Emilia-Romagna Restaurant Bliss

Chef Massimo Ratti & Musician Sergio Grazzini, PonteRosso Restaurant

As a food editor and writer, I’m convinced that Emilia-Romagna is home to the best food in the world. My family agrees. And so began the trip of a lifetime.

We spend a good portion of my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary trip at the fabulous Due Papaveri, a gourmet bed and breakfast where my husband Troy and I worked during our 10-week organic farm tour to launch this blog in 2010. We make pasta, tour Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto factories, enjoy the annual Benedello carnival, and eat together. We are nourished with each homemade bite.

Bonfiglio Winery

But it is our trip to Monteveglio that blows our minds. We know that we have to visit this food destination because it is highly recommended by my mentor, James Beard award-winning journalist David Rosengarten (I’m his editor), in his Forbes article on Emilia-Romagna.

Our adventure kicks off with a guided tour from vintner Bruno Azolini. Bruno welcomes us to his winery Bonfiglio with lunch and a tasting of his award-winning wines. We were giddy with excitement from Bruno’s hospitality.

Bruno, my parents, and me by the Bonfigilio sign

Now begins the ridiculousness. Bruno takes us to the restaurant PonteRosso. The larger-than-life chef, Massimo Ratti, opens his restaurant for us as a gesture of thanks for David’s article in Forbes, and a celebration of my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. Not only does he serve exquisite food, but he gives us a show that we will never forget.

Chef Ratti’s brilliance lies in his combinations. Savory and sweet. Traditional and creative. Food and art.

We are served a primi piatti of spinach, pear, and pancetta & smoked tuna with pineapple salads.

Next Chef Ratti serves not one, but two pasta courses. The first course features his mother’s handmade tortellini two ways–the traditional preparation in broth, and covered with his famous strawberry sauce over coffee grounds. The second course showcases his tortellini stuffed with ricotta and spinach, three ways–tomato and butter sauce, pea and coconut sauce with fried artichokes, and pear and mint sauce.

Each bite is more interesting than the last, but I must admit that I’m a traditionalist. I’ve never tasted better tortellini in broth.

The veal bolognese epitomizes Emilia-Romagna, with layers of tender veal, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and crispy prosciutto.

Veal Bolognese & lamb over spinach

At this point we think this night of indulgence is winding down, but it is just heating up. In walks Sergio Grazzini, a professor of music from the University of Bologna. He takes his place by the bass, and Chef Ratti tells us “a special night must include fine wine, food, music, and art.”

Before we know it, Chef Ratti is skillfully peeling and sectioning each piece of fruit in front of us, with his knife, TO SERGIO’S LIVE MUSIC! It is a superb dance of falling oranges, cascading sugar, and towering flames.

Cascading sugar

Sergio Grazzini on the bass

Towering flambé

And as my parents scoop each spoonful of this fruit flambĂ© into their mouths, Chef Ratti delivers an original poem “from Bill to Paula” for their 50th anniversary!

All of this, for strangers? I could not have planned a more spectacular celebration for my parent’s 50th anniversary if I tried.

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