If no one had told you this is one of the three or four finest places to eat in Parma, you might guess it anyway before even lifting a fork. In front of an interior window that looks from the dining room into the immaculate kitchen is a beautiful tableau of baskets, draped with linen and filled with house-made pastas. Perfectly ironed tablecloths tumble onto wood-framed chairs with upholstered backs and seats. Carts freighted with cakes, cheeses, and vinegars and other condiments sail across a polished terra-cotta floor. None of this would mean anything if it were tainted by fussiness or pretension. But La Greppia is not preoccupied with its good looks and doesn’t even ask to be thanked for attending to the details—the tip-off that this is a great restaurant. Chef Paola Cavazzini makes a point of hiring only women. (There are a lot of donne in Italian restaurant kitchens, but how many run them?) The trademark antipasto is pears poached in red wine with a dense Parmesan spuma, or mousse, whose only other ingredients are milk and cream. Borage lends its grassy flavor to semolina gnocchi the size of hazelnuts. Strawberry risotto—made with puréed fruit, onion, Parmesan, butter, and nothing else—sounds like a gag until you taste it. Goat in umido (slow-cooked in a covered pot with tomato and white wine) is served with buckwheat polenta. La Greppia is the kind of restaurant where you order one dessert, get four, and are billed for one. Make sure the torta bocca di dama, a crumbly-chewy confection that combines bitter-orange marmalade, meringue, almonds, and amaretti, is the one you order. The service is amazing. But you guessed that.
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