Tosone, the fresh expression of Parmigiano Reggiano

tosone what is parmigiano reggianoAfter being stuck for the night at Malpensa airport outside of Milan on Monday, chef Steve made his way Tuesday via rail to Parma where I picked him up and we headed out for a day of winery visits and overeating.

Our last visit of the day was with Alicia Lini, a good friend of mine and producer of some of my favorite Lambrusco. She graciously treated us to dinner at Gioco dell’Oca (Game of the Goose), one of her local standbys, a stone’s throw from the winery.

The salumi and gnocco fritto were impeccable, of course. But the dish that really captivated our table was tosone con funghi porcini (above).

The word tosone comes from the Latin tondeo meaning to shear, clip, or shave.

In northern Italy, a tosa or a toso is a girl or a boy, names owed to the fact that in another era, girls were expected to keep their hair short before marriage and boys weren’t expected to grow beards until manhood. A tosa or toso is someone who is shorn or tonsured.

In Emilia, tosone (the augmentative form of toso) refers to Parmigiano Reggiano trimmings. As the newly made cheese is shaped into the familiar wheel (forma), the rubbery excess is reserved and consumed as a fresh cheese.

Some cheesemakers sell it (see here, for example). And traditionally, it was given to children to munch on.

Last night at Gioco dell’Oca, the chef fired tosone in a hot pan together with sautéed porcini. The resulting dish (above) resembled Friuli’s frico.

It was outstanding… the hit of the night among other delights.

erbazzone erbette recipe emiliaAnother favorite of the evening was the erbazzone, the savory Swiss chard and Parmigiano Reggiano pie of Emilia, where the leafy green is known as erbette.

Although chef Steve and I have been working together at his restaurant Sotto in LA for more than four years now, he and I haven’t been back to Italy together for more than two decades.

We’re only one day into the trip and it’s already been a blast to return to Emilia together as grown-up food and wine professionals.

Last night, we were joined also by our mutual friend Dindo (whom Steve has known since childhood and I’ve known since our college years).

That’s Dindo (below, left) with chef Steve and Alicia in the Lini balsamic vinegar aging room at the winery.

Thanks to everyone for all the wishes for Steve’s new downtown LA restaurant and the new wine program we will be launching there this fall.

Stay tuned: chef and I are about to hit the Lambrusco and overeating trail again today, including visits to two Emilian landmark restaurants…

alicia lini

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