta course, a tris of Tortelli; Tortelli di Patate Rosse di Rusion con Funghi Porcini di Borgotaro e Porro Croccante, with red potatoes from Rusino, porcini from Borgotaro and crispy leeks. The second Tortelli d’Erbetta con Burro Chiarificato e Parmigiano was with herbs, clarified butter and thirty month parmesan, and the third Tortelli di Zucca alla Parmigiana, with pumpkin and parmesan again.
for the main, Guancialino di Maiale di Parma Brasato al Lambrusco dei Colli su Polenta Morbida, or pork cheeks (from the local black pig I think) braised in Lambrusco, a local wine, and served with boiled maize porridge.
For dessert, Zabaione con Biscotti, a light custard made with sweet wine and served with biscuits, alongside another Passito de Pantelleria. To finish, an Espresso (learned my lesson) and another shot of the same Nocino di Stregha (literally a witches brew). The meal was so good I even begged a cigarette from my accommodating waiter, even though I’d given them up over a decade before. I remember thinking that Covid could come get me now.
So I think I managed to try a good range of local dishes. I’ll finish off writing about Parma with a post about shops selling the ingredients…