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Massimo Spigaroli

Of chef Massimo Spigaroli, David Rosengarten wrote in the Huffington Post, “If you can find art in artisanal Italian cured pork…the artist to revere… is Massimo Spigaroli, the rock star hero of Italy’s porcine-passionate throngs.” And it’s true that in the Bassa Parmense, the region where salumi is king, and culatello (made from tender muscles of the pig’s rump) carries the Culatello di Zibello DOP, Spigaroli—the butcher, the salumiere, the farmer, and the chef—is in a league of his own.

He makes his salumi, farms his own cows, pigs, vegetables, and wine grapes, and, with his brother, Luciano, has established a lovely inn and Michelin-starred restaurant, Antica Corte Pallavicina, in Polesine Parmense, between Cremona and Parma. The Spigarolis in 1990 bought the 16th-century former property of the aristocratic Pallavicina family, who had employed the Spigarolis’ great-grandfather years before. After many years of renovations, they opened the relais and eventually added a second restaurant, the traditional osteria Al Cavallino Bianco.

Spigaroli began cooking, as many chefs do, helping a family member in the kitchen and learning the ropes. For him it was his Aunt Emilia, a chef who was known for her homemade tortelli and anolini. On his family farm he also learned the art of raising animals and vegetables, and of butchery. After graduating from the Hotel School of Salsomaggiore and several externships around the continent, as well as some early cooking prizes, Spigaroli taught for five years at his alma mater. An exemplar of Parmesan cooking, he has traveled the world and cooked for political dignitaries, including the U.K.’s Prince Charles, whose Welsh farm he visited as consulting gourmet and butcher.

Culatelli from Sigaroli’s black and white heirloom pigs are everywhere on his menu at Antica Corte, such as a tasting at various ages of curing, and main courses of guinea fowl with culatello, or Parma black pig with a crispy Artemesia-scented rind. But there are also many non-pork dishes such as dumplings stuffed with goat cheese, vegetables, and rabbit, and seafood like sturgeon and scallops in a light sauce with zucchini blossoms.  

Spigaroli is a chef of his homeland, who daily nods to his ancestors. “I am just the current guardian of the traditions,” he says. “They do not belong to me.”

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