Parma cuisine is legendary the world over, even if many people don’t know that the most famous Italian food products come from the city of Parma, Italy. There is more to eating in Parma than tracking down a handful of pasta dishes. It’s the perfect city for a person who travels for food to understand Italian food culture better. That’s why we created this Parma Food Guide.
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How To Visit Parma Italy For Food
In this Parma Food Blog, we share some of these most famous products and how to taste them. Also included are some of the top Parma dishes you must eat, including Parma pasta varieties. We also share some of the best places to eat in Parma, both in the city and through the region of Parma.
What you will learn in this Parma food blog post:
- What are the key traditional Italian food products that are from Parma? You’d be surprised how many famous foods come from Parma and the region. When it comes to Italy travel tips and advice, we always start with food.
- How to learn about and taste these classic Parma food products. This includes recommended food tours and experiences.
- What are the best restaurants in Parma, Italy to taste traditional Parma cuisine? Some of our favorite restaurants in Parma for traditional cuisine make it one of the best food cities in Italy.
What To Eat In Parma – Traditional Italian Food Products
From meat to cheese, the food in Parma Italy is legendary. These are just some of the Italian products you will see on a Parma restaurant menu. It’s also possible to book food tours and excursions from Parma to learn even more about these products.
How do I know so much about what and where to eat in Parma? Over the last decade, we’ve traveled to Emilia Romagna so many times we can’t keep track. We love the region so much that I wrote my first culinary travel guide to this gastronomic region.
Check out my book The Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna: How to taste the history and tradition of Italy, which goes much deeper than this post about how to make the most of a trip to Italy’s bread basket.
Prosciutto di Parma DOP
Walk around any small town in Italy, and you’re bound to come across a handful of shops with cured meat in the window. Walk in and look up. Chances are that large legs of ham will be hanging from the ceiling. More often than not, they will be stamped with a crown-shaped marking that bears a single word: “Parma.”
Eric’s go-to Italian snack food, Prosciutto di Parma, or more generally, Parma ham, has been around since Roman times. In 1996, the European Union conferred the DOP designation on Prosciutto di Parma meaning it’s a certified product. Similar to other DOP products, the production of Parma ham is highly regulated and limited solely to the area surrounding Parma.
The Parma Ham Consortium likes to say there are only four ingredients in Parma ham: Italian pigs, salt, air, and time. In reality, it’s only two ingredients, although air and time are also key components. Parma ham is made by curing a leg of pork with nothing but sea salt. This increases the tenderness of the meat and gives it a characteristic sweet flavor.
The Consortium dictates that Parma ham must be cured at least one year, which is timed from the date of the first salting—although it’s possible to have Prosciutto di Parma aged for as long as three years or more.
While reading a Parma menu at a restaurant look for the destination Prosciutto di Parma DOP. And, menus will generally include the number of months the prosciutto was aged.
Learn more in our guide to Parma Ham And Prosciutto Di Parma.
Traveling to Italy? Learn what to pack for an Italy trip.
Culatello di Zibello DOP
Culatello is often referred to as the King of Salumi. After learning about the production process, and the cost, it’s clear why. Although culatello has been produced for centuries in Emilia Romagna, it’s only recently received some notoriety outside of Italy.
Historically, prosciutto overshadowed culatello. The culatello regulations are more strict and it is, therefore, harder to produce than prosciutto. This makes culatello rarer. Demand outstrips supply, which increases the price.
Culatello is a more recently named DOP product, with its Consortium in operation for less than ten years.
There are only 21 producers licensed to make culatello, in less than ten locations along the Po River. It’s aged a minimum of ten months in a cave or a cantina, with exposure to the air and the fog of the Po River. As for taste, it is darker, drier, and stronger in flavor than prosciutto. And, it’s a must eat in Parma.
Coppa di Parma IGP
Coppa is a pork-neck salami. There are two types of coppa found in Emilia Romagna. The first is Coppa Piacentina DOP, from Piacenza, which is northwest of Parma. The second is Coppa di Parma IGP.
