This morning we bid arrivederci to Monterosso, the Cinque Terre, and Liguria. It is difficult to say goodbye to a place that is so beautiful, and has initiated our understanding of the passion that is built into Italian cuisine and culture. We will trade the Ligurian Sea, the pesto and the focaccia for the Po River, the Parmigiano Reggiano and the Prosciutto di Parma. But first…
Culatello di Zibello. Most of us are familiar with Prosciutto di Parma, the famous cured Parma ham whose paper thin slices are some of the most delicious bites of food you will ever have the pleasure to eat. But a relative few of us know its cousin, the Culatello di Zibello, whose prominence is lessened in America only because it is illegal to import. But Italians know it as regal charcuterie, less abundant and more expensive than it’s more well-known cugino.
We arrive in the zone of Zibello, at the farm of Alfredo and his sons, Fabrizio and Amedeo. One of only 14 artisan producers of Culatello di Zibello, they have been producing culatelli since Alfredo’s father began the business many years ago.
To see and smell their cantina, where they age the culatello, is a true spectacle. And of course to taste it is an other-worldly experience. Rynn and Dave have known the family for about 8 years, and it is still one of our most anticipated visits of the year. For us, it is impossible to separate the artisan goodness of their culatello from their passion and family story. It is a reminder that this handmade product is worth waiting for, worth paying for, and worth seeking. There are many shortcuts in life; artisan culatello is not one of them. Count us among the people who are not disappointed that culatello remains in Italy, where it can remain artisan for a little while longer.
Departing the farm, we headed for our hotel in Parma. While Monterosso offered a quaint, family-run albergo, Parma will offer a modern hotel with all the conveniences, but enough character to feel at home. After a bit of rest, our guests received a unique culinary experience: choice! Dinner tonight was at a local ristorante where they could choose their own meal from an array of favorites from around Parma – capaletti in brodo chief among them. Everyone enjoyed the break from feasting…not to worry, tomorrow night shall bring another! And after a relatively early bedtime, we prepare to meet the King of cheeses very early in the morning!
Inspirational Note: Today we ate lunch at the Culatello farm around a long table that was twice as wide as our normal tables in the dining room at the house. We have been trying to decide if it is better to have larger, longer tables or smaller tables in the new Main Street location in Spring Grove. The long tables are really a great atmosphere and allow for the feeling of family around the table, which we love. Check out the pic we posted to our Instagram account and give us your feedback. You inspire us too, after all, so we would love to know what you think!