Pontremoli is a haven for slow foodies. You can find an abundance of the very best local produce, some with IGP and DOC certification, all untainted by urban pollution. A walk around Pontremoli’s medieval streets reveals restaurants, including the only two Slow Food restaurants in Lunigiana, speciality food shops, pastry shops, markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays, a stylish art nouveau café, and even a world famous chocolate maker.
Traditional dishes include torta d’erbi, testaroli, zeri lamb, and spongata. Depending on the season, you will also find dishes of wild boar, mushrooms, rabbit and chestnuts. Look out for amor in the pastry shops and cafés.
The traditional torta d’erbi of Lunigiana is a savory vegetable pie made from wild herbs, wild greens, and cheese. If wild herbs and wild greens are not available, spinach and chard are used as a substitute.
Testaroli are cooked in a pan, similar to a pancake, then boiled. The traditional Pontremoli testaroli are made with flour from a native wheat grown in the mountains of Zeri, which is currently undergoing a revival. It is still scarce, so most testaroli are still made with normal flour. Testaroli are usually served with pesto. The traditional Pontremoli testaroli are on the Slow Flood Presidia list.
Zeri lamb is a rare breed native to Lunigiana, with exceptionally tender and flavored meat. Traditionally, it is served as roast leg of lamb with potatoes, having been prepared in a testo, a flat plate with a conical lid. Zeri lamb is on the Slow Food Presidia list.
Spongata is a round, flat cake eaten as a dessert. It has a pastry exterior and and a filling made from honey, dried fruit and nuts, chocolate and spices. It is thought to date back to the 14th century, and was traditionally made in the winter months, although it is now available all year round.
The amor was brought to Pontremoli by the Swiss brothers who opened the Antica Pasticceria deli Svizzeri in 1842. It is said to be made from a secret recipe known only to a few pasticcerie in the town. The amor is a pastry consisting of a creamy custard filling with a hint of lemon, between wafer biscuits.
Slow Food restaurants in Pontremoli
Where to find the best local products
One of the best known local producers is Luciano Bertocchi, whose family own Da Bussè restaurant just off the Piazza Duoma. You can buy Chestnut DOP and Acacia DOP honey, plus other flavors directly from the restaurant. Local food speciality shops also stock honey. Look out for DOP honey produced by Remo Trombella and Lauro Camparini.
Don’t be fooled by the name, the Fungo di Borgotaro IGP are also found in the Pontremoli area, and may even be labeled Fungo di Pontremoli IGP, as the locals get rather annoyed that Borgotaro, on the other side of the Cisa Pass, receives all the recognition. There are two specialist mushroom shops in Pontremoli – Il Fungo at 8 Via Primo Maggio, and Il Castagneto della Manganella in Piazza Duomo. They sell mushrooms in every form imaginable.
For local Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil IGP, try the delicious oil produced by Azienda Agricola Francesca Ferrari. If you visit the farm at 23 Via Costa S. Nicolò, just outside of Pontremoli, in search of oil, you may be offered a degustazione or tasting. Phone in advance if you’re planning to visit. (Telephone: 0187 830571 of cell 335 6702547).
Some of the best charcuterie can be found at Salumeria Angella di Bertocchi Tiziana at 2 Via Giuseppe Garibaldi. Naturalmente Lunigiana at 15 Via Ricci Armani, a few doors down from the Tourist Office, has an amazing selection.
No cheese lover could possibly resist the cheese at Naturalmente Lunigiana . You’ll find them at 15 Via Ricci Armani, not far from the Tourist Office.
Look for the DOP chestnut flour from Lunigiana in the local food speciality shops. You should also be able to find it at the mushroom shops or at Naturalmente Lunigiana in Scorcetoli.
Spongata & Amor
You’ll find both spongata and amor in a number of pasticcerie, but my favorite is Antica Pasticceria deli Svizzeri in Piazza della Repubblica, where you can also buy torte d’erbi. Or stop off for a coffee accompanied by an amor at at the stylish art nouveau Cafè deli Svizzeri next door.
Stainer Chocolate is an innovative chocolate maker based in Pontremoli, whose products are famous around the world, and sold in shops such as Harrods in London. Their products come in a variety of flavors including chocolate made from sheep and goats milk. Their more exotic mixtures include madras curry, scotch bonnet chilli and rum, and aloe and blackcurrent, to mention a few. They don’t have their own shop, but their chocolate is sold at Antica Pasticceria degli Svizzeri in Piazza della Repubblica and Le Delizie di Nadia in Piazza Italia.
On the wine route Colli di Candia e Lunigiana is the agriturismo, Podere Benelli, not far from Pontremoli. Their red wine is produced from the Pollera grape, while their white wine comes from the Durella grape, a variety that Podere Benelli reintroduced into Lunigiana in the 1990s. Look for the Podere Benelli label at outlets selling regional products from Lunigiana
Can you recommend any other good slow foodie places in Pontremoli? If you can, please do let us know by leaving a comment.
Photo credits: Slow Food Foundation, Antica Pasticceria deli Svizzeri, Azienda Agricola Francesca Ferrari, Naturalmente Lunigiana & Podere Benelli
Pontremoli for Slow Foodies appeared on Ciao Lunigiana on 15 March 2012. All rights reserved.