A restaurant of the heart, the kind that almost doesn't exist anymore, and whose name one would want to jealously keep secret. It's called Colombo and it's located in the Lower Parma area, in a hamlet of Polesine Zibello, in the flattest of plains, just a stone's throw away from the great river, enveloped in autumn by mists that could be cut with a knife. Drive slowly and keep your foot ready on the brake: here we go.
Misty Area and Great Cured Meats
In an area of the Emilia plain bordering Lombardy, a half-hour drive from Cremona, the Colombo restaurant is essentially a trattoria open seven days a week, for lunch and dinner. It possesses the irresistible charm of the 1950s, with essential interior rooms, terrazzo flooring, white walls, and chandeliers hanging from the center of the ceiling. The establishment has remained essentially the same since Gogliardo Ramelli, nicknamed Colombo, a legend in the culinary scene of this slice of the Lower Parma, opened it back in 1951.
Gogliardo Ramelli, a patron of another era
Physically small in stature, Gogliardo Ramelli was a charismatic man, a larger-than-life character. Until 2004, the year of his passing, he was in the dining room every single day, entertaining customers with his anecdotes told in a lovely Emilia dialectal inflection and an irresistible voice timbre identical to that of famed Italian actor, Ugo Tognazzi.
Famous clients from all over the world
Here, during the years of the Dolce Vita and beyond, the international jet set has graced us. “Renowned figures from journalism: Gianni Mura, Mario Soldati, Lino Rizzi, Baldassarre Molossi, in addition to Giovannino Guareschi and Luigi Veronelli,” Alessandro, Gogliardo's grandson, who inherited his grandfather's role in the dining room, empathy, and innate sense of hospitality, only expressed in a Millennial style, lists. “Then, famous tenors such as Di Stefano, Del Monaco, and of course, Carlo Bergonzi, who was from Vidalenzo, just like our hamlet here in Polesine Zibello. And yet, illustrious athletes like Spillo Altobelli and Paolo Rossi, prominent industrialists like the Salvarani brothers, Bonati and Barilla, Emilio Gnutti, and lawyer Agnelli, timeless icons: Mina, Ursula Andress, Ugo Tognazzi…”.
They came for the warm Emilian welcome and to savor the classic local dishes and the delicious house-cured meats, from Zibello's culatello to “mariola” in the pot. In 1979, the Michelin star arrived, held continuously for 10 years and removed in 1988. “Because I was cooking too traditionally, that was the reason for the red,” Gogliardo said, visibly saddened. That cuisine, which today many gourmets search for across Italy with a lantern, were – and still partially are – these dishes that narrate the tradition of the region (house-cured meats, 'anolini' in broth, Parmesan-style tortelli, “mariola” from the pot, clay-baked guinea fowl, the ancient dessert with amaretti, homemade tarts), capturing the customers and making them return.
The Colombo restaurant today
Following the golden days of Gogliardo Ramelli, the establishment has taken on a more essential and informal appearance, a mood that's more contemporary. “Only the furnishings and the color of the walls have changed,” says the third generation Colombo. However, the hospitality and gastronomic experience remain consistently high. The cuisine has maintained a solid Parma imprint, overseen by Patrizia, Gogliardo's daughter, expressing dishes made with ingredients from their own production or sourced as locally as possible. The service is smooth, relaxed yet discreet, without any overindulgence or forced gestures, entrusted – as we mentioned – to nephew Alessandro, involved in the family business since 2006.
Gourmet and Stress-Free Venue
The result is a cherished place, one where the moment you step in, you psychologically take off your shoes and ease the knot in your stomach, allowing yourself to indulge in a stress-free gourmet break, embracing what the season and the host offer. On a crisp autumn day, leaving behind the dampness of the evening at the door brings you into the warmth of the trattoria.
It's impossible not to start with the excellent house-cured meats, crafted in their own workshop: the fragrant culatello from Zibello aged between 24 to 40 months, the strolghino, salami, and the delightful Parma ham, a sweet raw ham, sent to mature on the hills of Parma (“at my grandfather's friends,” Alessandro specifies). Worthy companions include the maison pickled vegetables with seasonal greens and the Russian salad with homemade mayonnaise.
Anolini in broth, pork cheek, and “sweet pie” by Patrizia
Not to be missed are the “anolini” in broth with capon and the tortelli with Parmesan and melted butter, the meat-filled cappelletti with donkey stew and “third” broth (made with beef, pork, and poultry), the “caramelle” and tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms or prized white truffle, the small lasagnas or tagliolini with culatello. In this season, there are agnolotti with ricotta and culatello filling served over a pumpkin velouté and topped with toasted hazelnut and brown butter.
Meats, needless to say, take center stage in the main courses: Angus fillet or tagliata, snails “alla parmigiana” (with shallot sauté and tomato concentrate) or “alla bourguignonne”, veal cheek “Colombo” style. Yet, there's also room for fish, strictly freshwater to honour tradition, such as the excellent and juicy grilled sturgeon (once caught in the Po, now sourced from a farm in Brescia) served at this time with orange and a sweet and sour fruit and vegetable medley, a sort of caponata.
To conclude the meal, shards of aged Parmigiano Reggiano from the house, aged between 24 to 36 months, the “Patrizia” dessert (invented 50 years ago by Gogliardo Ramelli's daughter, a concoction based on dark chocolate flakes, fresh cream, zabaglione, biscuits, and liqueur), the homemade tart with plum jam or ricotta and chocolate, zabaglione, homemade gelato (vanilla and dark chocolate), tiramisu with chocolate and pistachio, or the simple and comforting soft apple cake.
For drinks, mostly local wines: Fortana, Lambrusco, and Malvasia. Moving to the province of Piacenza with the white Ortrugo and the reds Gutturnio and Cabernet. Then, selections from the rest of the peninsula, and for sparkling wines, Italian and French bottles. An affordable gourmet experience.
Ristorante Colombo - Polesine Zibello (PR) - via Mogadiscio, 103 - 052498114 - ristorantecolombopolesineparmense.com