Local cuisine and gastronomy

  • July 12, 2013

Known as the ‘Food Kitchen’ of the North, Emilia Romagna is the ideal holiday destination for food lovers. Bologna, “La Grassa” (the fat, the plentiful), is the capital of Emilia-Romagna and is thought by many to be the food capital of Italy. Many of the foods produced in this region are considered to be at the heart of Italian cuisine. As well as a huge array of pasta dishes such as tortelli and tortellini stuffed with meat, cheese, vegetables and herbs, the region is also renowned for cured Langhirano and Parma ham, mortadella, Parmigiano Reggiano (genuine Parmesan), traditional balsamic vinegar and Lambrusco wine.

Most of the restaurants in the area provide simple fare. Often they don’t even have a menu – they just tell you verbally what is available that day, so if you don’t speak Italian there may be some degree of pot-luck! You will be offered an array of pasta choices as your ‘primo’– different shapes and types with various sauces: butter and sage (burro e salvia) is typical of the region, but also often on offer are mushrooms (funghi) or wild mushrooms (porcini) when in season, ragu’ (like Bolognese sauce) or cream (panna). After that, if you are still hungry you can have a ‘secondo’ – some simply cooked meat with a side order of chips/spinach/salad or similar. Pizza is usually only available on Fri-Sun evenings.

The wine of the region is Lambrusco. It’s red, fizzy, light and very drinkable, but if you really don’t fancy it, make sure you ask for vino rosso fermo (still red wine), or choose from the wine list, as the house red will almost always be the fizzy stuff.

Food museums
There are several gastronomy museums in the area, so if food is your thing, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

This site has information about food museums around Parma – the Parmigiano-Reggiano museum in Soragna, the Prosciutto museum in Langhirano and the Salami museum in Felino. There’s also a tomato museum in Collecchio, near Parma!

In Spilamberto, in the province of Modena, there’s a balsamic vinegar museum, open Tues-Sun.

For a heartfelt ode to Emilian cuisine, read this article on forbes.com.