Coppa is made with a round cut of pork that runs from where the shoulder and neck meet to the ribs. The pork is either stuffed into a cow or a pig intestine, and flavored with salt, pepper, and other seasonings, often including cinnamon. It can also be seasoned with wine.
The meat is in an oblong casing, with a marbled white and deep red color. On a plate it might look a little similar to pancetta, but would be less soft, and less fatty. Similar to pancetta, there is also an art to slicing coppa, to ensure it is sufficiently thin.
This cured meat is for the brave and adventurous eater. Made from the remaining parts of a pig’s head, cicciolata can be an acquired taste. The meat from the pig’s head is boiled in water with a variety of herbs and spices. Served thin, it’s not the first cured meat most visitors to Parma seek out.
Almost every Parma restaurant menu will include a plate of cured meat and cheese as an option for a starter, or antipasto. Normally the platter will be served with what we refer to as “meat bread.”
There are different types of meat breads served across Emilia Romagna. In Parma, the platter will most likely be served with torta fritta, which is similar to gnocco fritto in Modena. It’s a deep-fried puff of pastry. Unlike other Italian cakes and pastries, this one is more savory without a hint of sweetness.
It’s served warm. Slice it open and pop in a slice of prosciutto. It will start to melt a little into the bread. So warm and tasty.
Must-Eat Pasta In Parma
There are a handful of pasta dishes that are must eat foods in Parma. Although it is possible to find ravioli in Emilia Romagna, it might be more common to see tortelli or anolini on a menu.
Nobody does stuffed pasta better than the Italians. This is the case with tortelli, a larger version of tortellini. Occasionally, tortelli can look like a ravioli due to its size, but don’t be fooled. You’ll find tortelli often stuffed with cheese and spinach (called tortelli d’erbetta) or with pumpkin in the fall.
Our stuffed pasta adventure continues with anolini. This smaller filled pasta is one of our favorites. It’s often stuffed with ground beef or pork, Grana Padano cheese, and nutmeg. During the winter months, look for anolini brodo, where the pasta is served in a broth.
Well known in Lombardy, marubini crossed the border into Emilia Romagna becoming a local favorite. The pasta can be shaped into round pieces or into half moons. Marubini is then filled with ground salami and braised beef with Grana Padano, an aged cheese similar to Parmigiano Reggiano.
The Best Parma Museums For Food Lovers
Because the food in Parma is so well-known worldwide by Italian food lovers, it is a great place to learn about Italian food. Although this can be done by visiting the city of Parma, some of the best ways to learn about Parma food culture is to visit one of the several Parma museums dedicated to food.
These museums are located in some of the smaller towns and villages within the province of Parma. They are all part of Parma’s Musei dei Cibo, or Museums of Food.
Museum of Parmigiano Reggiano in Soragna
In the town of Soragna, in the province of Parma, lies an entire museum dedicated to the history and production of Parmigiano Reggiano. Part of Parma’s Museo dei Cibo, it stands in a restored castle, where they once produced cheese. On display are artifacts that have been used to produce Parmigiano Reggiano in the five areas of Emilia Romagna. Learn more here.
Prosciutto di Parma Museum in Langhirano
The Ham Museum is in the heart of Langhirano, as part of the restored Foro Boario complex. The museum is home to eight different themed sections, highlighting photographs, historical documents, and machinery that tell the story of the breeds of pig used to make Prosciutto di Parma and the historic production techniques.
The museum also highlights the importance of the role of the Parma Ham Consortium. Learn more here.
Salami Museum in Felino
The Salami Museum in Felino is just south of Parma. Starting with the earliest document referencing salami, dated in 1436, the museum analyzes the history and tradition of salami in the region.
Uniquely, the Salami Museum discusses the history of butchery and the home production of sausages, which just doesn’t happen with prosciutto or culatello. Learn more here.
Parma Food Tours
Although I included recommended food museums that will help you learn about traditional Parma food products, by booking one or more food tours in Parma Italy, you can leave the logistics up to an expert.
A Parma food tour can help teach food travelers about how producers make the best prosciutto in Parma and how to taste the best Parma ham. They also will help you taste aged Parmigiano Reggiano and possibly visit a Parma winery.
