What: This melt-in-your-mouth world-famous prosciutto comes from the rear haunches of specially raised pigs, who in turn come from a precisely defined region centering, of course, around Parma. Prosciutto di Parma is another centuries-old, consortium-overseen delicacy subject to strict rules. In a brilliant example of recycling waste to delicious effect, the pigs are fed a diet of cereal grains mixed with whey from the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano, which also hails from here. The all-natural meat is salt-cured at small prosciuttifici following carefully controlled traditional methods—it gets sea-salt rubdowns, hangs lazily in the breeze, hides out in a cellar—for at least 400 days, before quality is assured via a good old-fashioned olfactory test: According to the consortium, an inspector pierces each and every Parma ham at five points in order to sniff and approve of the aroma (about 4% of hams are rejected; the rest get fire-branded as authentic). What to make of this meticulous labor of love? All we can do is eat up and say grazie to tradition.
Where: All over Emilia-Romagna, you’ll find plates of thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma on offer. Our picture is from Caffetteria Giusti (059-219132; Via Farini 83) in Modena, where a local insisted we order a plate at the bar during aperitivo and then demonstrated how to eat it—by wrapping the toothsome meat around crunchy grissini, or breadsticks, as if using a single, edible chopstick.
When: Mon-Sat, 8am-11pm
Alternatively: In Parma, we had a lovely salumi misti plate of prosciutto di Parma with pancetta and salami at Osteria XX Settembre (0521-385594; Via XX Settembre 8, map); at Gallo d’Oro (Borgo della Salina 3, map), you can have your prosciutto di Parma with torta fritta, the puffy fried bread that’s a common accompaniment to the meat. Or, as with mortadella, you can buy it from a shop and have it sliced—in Parma, check out Salumeria Corrieri (Borgo Piccinini 43121, map) and the drool-worthy bounty at popular Salumeria Garibaldi (Via Garibaldi 42, map).