Forget the pastas at this salumeria-trattoria (you have to pass through the shop to reach the dining room) and build a relatively simple, for once not ridiculously rich, lunch of fine-grained Felino salami—named for the nearby village where it is produced—and torta di erbe, a savory tart covered with pastry and filled with sautéed spinach, Swiss chard leaves, and/or beet greens. According to Lynne Rossetto Kasper, author of The Splendid Table, the standard work in English on the cooking of Emilia-Romagna, Parmesans believe the hay- and grass-scented air in Felino is responsible for the salami’s elegance. It’s a romantic idea. 27 Via Farini; 39-0521/233-528; lunch for two $72.
Croce di Malta
Say you knew some stylish, young, design-conscious Parmesans. And say they’d just redone an old farmhouse outside the city. Their eat-in kitchen might look like Croce di Malta. The concise menu (supple tortelli, fragile polpettine, silky Bavarian cream) changes daily. 8 Borgo Palmia; 39-0521/208-681; lunch for two $86.
You could eat breakfast at this historic, aristocratic landmark every day for three months and never have the same pastry twice. Like all Italians, the Parmesans like their cornetti filled with just a scraping of preserves. Most places offer apricot and stop there; the day I was at Torino, it had apricot, peach, strawberry, black cherry—and blood orange. If it’s mid-morning or later, it’s nice to chase all that sugar and fruit with a half-dozen or so chic little sandwiches, made with glazed brioches and barely spread, say, with anchovy paste. It takes a while to get the hang of eating off a plate with a fork while standing in the middle of the shop. Once you do, you’ll feel like a regular and part of the scene. 61 Strada Garibaldi Giuseppe; 39-0521/235-689; breakfast for two $6.
Parmesans take the pulse of their own city at this hectic institution, where the cheap nibbles are strangely better than the panini you pay a lot more for. If all you know of Lambrusco, Emilia-Romagna’s most famous-slash-notorious wine, is disco-era Riunite, Fontana will bring you up to speed. One revelation is that Lambrusco doesn’t have to be nauseatingly sweet (though it always has at least a gentle, frizzante degree of sparkle). A well-made secco is pungent with fruit and teasingly earthy. 24 Via Farini; 39-0521/286-037.
Cheese and More
Casa del Formaggio
Parma has an embarrassment of remarkable shops selling salumi, Parmesan, and prepared foods. You’ll never see a tourist in this one. 106 Via Bixio; 39-0521/230-243.
Christopher Petkanas is a T+L special correspondent.