It is perhaps somewhat superfluous to tip a restaurant that is already mentioned by Michelin. The restaurant is also not particularly cheap. Yet a recent visit to the Stella d’Oro in Soragna (not far from Parma and a dozen miles off the autostrada) convinced me that a tip would not be misguided.
The first visit a couple of years ago had left a different image. The dining space had been filled with tables and with customers of a bourgeois kind. The menu was basically classical en only the provision of wine was outstanding. Since then I had economized and eaten in the traditional surroundings of my favourite hotel, the Locanda del Lupo, in the same city.
Now, wanting to end my stay in Italy on a high note (and salute the area that has given us Stendhal) I decided to try the Stella d’Oro again. My partner and I were received by the cook Marco Dallabona and shown to a table in the courtyard, fully sheltered against sun, rain and pigeon droppings by an enormous Veronese awning. Under this white shroud only two other guests were tasting their wine. We tried the risotto, perfectly made. And spent the necessary waiting minutes for risotto over the cook’s invention: an antipasto of raw fish and ripe fruits. We tasted some pigeon livers saltata in padella, and finished off with a fluid sorbetto, in the true Marcella Hazan way only a mixture of berries and ground ice.
The wine was a perfect sparkling Malvasia, from the small hills behind Parma. The mineral water a delight.
So there was every reason to revisit my judgment. I frankly told Marco of my earlier doubts. He suddenly, as Italians are able to do, turned into a human being, after having been fully professional. He did not know what was happening to Soragna. He was worried.
Indeed some of the old shops had disappeared. The lady of the Lupo agreed with me. Un mondo sparisce: a world is disappearing, she said.
Be in time.