What to eat?
The spirit of a place dwells and prospers in all aspects of the culture it belongs to. Since Emilian culture has put the basis of its logic in a good nourishing meal, it becomes essential to pass through its cuisine to better understand the territory and the sense of everyday life.
Reggio Emilia people do not live on bread only, but also on gnocco and erbazzone. First of all, it’s necessary to use the correct words. No “focaccia”, no “pane”, but “lo gnocco”. A risen dough, sprinkled with pork fat before cooking, recommended to eat raw or stuffed with meat products. There is one version made in Reggio Emilia mountains (available starting from 500 meters above sea level) stuffed with sour cream. A reinforced recipe for the indomitable spirits of the Apennines.
The erbazzone is a pie instead, consisting of puff pastry stuffed with spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s covered with “lardo” (pork fat cream) before cooking, as they do with the gnocco. Also in this case, there’s a highlander recipe, stuffed not only with spinach but rice too. It’s immediately evident that Reggio Emilia cuisine is designed for intense physical activity (or intense naps).
At the restaurant
A dish of mixed meat products, together with gnocco fritto – a fried salty dough to eat hot – will be often offered as a starter. It doesn’t sound that much from the description, but words do not even come close to the lustful papillary joy of a slice of this precious food.
The first course of the Reggio Emilia cuisine is tortelli. It’s all about stuffed fresh pasta – either green pasta made from herbs or yellow pasta made from squash. Unlike their Parma brothers, the traditional recipe of our green tortelli do not include the addition of ricotta cheese inside the dough, just as for the yellow ones which absolutely do not take in consideration the addition of mustard – as for their Mantua brothers. Served with plenty of butter and Parmigiano Reggiano, this is the traditional dish of Reggio Emilia.
Now it’s the turn of cappelletti in brodo – always different from place to place, but more loosely regional than just typical from our city (do not call them “tortellini” otherwise nobody will understand you). It’s Sundays’ traditional food, stuffed with meat and poached in the broth, cappelletti are the best of classics.
Then, the main course is the bollito (boiled), served with sauces (green sauce first, sweet and sour made with garlic and parsley) and pickled borettane onions (top PDO product).
All abundantly doused by a glass of Lambrusco which is definitely not a fine wine, but with his sensual and extravagant scent, and his cheeky quip, it’s the perfect one to appease the temper of our audacious traditional flavors.
At the end of the meal, at the bakery or as a snack, Reggio Emilia traditional pastry have that “something” ambitious that once on your palate it turns out perfectly in line with the abundance of local taste.
The torta di riso (rice cake), sober and humble-looking, hides a triumph of eggs and vanilla, all creamy and captivating, that can make tremble the most famous puddings.
The zuppa inglese (trifle) isn’t really a foreigner … sponge cake, vanilla and chocolate cream along with a good liqueur (Alkermes) make a cake … that goes down smooth!
Now rare even in the city, the Stracchino della Duchessa (Stracchino of the Duchess), is a semi-frozen dessert made with mascarpone and a thousand of other ingredients (ladyfingers, dried fruit and chocolate chips) that, if it might happen to you to find it in some restaurants seasonal menus, you better not miss it!
A gift or a souvenir to take home to keep thinking about the trip to Reggio Emilia. What’s better than a flavor to throw back a beautiful experience to your mind?
So, the only flaw of a lump of Parmesan cheese is to last too little! In fact, once you get home it’s impossible to resist the temptation to devour it, slice after slice. From the 12 months of maturation – softer and intensely tasty – to the 24 and 36 months – the paste gradually becomes firmer and the taste becomes less salty and more aromatic. For the lovers: try the tosone, Parmigiano Reggiano slices not yet matured.
The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Reggio Emilia has been produced since the days of Matilde di Canossa’s father. Pay attention to the pronunciation because it’s essential to buy the original version of this famous polished seasoning, well-known all around the world. Aragosta (lobster), argento (silver) and oro (gold) are the three kinds to choose from.
You’ve probably seen them on the table of the restaurant and you’ve wondered about what they are. It’s ciccioli – pressed and fried pork. Wrap them up and take them home, and enjoy them when you need to compensate sad moments.
And after a meal you will need a glass of nocino! The local liqueur is made with nuts in a magic process: it’s necessary to gather nuts and brew them the night of St. John – summer equinox – witches and prophecies’ night! His miraculous power is only digestive, though.
Where to eat?
>> Puro reggiano
Via Roma 37, B
Closed on Wednesdays.
Tel: +39 0522 454196
Corso Garibaldi 24/D
Closed on Mondays.
Tel: +39 0522 431140
>> For those who go green
Osteria Ghirba, fair and organic food.
via Roma 76
Open every day at lunch time. From Wednesday to Saturday also for dinner.
Closed on Sundays
Tel: +39 320 288 3618
Interno TRE, vegetarian and vegan restaurant.
via Fornaciari 3
Open daily for lunch. Open from Tuesday to Saturday for dinner. Closed on Mondays.
Tel: +39 333 732 1715
via San Carlo 9/b
Open daily for lunch.
Tel: +39 0522 432631
Forno Stria, organic bread dough.
Viale Isonzo 48
Open for lunch from Tuesday to Saturday.
Tel: +39 0522 271250
>> Alternative traditional cuisine
via Campo Marzio 17/b
Closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Tel:+39 0522 454210
via Roma 43
Open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night.
Tel: +39 338.6329688
Tabarin Folk Osteria
Via dell’aquila 6
Closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Tel: 0522 437068
Viale Antonio Allegri 7
Closed on Sundays.
Tel: +39 0522 451300
>> Budget meals
Caffè Arti e Mestieri
via Emilia San Pietro 16
Tel: +39 0522 432202 (Lunch menu € 10.00)
Ristorante Le Notarie
via Aschieri 4
Tel: +39 0522 453700 (Lunch menu € 10.50)