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Gordo, a lesson in balsamic and sweet dreams of Parma ham

Fat One does a food safari in Italy: Chapter Two

Published on August 5th 2010.

Gordo, a lesson in balsamic and sweet dreams of Parma ham

Gordo feels like he is about to start hallucinating. It’s that feeling you get when you haven’t touched the weed for 20 years and you motor down a fat one all on your own because you want to appear cool in front of Howard Marks and Tony Wilson. All those years later it was the difference between drinking cider or the same quantity of Bacardi 8 Year Old.

Italo, grumbling, walks off, taking a penknife out of his pocket. He walks over to the bushes, disappears, then comes back ten seconds later with a bloody big melon. He takes this into the kitchen and reappears five minutes later with the melon and separate plates of ham - from his own stock apparently. Gordo couldn’t take his eyes of it.

On that occasion, Gordo locked himself in Wilson’s toilet, convinced he was on a starship and if he opened the door, because it was an airlock, he would be blasted into the vacuum of deep space.

In this instance, Gordo was breathing in the fumes of a balsamic vinegar distillery in Pedroni, near Modena in northern Italy. He was glad to walk out into a well-kept farmhouse yard.

Gordo was on a trip with Chris ‘Yoda’ Johnson of Ramsons - the Good Food Guide’s restaurant of the year last year. He was taking Gordo on a road trip across the centre of Italy from east coast to west, visiting some remarkable family run suppliers of his restaurant and eating ‘peasant’ food along the way. You can read the first instalment by clicking here.

Now Gordo thought he knew all about balsamic vinegar, but after this visit he clearly didn’t. The stuff on general sale is good. What the families produce for their wedding celebrations and other dates of note are totally different, resulting in small bottles of nectar which sell for over £80 a bottle; there are very few available.

Gordo isn’t going to bore you all with details of how this stuff is made, suffice to say it takes years, being moved from cask to cask, five normally, which are made from different woods. The casks themselves have been in use for over 100 years and are lined up in rows of five with an oval hole on top to allow the vinegar to slowly evaporate, getting more and more concentrated.

The process finishes up with nectar at the end, absolutely bugger all to do with the balsamic vinegar we are trendily pouring into bowls of olives oil here in the UK. A few simple drops of this on pasta lifts it towards Olympia, indeed we were given a lunch by the Pedroni family on the other side of the farmhouse where they have their own restaurant, if you can describe it that. It’s a bit like having a few friends round for lunch.

Which is where we found ourselves after the tour.

Italo Pedroni is the boss of the family who, along with his son Giuseppe, owns this farm-winery-distillery set close to Modena in an area with soil that is arguably the richest in the world for growing all those lovely things that make life worthwhile, including the Lambrusco grape. Giuseppe’s wines are head and shoulders above the standard Lambrusco that we see here in the UK supermarkets.

Italo is a bad tempered old bugger with a wicked sense of humour. He sits you down, plonks a bottle of wine in front of you and starts bringing out dishes. You don’t get any choice. The wine is last year’s Dispagna Spumanti Pedroni, made from the grape variety, Ruggine, that the family rescued from oblivion many years ago; it has a slight rusty hue, unique to this grape and the grape is unique to the farm. It’s a delightful mouthful of frothy bubbles that may not be able to travel further than the airport if the truth is known, but magical when sitting under the veranda of this unbelievable setting.

Tortelloni with ricotta and spinach is plonked on the table; it's Chris’s birthday so we toast him and absent friends - something for Chris’s delightful wife Roz, who is unable to make the trip. Chris, as always, is a mine of information on the area.

Next up was pappardelle with ragu; the ragu had a creamy feel in the mouth, full of meatiness but tinged with a slightly discernable sweet and sour thing going on. Gordo is in heaven.

On another table there are four locals doing dark deals; farmers or business people, or is it a Don? Who knows? There are usually a couple of bright red Ferraris outside next to a tractor or three. These guys were motoring through melon and Parma ham. Chris bullies Italo into doing the same for us, which is where Gordo has his food moment of the year.

Italo, grumbling, walks off, taking a penknife out of his pocket. He walks over to the bushes, disappears, then comes back ten seconds later with a bloody big melon. He takes this into the kitchen and reappears five minutes later with the melon and separate plates of ham - from his own stock apparently. Gordo couldn’t take his eyes of it.

