Reggio Emilia is one of the cities that make up the heart of the Emilia Romagna region in Italy. It’s home to a number of interesting sights, and certainly the gastronomy plays an important role in Emilia Romagna’s cuisine as well. I’ve been to the region about eight times, but I’ve never had the opportunity to explore Reggio Emilia until last month.
I’ll have a number of more in-depth posts coming in the next few months on some of the exciting culinary riches of the region, but for now, I want to share some of the best eats and drinks we discovered in Reggio Emilia.
You may think of Parma when it comes to Parmigiano Reggiano, but Reggio Emilia, and the surrounding countryside, is home to a number of certified producers. We visited the hillside area of Bibbiano, which is often called the cradle of the Parmigiano Reggiano. The main industry in the region is Parmigiano Reggiano, so it’s an ideal place to go if you want to visit one or more cheese producers on your holiday.
Erbazzone is basically a savory pie made with spinach or other greens. It has its roots as a typical peasant food, but is commonly eaten all over the region today. Traditionally, Erbazzone includes the leaf of the white beet in the recipe, but you can easily find recipes without it. Other standard ingredients include egg, shallot, onion, garlic, and, of course, lots of Parmigiano Reggiano. Like many of the delicious eats you’ll find abroad, lard is an integral part of erbazzone’s signature flavor.
The first time I ever tried a Lambrusco wine was during the first Blogville project that was held in Bologna several years ago. We drank Lambrusco pretty regularly at events and dinners during my weeks in Emilia Romagna. It wasn’t until later that I learned of the less-than-stellar reputation it has in the United States. Many of the Lambrusco wines you find in the US today are cheap and sugar-laden. However, all of the Lambrusco wines I’ve had in Italy were far more complex and not suited only for a sweet dessert.
One of the events we were taking part in during our time in Emilia Romagna was the Terre Lambrusco Wine Awards. We were invited to the prestigious awards ceremony and assisted with presenting the winning certificates to the various wineries. I was blown away by the sheer number of producers of Lambrusco wines represented at the event.
We had a unique opportunity to sample a number of the award-winners, and met with a producer at their vineyards and winery the following day. It was quite impressive to see the number of different varieties of Lambrusco they grow and produce even at a small, family-run winery. There are about 60 clones of the Lambrusco varietal, and these are the major representatives:
- Lambrusco di Sorbara
- Lambrusco Grasparossa
- Lambrusco Salamino
- Lambrusco Marani
- Lambrusco Maestri
- Lambrusco Montericco
- Ancellotta – Not part of the Lambrusco varietal, but often used in Lambrusco blends.
We were surprised to find that Reggio Emilia is home to a number of craft beers. Brett wrote an entire post devoted to the craft beers he tried in Reggio Emilia. If you want to try some of the region’s locally produced options, check out Brett’s post on the craft beer scene in Reggio Emilia.
This relatively unhealthy snack is definitely worth a nibble or two — especially if you grew up around fried pork rinds like I did. Ciccioli are basically pressed cakes of fatty pork. They are made by compressing, drying, and aging fatty, leftover pieces of pork. The pieces are wrapped in sack cloth and a special press is used, which compresses the pork, squeezing out excess liquid. They can be served wet, but we tried the dry, crunchy, version which is known as Ciccioli Frolli Emilia Romagna.
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia
Despite researching gastronomy in Emilia Romagna, I was somehow completely unaware of balsamic vinegar being produced in Reggio Emilia. I have visited a balsamic producer in Modena and bought numerous bottles of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, but not from Reggio Emilia. Until now!
The traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia is made with grape must that has gone through a series of processes and is then aged in specific barrels made from juniper, cherry wood, mulberry, oak, and chestnut. It became a DOP product in 2000 and certified bottles will be labeled with a gold, silver, or lobster red label identifying their age.
Other Edible Delights from Reggio Emilia
One of the foods I heard about from Reggio Emilia was the traditional rice cake. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to try it this time, but I’m going to look into making it at home soon! Have you been to Reggio Emilia? What are your recommended eats?
This post is part of the #Blogville project in collaboration with the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board and iAmbassador, but as always, all opinions and calories gained are our own.