In May we visited Italy and the theme of this trip was “chilometrezero” or “Km 0” for short. This is a trend in Italy that promotes the use of entirely locally produced products, not to be confused with the movie “Km 0” or the mile markers throughout the world. See the Wikipedia entry Chilometro Zero for more on this trend.
In the US, we might call this farm-to-table or extreme locavore, but Km 0 seems different.
First Stop: Osteria Chilometre Zero by Tom e Ciccio
This trip, we ate at the restaurant northeast of Reggio Emilia near the Autostrada called “Osteria Chilometre Zero by Tom e Ciccio”. See reviews and location here.
The directions using our iPhone map app took us within 1 Km, but not 0 Km. We ended up on a farm road that went nowhere (thanks, Siri.) Using our pre-iPhone skill of reading the actual signs on the road, we backtracked and followed the little white sign (clearly pointing the way in the opposite direction of what Siri said we should do) and found the place easily, except they apparently have recently renamed the restaurant, so the neon sign didn’t exactly match (it was actually a caricature of a Mexican guy advertising coffee – ??)
When we opened the car door after parking in the rear, we had a clue as to the extreme localness of the products based on the smell that made us think we had landed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, if you get my scent. Yes, fresh, locally produced pork products are the theme here. But there was much more to the menu on this day.
We had no reservation, and arrived about 8pm. We had no problem getting a table way in the back, but the other two open tables quickly filled up. The place might qualify as a “dive” in the US, but it was pleasant, friendly, and packed with locals. The staff spoke no English, and there is no printed menu. Instead, a chalk board gets parked next to your table, and you see the full menu of the day. Also on the board on the wall is the list of where exactly each item on the menu came from. We had no trouble interpreting the items with ample help from our cheerful waitress and our command of “restaurant Italian.”
The antipasti were an outstanding selection of salumi, lardo, and puffy fried bread. In this area of Emilia, the word for the puffy fried bread is cresciontini, but we had previously found them in the Romagna area to the east just called gnocco fritto. In any case, they were great with the meats. For the wine, we chose the local Lambrusco, which goes perfectly well with the somewhat fatty food.
The primi course consisted of three different ravioli dishes recommended by the waitress. One vegetable stuffing, one beef stuffing, and one cheese stuffing. All were better than what we’d had in a fancier restaurant in Bologna the previous day.
For secondi, we were a bit filled up, but dove in to maiale and manzo dishes. The freshness of the meat and the preparation of each were simple, but really good. We skipped dessert.
Next stop: Fattoria Montelupa near Città di Castello east of Arezzo, north of Perugia for some fresh cheese. Yum.
The owners moved 40 water buffalo to this part of Tuscany some years ago from near Naples, where Tuscany juts its finger way northeast up into Emilia Romagna. The buffalo seem to like it here just fine, versus the hotter climate in Campania. The farm has accommodated the buffalo with a low spot to wallow in the cool mud.
Our host explained that the buffalo don’t like stress, and produce the best milk when free from stress. Based on the taste and consistency of the resulting mozzarella product, we think these are pretty happy animals. The farm is outside of town, but there is a retail store in town. Whether it is because the cheese we tasted was made today from milk collected yesterday from a bunch of happy water buffalo, or because it is made with a different technique, the end result is a product that can’t get any better. We were fortunate enough to also have fresh ricotta made from the whey byproduct of the mozzarella process. The ricotta, too, was as good as it gets. Total distance from buffalo to table – about 300 meters.
Next stop: Il Ghiandaio
North of Città di Castello, a bit further east of Arezzo, but still in that little tip of Tuscany that juts up into Emilia-Romagna and Umbria, there is a tiny little store-slash-restaurant on the side of the highway. (Click here for a location map and reviews).
The proprietor of Il Ghiandaio is a man who takes his craft very seriously and produces his own cured meats to sell in his tiny store. The restaurant consists of a couple of tables in the yard next to the store. The store sits behind his house, just off the Autostrada, exit Pieve Santo Stefano (Nord).
We feasted on six types of cured meats (actually, I lost count) including the one he called the “eel” because of its shape and size. Also on the menu was the typical Tuscan crostini selection of green pesto made with celery leaves instead of basil, chopped liver, and a new one – fresh sausage, uncured, made on Monday (we were there Thursday). It tasted like tuna tartare – really different.
The pigs are raised nearby. Giuseppe Ferroni is the proprietor, but the pigs are raised by another farmer. Signore Ferroni is a master at making sausage, salami, prosciutto, and anything that can be done with pork. We highly recommend this man and his work. Distance from curing room to table – about 50 meters.
If you take a trip through Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, and Umbria, let us know if you visit these establishments!