The Culatello Museum
A day on the Po: first a visit that ends at the tavern, then on the embankment on foot or by bicycle
What it is and where it is
These lands on the border between Parma and Piacenza are the home of the noblest cured meat, culatello di Zibello Dop, which reigns over a varied court of other sausages: from the spalla cotta of San Secondo, a favorite of Giuseppe Verdi, to a series of salamis with evocative names: gentile, cresponetto, mariola, strolghino... Culatello is unmistakable for its circular slice, uniformly red in color with thin inserts of fat; the flavor is sweet, delicately aromatic. Production covers Zibello and 7 other municipalities near the Po River (Polesine Parmense, Busseto, Soragna, Roccabianca, San Secondo, Sissa and Colorno).
Why it is special
A work of norcine art! As the name suggests, culatello is made from the finest portion of the pork leg and indeed for it to turn out the canonical 3-4 kilos it requires animals of exceptional floridity, the so-called 'fioroni'. The muscle is first soaked in a mixture of red wine and garlic, manipulated with salt and pepper, then left to rest for 10 days; this is followed by bagging in a bladder and spiral tying that determines the pear shape; for aging, 11 months at least, the climate of the Bassa is ideal, with necessary alternating fog and heat.
Not to be missed
The Culatello Museum was opened in 2018 inside the Antica Corte Pallavicina, a large farm that once belonged to the Marquises of Polesine. From room to room one comes into contact with the world of this salumeria of excellence that has its roots even in the world of the Celts. In the basement you visit the culatello 'vault,' where the precious salumi, already booked by the world's best restaurateurs and traders, await their big moment. Not forgetting, taken a stone's throw away, the live pigs, of the ancient black breed of Parma, raised in the wild in the shade of the oaks.
A bit of history
It all began in 1920 with a restaurant, "Al Cavallino Bianco," run by the Spigaroli family at the ferry landing on the Po. Well, from grandparents to grandchildren that osteria became, always under the same sign, a starred restaurant. Then, a stone's throw away, came the restoration of the Corte Pallavicina, now an exclusive relais, and finally the Culatello Museum, an expression of the house's excellent charcuterie production. The architects of the most recent fortunes are the Spigaroli brothers, Massimo and Luciano, people who, like Verdi and Guareschi, make us look at these places with admiration.
Once the fateful moment has arrived, the consumption of this noble cured meat presupposes the observance of a ritual: the culatello must in fact be loosened from the ropes and brushed under running water to remove any residual mold, then soaked in dry white wine for 2-3 days and only then freed from the casing for slicing, which must be thin, taking care then to grease the cut part and wrap it in a linen cloth.
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