Parma’s best restaurant is inserted in a hotel so plain and weirdly located (on the far side of the ring road that wraps the city) you can’t believe you’ve got the address right. Believe it. Cocchi is supercivilized without even seeming to try. The professional waitstaff, also with no obvious effort, attend to a clientele of Italian businessmen, neighborhood dads out with their teenage spawn, and loud Americans. Strolghino, a skinny salami made from lean leg meat, is carved tableside, swaddled in a linen napkin. Strolghino’s extreme tenderness, delicateness, and near resemblance to fresh, raw sausage meat is a result of just 15 to 20 days of curing. But what you’re really here for are the rice preparations, savarin and bomba di riso. The first tops Parmesan- and risotto-filled envelopes of cooked ham with veal polpettini and porcini ragù. To make a “bomb,” pigeon is marinated, braised, and deboned; hidden and layered inside a rice-lined dome; and baked. Whether or not the province of Parma reaches its culinary apotheosis with this dish has been debated since the 16th century.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.