Trattoria del Tribunale,
Parma, Italy, tasted on March 24, 2004 — Walking through the
streets of Parma at night we really didn't know where to go for dinner.
We stopped in a wine bar but the smoke was so thick we thought we were
going to choke. It's so funny to me how a country that's so enlightened
about incredible flavorful food, can so aggressively kill their ability
to taste any of it by smoking like chimneys. Weird. Anyway, eventually
we happened upon a
small entry to
Trattoria del Tribunale. What we thought was a small restaurant
ended up being incredible
deep, and having a surprise second floor with
multiple dining rooms. Each entry way was an arch made of bricks leading
to rooms with
exposed rafters and beams.
We sat at our long table and started off with a plate of
bread and crackers. We knew better than to expect magic at this point in
the meal. And while the rolls were dry and floury, the slightly puffy
crackers were very crispy and surprisingly good. "Hey, what's that?
Salt? Nice to see you." From our previous experiences you would think
that putting salt in your baked goods was against the law.
First up was a salad. This was not just any salad. The
Insalata Rustica in Agrodolce was some traditional vegetables lace
with warm sautéed ham and onions. This was shockingly good! I loved the warm/cold
combination/contrast as well as the (now) salty oily yummy and crispy
vegetables. One of the dishes I was most surprised to see in Italy was
Anolini in Brodo - dumplings in broth, typically a rich and
delicious chicken soup. The consomme had a strong salty (in a good way)
flavor and was protecting a large flotilla of squat cheese-filled dumplings
Just after we finished our soup a plate of buttery
cheesy fluffy dumplings came by -
Tortelli di Erbetta. Yummy. I really enjoyed the
Tagliolini al Culatello. This pasta was beautiful to look at and had
a range of salty, savory, and bright flavors that I credit mostly to the
generosity of the ham chunks throughout the dish. It ended up a touch
greasy and I didn't care one bit. Super good.
Next up was
Picollo Gnocchi di Patate con Melanzane. These were really nice and
firm gnocchi - small gnocchi coated with a velvety cheese sauce studded
with chunks of eggplant. We also had a bowl of
squash soup. My notes said the waiter said the soup came with Orzo,
but it tasted like barley to me. Either way the soup was a good solid
effort with only slight sweet undertones. In the interest of full
disclosure, a lighter touch with sweeter flavors really is the right
balance for my particular palate. And this dish struck a great balance
in my opinion.
Super soft veal cheek in tomato sauce -
Guancialetti di Vitello alla Diavola - had a slight kick. The meat
was falling apart it was so soft and good. At first I thought the veal
Nodino di Vitello alla Griglia con Patate - was slightly dry and a
touch boring. But right after I'd made my judgment the waiter returned
with some olive oil to be distributed liberally over my veal. It made a
big difference. It's amazing how one key ingredient can have such an
effect on the flavor and texture of the dish. It was neither dry, not
boring. But now it was quite delicious, savory, and juicy. Three points
for olive oil.
We had two other steaks -
Tagliata di Manzo all'Aceto Balsamico which had good texture and
decent flavor though it was a touch oily; and
Filetto di Manzo alla Griglia which held its own. We also ordered
Involtino di Melanzane Asparagi e Formaggio. This combination of
cheese, eggplant, asparagus and other good stuff had a good meaty flavor.
But it was served at a psychotically hot temperature making it inedible
for a few minutes until it cooled down. We didn't mind munching on the
Patate al Forno on the side while it cooled. The potatoes were sweet
a tthe start, with soft insides, and excellent crispy outsides.
What better way to wrap up our meal than with some
Parmigiano di Collina made by Gennaio Giugno in 2000. The crunchy
chunks of cheese almost sparkled. There was also a tiny bitter undertone on
We were only in Emilia Romagna for a handful of days,
but after eating at this simple and delicious restaurant - Trattoria del
Tribunale - that we basically wandered into randomly, I couldn't help
but wonder how many other restaurants there were in this region that
were just as good, but I wouldn't have time to find. I'm thankful that
at least I got to eat at this one.