In Italy, apart from Michelin-starred restaurants, there are also old-fashioned yet popular restaurants that locals love to visit, though they are no less difficult to get a table. Centered around Milan, we drove to a number of “hard-to-book” trattorias in the surrounding towns and ran into many delicious encounters.
Trattoria Ostreria Fratelli Pavesi
The location is about 20 minutes from the center of Piacenza. Walking through the gravel entrance (preferably with flat shoes) you will be greeted by the famous Ostreria Fratelli Pavesi (Three Pavesi Brothers).
Overlooking a 20-century large courtyard typical of the Bassa Padana area, the building that houses the restaurant used to be a rural cooperative. The concept is simple: classic dishes, deceptively simple but in fact very refined with great emphasis to seasonality.
The name of the restaurant (a play on the word “osteria”) refers to the Italian word for three (“tre”) brothers who share the work in the kitchen and front of house.
The Pavesi brothers run the restaurant with their respective talents: Giacomo speaks good English and has spent some time in Taiwan and Japan, and he knows about hospitality, wine and humour; Pepe is in charge of the kitchen and Camillo is responsible for the commercialisation of the restaurant’s products such as canned pickled vegetables.
Giacomo’s study in local Coppa Piacentina ham is worth mentioning. You can also find a variety of handmade pasta dishes, such as spaghetti with venison sauce, or rabbit ravioli with veal breast and Madeira wine sauce, so rich and delicious that it’s hard to decide which one to order. It would be nice if you can come with four or five people.
Here is a recipe that has almost disappeared from Piacenza: la bomba di riso col piccione (pigeon rice bomb), which is a real rarity. Perhaps it is the combination of morel, pigeon and red onion that gave it the texture of a rice cake. (Risotto is fried or slow roasted until the outside crunches between the jaws like crispy rice.)
Giacomo has a wonderfulwine cellar. In addition to being a Burgundy fan, he stores a wide variety of interesting wines from Italy and France, some also at affordable prices.
It was difficult to choose a main course—we finally decided to order the grilled sturgeon with seasonal vegetables. Italy is well known for caviar production, although it’s not the most sought-after place of origin. The local sturgeon was firm and plump: outstanding for the pairing vegetables and mushrooms and concentration of flavour. Initially I was worried if the sturgeon would be fishy, but it was surprisingly exquisite and umami.
Giacomo joked that we could have lunch until 7 in the evening. We left at around 5pm and drove back to Milan in an hour. To be honest, if the weather had been cooler, staying until 7pm would have been pretty easy.
Trattoria Ai Due Platani
Located just 20 minutes from the center of Parma, Ai Due Platani serves one of the best traditional cuisine of the Emilia Romagna region. The historic and welcoming décor and a local cuisine based on the territory are the characteristics that have always distinguished Ai Due Platani.
Ai Due Platani’s philosophy is evident in its freshly made pasta, cured meats from small artisan producers, dishes prepared in an authentic way, and a well-thought-out wine list. In addition to fresh and stuffed pasta, recipes based on farmyard meat and game are also translated with high standards.
In Italy, every city has its own pasta dish. In Coloreto, you can taste the famous tortelli dei Due Platani, which has been on the menu since 2005, and a dish almost everyone who sits down at the restaurant would wait in line to order.
Starting with a variety of salumi served with hot gnocco fritto (puffed, golden, diamond-shaped fried dough), which is meltingly good as the dialogue between fat and thin sublimated into irresistible pleasure. Next up was the unforgettable tortelli with summer cherry and ricotta or the traditional tortelli with herbs, with a thin wrapping and a generous, well-balanced filling. Green handmade spaghetti with guinea fowl stew and chanterelles was al dente and aromatic. The quail risotto was a wonderful combination of gravy and rice. The main course was no less impressive, succulent roast pork shoulder was coupled with apples, baby potatoes and sweet and sour brandy sauce. If you’re a pasta lover like me, consider sharing the main course may be a good idea.
Ai Due Platani is undoubtedly one of the best kitchens in the area; the food is of superb quality, including the finale of the meal— homemade gelato creamed with an authentic “Carpigiani” from 1964, caramelised hazelnuts and other spirits from Alba, served from a trolley by the gelato chef. The only problem is that it is always full, especially for dinner, so you need to book weeks in advance.
Ai Due Platani is a place that has a vocation for hospitality in its DNA; and we are talking about the first half of the last century—it offered refreshment and shelter in times of war. The Trattoria ai Due Platani, born with the name Belvedere in the 1920s, took its current name in 1935 when the then owner Carlo Schianchi planted these two wonderful plane trees in front of the restaurant to celebrate the birth of his son. Different names took over the management after him.
Since November 2005, Giancarlo Tavani, Gianpietro Stancari and Mattia Serventi carry on the history of the restaurant. Feeling the deep-rooted urge to protect the history and techniques, they believe it is their greatest responsibility to preserve the tradition of the restaurant as one of the landmarks in the Parma region. The dishes speak for themselves and, without doubt, speak of the heritage they have carried with them all along.
Ostreria Fratelli Pavesi
Address：SS45, 8, 29027 Gariga, Podenzano PC, Italy
Telephone : 39-0523-524077
Ai Due Platani
Address：Strada Budellungo, 104/a, 43123, Coloreto PR, Italy
Telephone : 39-0521-645626