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5. Not Cheesy

All is arranged...

sunny 70 °F

Parma, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Sunday, April 9, 2017

6f203650-2e43-11ea-8553-0930382aa034.jpgAfter a nap, we are off to Osteria del Gallo D/Oro where reservations have been made for us in advance. The restaurant is a ten minute walk from the Hotel de la Ville. Along the way we see that Parma Ham is a favorite retail opportunity. There is lots of it for sale. First, though, some antipasto and a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafe and a walk around Center City. Parma is warm, friendly, bustling on this Sunday evening and, well, just right. 6fc92080-2e43-11ea-a19e-35068134e7c2.jpg6fc3f060-2e43-11ea-9715-29534401c373.jpg6f1512c0-2e43-11ea-a3c7-a913fa34bebd.jpg

Our reservations at Osteria del Gall D/Oro are at eight and we are expected. I inquire as to whether or not my Visa Card is accepted and the proprietor lets us know that our meal is compliments of Academia Barilla.

Our menu is pre-selected for us: We begin with a Parmagiana and pumpkin flan with sesame seeds. Then it is papardeli pasta with meat source and risotto with Parma Ham rosette. Next, bread and parmesan and egg stuffed veal with parmesan sauce and roasted potatoes. Last, dessert of a zabaione mousse and lemon sorbet. Oh, my. Sarah, our server, was the only one of the staff who spoke English. It was a delight.

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The restaurant opened at seven; guests were still arriving to sit down for dinner at ten. The place was, mostly, full on this Sunday evening. There is a bit of everyone here. French, Italian and English are being spoken. Young, older, interracial, gay, elegant, not so elegant; all hungry and happy to be here.

Parma, Italy; once sacked by Atilla the Hun, once gifted by Pope Paul III to his illegitimate son, once bombed by The Allies when occupied by Nazis, this week hosts B4 and yours truly.

Why? We are winners (read that as the couple willing to pay the most) of a Make-A-Wish charity auction prize generously donated by Maggiano's (a unit of Brinker International and one-time employer of my daughter Megan) and hosted by Academia Barilla, we have been amazed by the intricate planning and gracious attention paid to our upcoming week by our multiple hosts.

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Home to fewer than 200,000 residents, an outsized number of them pensioners such as myself, Parma has been discovered by foreigners who have begun to move here. Italians make up 85% of the population but Europeans from Moldova, Romania, Albania and Ukraine are moving in. The average high temperature is 63 degrees and we expect that during our April stay. Next month, it will be ten degrees warmer.

Most will likely know Parma from its gastronomical renown. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (Parmesan in English) Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham) and an abundance of tortelli d'erbetta and anolini in brodo. Barilla Corporation is a major citizen along with one other multinational, Parmalat.

Barilla "Perfect Pasta in 60 Seconds" was founded 140 years ago by Pietro Barilla and his brothers using local durum wheat to make pasta to feed Italians and, ultimately, the world. Along with pasta, family owned and operated Barilla produces sauces, bread, cookies and breadsticks. Today, Guido, Luca and Paulo Barilla run the company that boasts here the largest pasta factory in the world producing 1,000 tons of the stuff every day. There are 27 other plants around the world but none in the United States. Sales are over 3 billion dollars. Barilla brags about things I value: diversity, inclusion, sustainability, environmentalism and health using the slogan, “Good For You, Good For The Planet.”

But the Barilla road hasn’t always been a smooth one. In 2013, company president Guido Barilla said he favored “traditional” families and would not use same-sex couples in advertising. Boycotts ensued and Barilla backtracked. Now, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has awarded Barilla a top rating after it earned perfect scores in the eight categories HRC evaluates ranging from prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity to offering health coverage to same-sex partners and transgender employees. They get applause from me for admitting they were off base and doing something—a lot actually—about it. Times change even if pasta doesn’t.

We have a big day tomorrow. Stay tuned while we ham it up in Parma. (You must have seen that line coming...)

Posted by paulej4 08:17 Archived in Italy

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