Wanted to give a report from a recent stay in Emilia Romagna. Stayed in the small town of Vernasca so got to know it quite well. This is not a heavily touristed area, so English is spotty, if spoken at all, but it’s well worth a side trip if you’re passing through to Parma or Bologna, etc.
Hotel Bel Soggiorno – this is *the* spot in town to hang out as the outdoor tables are usually filled from morning until night with mostly older residents, talking and/or playing cards. We had a cappuccino and croissant there every morning (for 1 euro each – best deal in town…or anywhere for that matter). The proprietor, Stefano, doesn’t speak much English, but with your meager Italian, you’ll get the point across. He’s exceedingly nice and the food is excellent. I highly recommend doing dinner there. The waitress, with very limited English but who will nonetheless try very hard, will read you off the day’s menu. I had the region’s specialty, which she called ravioli, but is more like homemade dumplings, filled with ricotta and spinach, and then the chicken cacciatore. Almost every table in the dining room was filled with the town’s aforementioned older residents engrossed in what looked to be “Italy’s Funniest Home Videos.” We got 2 courses plus dessert, with wine, for about 15 euro each. I can’t guarantee everyone will get this price as there is no menu/price list, and we were wondering if it was because of the poor economy or this is what locals pay (we were there for quite some time and maybe got locals’ status). Nevertheless, it was a true Italian experience.
Aldopolavoro – also on the piazza in Vernasca. Simple yet excellent pizza place. Charming and very reasonable.
Pia’s – great food but probably not worth it for the surly waitress who clearly has no time for foreigners (a true rarity in our time in Italy).
Also in Vernasca but not on the piazza:
Botteghino (on Franchini) – lovely, homey trattoria right on the main road facing the fields. Again, very little English here, but the proprietor will read you a few dishes and you’ll get by. It was served family style – a big plate of salumi and torte fritta (fried bread), a stuffed pasta/dumpling dish and a roasted meats dish. He even bottles his own wine – the lambrusco of the region. (Even if it’s not your thing, you should try it when in ER.) Also amazingly reasonably priced for what you get. Come hungry.
And nearby in Castell’Arquato – another beautiful medieval town
dominated by a castle (these are ubiquitous in the region), try Trattoria del Voltone. Family run (of course) and fantastic. Great service & food.