Parma Restaurant Guide
Wondering where to eat in Parma Italy? Here are a few recommended places to eat in Parma with a focus on those that serve traditional Parma cuisine.
Ristorante La Forchetta
La Forchetta, in the center of Parma, offers a fine dining atmosphere inside, and a slightly more casual atmosphere on the patio. In Parma, they take their prosciutto seriously, and sometimes offer various ages for Prosciutto di Parma on one menu, including a 30-month-old Parma Ham. Other specialities include a soufflé of Parmigiano Reggiano and a tagliatelle with Cutello di Zibello.
Ristorante La Forchetta, Borgo S. Biagio, 6
Ristorante Gallo D’Oro
Part of the restaurant group Tipico a Tavola. Not quite a chain, but a group of restaurants that banned together in Emilia Romagna to focus on preserving the traditional cuisine of the region.
Gallo D’Oro, or golden rooster, offers a large closed-in patio overlooking the pedestrian-friendly street. Large platters of Prosciutto di Parma, served with warm and fluffy torta fritta, precede a trio of tortelli—offering the option to taste different versions including pumpkin, butter, and sage. A plate of only six tortelli seems small when it arrives, but fills the belly quickly.
Ristorante Gallo D’Oro, Borgo della Salina, 3
Antica Osteria della Ghiaia
A little more kitsch than the other Parma recommendations, but still reliable, even after over 60 years of continuous operation. They offer a simple two course menu with a pasta and a plate of mixed salumi and torta fritta for only €15. They pride themselves on their cappelletti in brodo, or be adventurous and order the horse tartare.
Antica Osteria della Ghiaia, Borgo Paggeria 12
Sorelle Picchi Trattoria Salumeria
Sorelle Picchi offers a prime location on the main shopping street of Parma, and although a little more expensive than options just a few blocks away, it’s a perfect spot for people watching in Parma.
Heavy on the truffles, antipasti include a red potato pie layered with cheese and truffles. Pastas include a fettuccine or risotto with truffles. Also on offer is a tasting of Parmigiano Reggiano, including cheese from three different kinds of cows, including mountain cows, plains cows, and the rare red cow.
Sorelle Picchi Trattoria Salumeria, Strada Luigi Carlo Farini, 27
Where To Eat Near Parma
There are also a few great restaurants outside of the Parma city center that are worth visiting. Both also offer rooms for overnight stays.
Antica Corte Pallavicina
Representing the Parma lowlands cuisine, one Michelin Star Antica Corte Palla Vicina lies on the banks of the Po River, almost into Lombardy. Famous for its historic wine and salumi cellars and award-winning culatello. Chef Massimo Spigaroli offers an impressive tasting menu, which changes with the seasons. This is a restaurant worth driving to.
Hostaria da Ivan
With a dining room overlooking a small garden, the menu specializes in local, seasonal cuisine, including roasted meats and potatoes. They also offer some more innovative versions of local dishes. Hostaria da Ivan is known in Parma for offering the world’s first Salumi Therapy, which focuses on the ritual of the salumi. The owner, Ivan, is a character in his own right.
FAQS – WHAT AND WHERE TO EAT IN PARMA ITALY
Absolutely! Parma is part of the holy trinity of food cities in Emilia Romagna. It’s a pretty little city, with tons of shopping, and of course all of the great Parma restaurants!
We really like Emilia Cremeria in Parma on Luigi Carlo Farini. It’s a local chain, but they make artisan gelato. As for a bit of warm chocolate in the bottom of your cone for a real treat
The area surrounding Parma is known as the “Food Valley” because it is home to so many top Italian products, including Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Culatello di Zibello, and other products. Similarly, Modena is known as the Motor Valley for all of the luxury car producers that are headquartered there.
Culinary Travel To Italy
Our Italy Travel Experience
Check out Food & Drink Destinations original founder Amber Hoffman’s book, the Food Traveler’s Guide To Emilia Romagna, which is available on Amazon. In addition to being a culinary travel guide to the region, it walks through how many of the typical Italian food products are made, like mortadella, prosciutto, and Parmigiano Reggiano.