The melon was sublime, meltingly sweet, the ham was like nothing ever eaten before; the flavours that came through in waves just shut Gordo up for ten minutes.

A dish of roasted meat on the bone, lamb, beef and guinea fowl was partnered by potatoes roasted in the oven, finished with balsamic, the ‘normal’ stuff. Flavour was what this was all about, not looks.

And finally vanilla ice cream, which was topped off with the proper balsamic vinegar, all sticky and intensely sweet and sour.

We had a bottle of the Pedroni family’s Lambrusco di Sorbara, a sparkling red and another bottle of Disapagna which was from the latest crop, so new it hadn’t even been labelled yet.

As a critic, when he meets people Gordo is always asked ‘what’s the best restaurant at the moment’, along with ‘what’s the best dish you have had?’

This year it was the Pedroni family farm house. The best dish was the melon and Parma ham. Gordo dreams about it every week and is planning a trip back there in the early Autumn.

Anyone up for it?

Pedroni Italo
Via Risaia 2
41015 Nonantola Modena

Follow Gordo on twitter GordoManchester

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19 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

NortherngeezerAugust 5th 2010.

All sounds a bit pretentious to me.

Leigh ScottAugust 5th 2010.

I am jealous too Geezer

AnonymousAugust 5th 2010.

I want to sample Ramsons, but I'm skint at the mo. Are they one of the restaurants signed up to the Man Con card? How do I get one of these please

BowksAugust 6th 2010.

If you want to check out ramsons on a budget, go downstairs to the Hideaway. Lu serves a set 4 course meal of rustic italian scoff which is fantastic value at 20 quid. Can't recommend it highly enough.

MaggsAugust 6th 2010.

This brings back memories of a fantastic cookery holiday some years back during which we went to Modena to a family producer (from memory there are less than 1000 families who can claim to make the 'real' balsamic vinegar). I paid 40 euros for my small bottle which is still being used - but only on very special occasions as the only way to replace it would be to go back to Modena -which, on reflection, seems like a good idea!!

NortherngeezerAugust 6th 2010.

THe words 'Ransoms' & 'Budget' dont really sit together do they...........and i STILL think the articles pretentious.

AnonymousAugust 6th 2010.

for the

GordoAugust 6th 2010.

Hero cards get a 25% straight discount off food at Ramsons; go during the week, you will find a true bargain. Northern. You are an inverted snob. oh, and a <edited>

Southern PonceAugust 6th 2010.

Pretentious? You probably live in Gorton, hate Spinningfields and eat your chips with salt and vinegar. Grow up, there is something like the good life and it ain't getting shagged in the loos at Sankey's...

NortherngeezerAugust 6th 2010.

Whilst i wouldnt expect anything else from a Southern Ponce, i would have thought the publisher of this magazine would accept that the world is all about opinions, and not everyone is going to agree, its getting like a stalinist state round 'ere.

NortherngeezerAugust 6th 2010.

BTW Gordo..............the customer service regarding the San Carlo offer is shyte. Tried booking online, no reply, tried complaining online, no reply, tried complaining on the phone "i'll get some one to ring you back"............in the immortal words of Miss Diana Ross........."I'M STILL WAITING".

StalinAugust 6th 2010.

Don't get me involved - I get my opponents shoot, even if they live in ...Mexico

NortherngeezerAugust 6th 2010.

Ok Stalin..................i'll move to Cuba instead then, hehehe.

AnonymousAugust 6th 2010.

Better service NG for sure

PAT KARNEYAugust 6th 2010.

I didn't know foodies were so .....passionate.Makes us politicos look like virgins.

ScoteeeAugust 7th 2010.

I know let's do a manchester style come dine with me! That'll be a great idea gordo and schoey can ask readers to offer up their best menu and the winner gets reviewed! Gordo?

Pat's alter egoAugust 7th 2010.

Ok, so it's half nine on a Friday night I can't get out of work mode, I'm concerned about keeping in touch with the locals and this mornings all bran is yet to deliver! Oh bollix everyone thinks .I'm a decent bloke I'll lay on the settee and flik the free view box over to babe station!

AgricolaAugust 8th 2010.

Lucky bugger Gordo

Peter HarrisAugust 22nd 2010.

Looking forward to visiting Pedroni's next week. Chris has just told me that he has been visiting since 1996 and Italo is his role model!lol

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