Founded by the Romans, devastated by the Goths and resurrected by medieval noble families, this elegant Emilia Romagna city flourished due to its location on a natural commercial artery, the Po River. The 16th century Pope, Paul III, gave the town another boost to glory, declaring his son Duke of Parma and Piacenza. In front of the porticos of the 13th century Gothic marvel,Palazzo del Pubblico, bronze statues of Farnese dukes on horseback inspired the piazza’s namePiazza dei Cavalli.
The presence of a Papal court is a guarantee of wealth: by the 18th-century, three hundred patrician families had settled into their luxurious palazzi piacentini. As you stroll through Piacenza – passing one elegant palace courtyard entryway after another – you can almost hear the clatter of carriage wheels on cobblestones as elegant coaches returned home…
But porticoes grace not only Piacenza’s noble courtyards and medieval city hall: there were some in the dining room ofOsteria Carducciwhere we headed to savor somespecialita’ piacentine.Pisarei e faso’is one such dish, in which thepisarei– tiny gnocchi made with breadcrumbs and flour – are married to a sauce ofborlottibeans (fagioli, orfaso’inpiacentinodialect). A signature dish of the region’scucina povera, farm women would have used lard (from the family pig) in the sauce but the Osteria cook added a touch of pancetta.
Our young waitress, Antonella (daughter of Sicilian immigrants – so the connection with Pino was immediate) helped resolve the dilemma: a small portion (ha!) of the pisarei for antipasto and then the tortelli afterwards. Both dishes were feasts for the palate – and the tortelli, also for the eye: tortelli piacentini are braided!
Co-owner, Giulian (from Albania, though he grew up in Piacenza), served us cafe’ but made sure we tried at least a taste of thesbrisolanabefore leaving. Fromsbriciola(crumb), thesbrisolana’s crumbly goodness was the prefect topping for a day ofpiaceri piacentini.
An Umbrian tour guide in Italy most of the year, Anne also teaches Umbrian rural cuisine in private homes in the U.S. in February and March (seewww.annesitaly.com/Cooking.html)…and lectures. Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970′s and rural life, rural people, rural cuisine areuna passionefor Anne. She writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Seewww.annesitaly.comfor more on her tours, cooking classes, lectures – and her blog! Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment she and Pino now rent out!