During the days of the Parma fair, many people ask us where you can find local delicacies in the city, where you can have a “gourmet rest-stop”, basically. Fortunately, there are many places where you can enjoy excellent quality traditional food, with varying price levels, but for that, we would draw your attention to our general article on food in Parma. There are also places to enjoy dinner in a camper rest-area, of which more later.
If instead you are looking for small restaurants where you can have a swift lunch as you visit the city, or enjoy an excellent chalice of wine before you leave, here are our recommendations, obviously based on personal experience. So are you ready to follow us on our tour of the historic city centre with maybe a brief detour beyond as well?
A Gourmet rest-stop at Parma in the city centre
- Pepèn: let’s put it this way, “you cannot come to Parma without stopping in this small historic restaurant in Borgo Sant’Ambrogio, ten feet from the central Piazza Garibaldi” Everyone in Parma knows and recognises it, particularly popular on Saturday afternoons for a snack before dinner. It is quite common to see people queuing up to get in!
The Gourmet rest-stop: you must not miss out on the artichoke, the white wine cold cuts or the filled sandwiches, and when in season, the cotechino sandwich, all washed down with a bottle of Lambrusco or Malvasia. You might have to wait to taste the artichoke however, it is extremely popular!
- Enoteca Fontana: another historic corner of the pedestrianised centre in Strada Farini, under the arches. 300 metres from Piazza Garibaldi, this is one of the most popular places for a Saturday aperitif.
The Gourmet rest-stop: Here we are in a winery, so you will find a wide range of wines and beers served with cold cuts and cheese.
- Frank Focaccia: again in Piazzale San Lorenzo, this restaurant is very popular with younger customers, also at lunchtime.
The Gourmet rest-stop: the name tells you what the place serves, little freshly-made focaccine that fly off the shelves! In fact, we recommend their focaccine with horse-pesto sauce (minced horsemeat is a Parma speciality, eaten raw with oil and lemon), or with spinach and bacon – it is definitely worth it.
A suggestion: if you are hungry, order at least two or three, they are freshly-made and so you could wait a while for your order to arrive.
- Ombre Rosse: this restaurant in Borgo Giacomo Tommasini, again near Strada Farini, is an excellent venue of long standing and well-known in the city. Apart from dinner and lunch menus, you will also find an excellent wine list of wines from across Italy, which you can also buy to take home.
The Gourmet rest-stop: you can stuff yourselves with tapas or excellent cold cuts, that are also served with slices of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Please note: vegetarian dishes are also available here.
Sosta Gourmet in Oltretorrente
Moving away without leaving the city centre, we cross the Parma river via the Ponte di Mezzo, and we are in the historic Oltretorrente zone of the city.
The local phrase “Pràmzan dal sas” (a Parmesan of the stone) is used to indicate a “pure” Parmesan, that is born within the ancient walls of the city. It is believed that the first such populated zone was here in Oltretorrente, where the houses are simple in style and people spoke the local dialect.
For your Gourmet rest-stop, we recommend two places in particular.
- Osteria Oltrevino: in Borgo Pietro Cocconi, halfway along Strada D’Azeglio, in the university area, and open from 18:30. It offers a wide range of books and wines, but often you can listen to live music, which we guarantee you will enjoy. The friendliness of the staff and their knowledge of wines and beers made this place unique.
For your Gourmet rest-stop: a wide range of organic and natural wines and beers, served alongside excellent quality dishes made with prized local products. This is not your standard place to enjoy Parma ham with some Lambrusco.
- Osteria da Virgilio: again off Strada D’Azeglio in Borgo Inzani, this small venue prides itself on the care with which its food and wines are prepared..
For your Gourmet rest-stop: excellent cold cuts and cheeses (Parmesan and otherwise), and local Parmesan dishes. All the ingredients are hand-selected by the “ciurma”, as the owners like to call themselves. The wine list features many natural and organic wines as well.
Your vegetarian and vegan Gourmet rest-stop at Parma
Leaving the city centre beyond the train station, we find a special restaurant that was probably the first in Parma of its type. We recommend it specially for people with special dietary needs, or who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
- Apriti Sesamo: a lively organic venue in Via Giancarlo Rastelli (off Via Trento, the road that leads directly from the city to the motorway). Here you do not just eat, you dive into a food experence, made even better by the professionalism of the staff, and the fresh prime ingredients used.
Gourmet rest-stop: Aside from the vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu. You can also enjoy a gluten-free pizza (but not every day, please check their website first).
Not far from the city centre, and easily reached on foot, we recommend
- Bistrò O’Vita: at 71 Strada Farini (opposite Orto Botanico) this long-standing franchised chain offers vegetarian and vegan fare.
The Gourmet rest-stop: a quiet and well-cared for environment, it is perfect not just for those who follow these specific diets, but anyone who wants to enjoy a light and healthy meal during your visit to the city.
These are just a few of the many many restaurants available, but we recommend them for the varied and valid dishes they offer for a Gourmet rest-stop in Parma. Please remember that you can easily enjoy Parma by bike, which we strongly recommend if you want to enjoy the historic places and areas just beyond the city centre.