Culatello: Il Re dei Salumi – The King of Salami

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In late August of 2011, I was on my way to Milan’s Linate Airport to catch a flight. As I passed by Parma (I was going North) I realized that I had time for a nice long lunch. What an opportune moment this was!

Polesine Parmense Coat of Arms

It did not take much to exit the Autostrada del Sole (A1) and head for the small community of Polesine Parmense.

In the small area northwest of Parma, by the river Po, a small miracle is taking place for centuries now, thanks to the artisans who know the craft of producing the King of Salami, the Culatello.

River Po

The river is the creator of dense fog, especially in the cold months of the year. It is this foggy environment that is required for the aging of culatello. And this is the reason why culatello is not produced – naturally – in any other part of Italy or the world.

Po is a foggy River

Polinese Parmense is bordering to Busseto, the home town of Giuseppe Verdi, and the locals proudly declare that “Bassa Parmense”, the small area northwest of Parma, where Polinese Parmense is located, has given to the world culatello and Verdi. Why should anyone ask for more?

Casa Natale Giuseppe Verdi

Culatello is made of the upper thigh of the pig, i.e. the buttocks. Its name derives from the italian word “Culo”, which means buttocks. The muscle is cut out of the rest of the leg’s meat, trimmed, and bagged so that after it is done it resembles a really bif pear.

I chose the restaurant “Al Cavalino Bianco” where the Spigaroli brothers, Luciano and Massimo, have created a big name for themsleves. Today they also operate a gourmet restaurant in the restored mansion “Antica Corte Pallavicina”, where Luciano is the chef.

Culatello produced by the Spigaroli family

I tasted the culatello of 13 and 20 months, and was in heaven. The 13 month culatello was more moist and tender. I ate it first as I should, because what came after than needed the proper background.

You cannot appreciate the 20 month old culatello unless you had the 13 month old. The meat is slightly drier, more brittle, but the flavours are more mature. This also shows if you try to measure the mode and speed of your eating. With the 20 month old, I fould myself imitating the motions of wine tasting, eventhough I could not swirl the culatello in my mouth. The process was long, and started with smelling the paper-thin slice.

"The fugitive King of the Foggy Bottoms" (Burton Anderson, Treasures of the Italian Table)

The Spigaroli brothers keep their culatelli in the cellar of “Antica Corte Pallavicina”, and this is a great motive for the weary traveller and culatello aficionado to spend the night there, in one of the beautifuly restored rooms overlooking the pastures of Polesine Parmense.

Luciano Spigaroli who manages “Al Cavallino Bianco” is a real enthusiast and professional at the same time.  His brother Massimo was in the USA on business, so I did not have a chance to meet him. One more reason to visit the brothers again, this time to taste culatello again, but also to taste the gourmet creations of Massimo.

Antica Corte Pallavicina

In closing, a few words of wisdom about culatello, from Peppino Cantarelli, as quoted by Burton Anderson in his wonderful book “Treasures of the Italian Table”. Peppino answers the author’s question “What should I look for when I buy a culatello?” Here is part of the answer:

“Well, first the mold. If it’s white like flour, that means it was aged artificially. Look for muffa verde (green mold that forms naturally and allows the culatello to mature) , because the green develops only in natural conditions. Also it should have a fuller pear shape than an industrial type. ”

On my way to Linate I was a happy man. After all, it does not take much to experience happiness.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Περαστικος 1. Ρε, σαλαμι ειναι αυτο η χαμ;
    Περαστικος 2. Χαμενο εισαι εσυ. Δε διαβαζεις ειναι το καλυτερο σαλαμι εβερ!
    Περαστικος 1. Μορταδελλα δεν εχουνε;
    Περαστικος 2. Μπακαλη!
    Περαστικος 1. Ας το δοκιμασουμε λοιπον.. Μασιμμοοοοοο!!!! φερε μια περιποιημενη!
    Περαστικος 2. Μπουρζουα, ρεζιλι παλι γιναμε, θα γελαει μαζι μας και η Αιμιλια
    Περαστικος 1. Ποια Αιμιλια
    Περαστικος 2. Η Ρομανα, αγραμματε.

    • Περαστικη 1: Τι κανουνε αυτοι οι δυο χαριτωμενοι εκει περα;
      Περαστικη 2: Κατι μασουλανε.
      Περαστικη 1: Καλα παιδια φαινονται, λιγο αξεστοι.
      Περαστικη 2: Δε βαριεσαι, παμε να δουμε.
      Περαστικος 1: Ζαχαροπλαστης ητανε ο μπαμπακας σου κουκλαρα μου;
      Περαστικη 1: Φουρναρης ητανε κι εκαιγε κατι κουτσουρα σαν εσενα.
      Περαστικος 2: Σιγα βρε κοριτσια, ενα κοπλιμαν καναμε κι εμεις…
      Περαστικη 2: Τι μασουλατε εσεις;
      Περαστικος 1: Κατι απο την Ιταλια, σαλαμι, κουλατελο, δνε ξερω πως να το πω.
      Περαστικη 1: Για να δοκιμασουμε…
      Περαστικη 2: Αυτο ειναι θεσπεσιο!
      Περαστικη 1: Σκετη μαγεια!
      Περαστικος 1: Μηπως δεν αισθανεστε καλα;
      Περαστικος 2: Εχω κατι ασπιρινιες
      Περαστικη 1: Μα τι λεει αυτος ο ανθρωπος….
      Περαστικη 2: Τωρα θυμηθηκα! Αυτο ειναι το κουλατελο που εφερνε ο μπαμπας καθε φορα που πηγαινε στην Cremona για να επισκευασει ενα Stradivarius
      (η συνεχεια αργοτερα)

  2. Στους αξιαγάπητους περαστικούς και στις καλοαναθρεμμένες νεοφερμένες αφιερώνω με πολλή αγάπη το:

    με την ευχή να μας ξανάρθουν!

    • Περαστικος 1: Αυτη τωρα απο που προεκυψε πανω που αρχισαμε να σιροπιαζουμε;
      Περαστικος 2: Σιγα ρε φιλε, μια χαρα κοπελλα ειναι, δικια μας, απο τα Βορεια.
      Περαστικη 1: Κανετε λαθος κυριε, απο την Ερμουπολη της Συρου ειμεθα, αμφοτερες και οι δυο.
      Περαστικος 1: Κοριτσια, για μιαν αλλη μιλουσαμε.
      Περαστικη 2: Δηλαδη εμεις περναμε απαρατηρητες;
      Περαστικος 2: Οχι βεβαια! Ισα ισα, αυτος ο αμφορεας απο την Ερμουπολη καλος μου ακουγεται!
      Περαστικος 1: Ας παρουμε δυο μηπως σπασει ο ενας
      Περαστικη 2: Για τι μιλατε κυριε; Μενω εμβροντητη.
      Περαστικη 1: Δεν εχομε καταστημα τουριστικων ειδων, ειμεθα εμποροι σπανιων μουσικων οργανων.
      Περαστικος 1: Μπλεξαμε παλι τις κοτσιδες μας.
      Περαστικος 2: Και σου το ειπα, θα μας κοστισει ακριβα αυτη η ιστορια, πανε να μας πουλησουνε κατι.
      Η συνεχεια αργοτερα….

  3. Βαλτος εισαι κι εσυ τωρα και μου ανασυρεις γαστριμαργικες μνημες… πανω που ειχα αρχισει να ξανασυνηθιζω εδωπερα….

    • Δεν ειμαι βαλτος, ειμαι ενας περαστικος που τραγουδαει και απαγγελει τα ποιηματα της Μεσογειου!

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