Porcini, Balsamico and Ferrari. I have given you a great clue…do you know where I am? After a wonderful stay on the Ligurian Riviera, we are heading north to the Emilia-Romagna Region. The area is best known for Parmigiano Reggiano, Balsamico Tradizionale, Prosciutto di Parma and the Ferrari automobile and formula one racing car factory established by Enzo Ferrari. After a drive through the Apennine Mountains on the main road to Parma, we stopped in the small mountain town of Berceto and had lunch at the Ristorante Da Rino.
The prominent ingredient on the menu is fresh porcini mushrooms.
We had a wonderful homemade pasta stuffed with sweet potato and topped with porcini mushrooms sautéed in butter.
Our second course was tender veal sautéed with white wine, lemon and porcini. The restaurant is a local landmark for traditional food and it did not disappoint in either the food or the service. Back on the road, we headed to our destination of Reggio nell’ Emilia. It’s a lovely town with ancient walls and 16th and 17th century buildings. Many of the streets are restricted to pedestrians and bikes only. I like to call it a city of bicycles. You see men in suits and women in dresses and heels riding the streets on the bikes.
The Hotel Posta is where we chose to stay. This is our second stay at this small charming hotel in the center of town. It has been a hotel since 1515, making it one of the oldest in Italy. The hotel is centrally located for touring the rolling countryside dotted with castles as well as the cities of Parma, Modena, Bologna and Maranello. You can arrange visits to cheese and prosciutto factories, farms that produce balsamic vinegar in the traditional way, or tour the Ferrari museum and factory. With our love of cars, it is not hard to figure that our first trip was to the town of Maranello and the Ferrari museum and factory.
We toured the museum and then did a bus tour through the factory and race track. My husband had the biggest grin on his face as it was very interesting. After the tour we walked over to Restaurant Cavallino opposite the main gate of the Ferrari factory. Not only are they known for their very good food but there is racing memorabilia throughout the restaurant giving it a nice atmosphere.
We started with a frutti di mare and a flan of spinach and carrot topped with parmesan and balsamic vinegar.
We both had fish for our second course, a branzino crusted with rosemary potatoes and a monkfish in cherry tomato and olive sauce.
Naturally one must have dessert when traveling. We shared an outstanding semifreddo topped with dark chocolate and caramel that sat on a sabayon sauce. Needless to say it was worth every calorie.
The next day, Umberto Sidori, the owner of the Hotel Posta invited us to his family home and farm known Cavazzone.
There the family operates a country restaurant with six rooms. They raise their own pork as well as produce balsamic vinegar by the traditional method. Before dinner, we climbed to the top of the barn to the vinegar room where the aroma of balsamic vinegar was incredible.
Umberto explained that the time consuming process of producing true balsamic vinegar takes anywhere from 8 to 30 years. The vinegar starts out in large barrels and each year it is moved to smaller barrels. This is because the vinegar evaporates and concentrates each year. If you have never had the opportunity to taste true balsamic vinegar (not what we buy in the supermarket), please try to find a small bottle in a gourmet store. It is expensive…use it sparingly and you will have a wonderful experience. We then went into the family restaurant that serves typical food of the region. We started with a fried spinach cake.
Umberto said the recipe has been in his family for generations. It was so good that we ate half before we remembered to take a photo. Our second course was pasta with porcini mushrooms. Our main course was farm raised pork roasted in balsamic vinegar served with cippolini onions and potatoes.
I can’t wait to try to recreate some of these fabulous dishes when we are back home. The Emilia – Romagna Region is a foodie paradise. If you are in Italy, be sure not to miss it.