La Gatta Matta, Parma

Roughly 3 minutes walk from my apartment and on a line back to the train station, La Gatta Matta was an easy find and recommended in the Gambero Rosso guidebook.

To start, Budino of Parmigiano with shallot confit and 30 month Parma Ham. Budino of parmigiano is all about texture and shape. I still don't know if I'm a fan of budino, I know the Italians are. It could be the warm texture that I associate with dessert. Or it could be the shape, it looks like a flan or a lava cake or maybe a angel food cake. There was nothing wrong with execution, just a personal preference. The flavor of cheese was integrated well and maybe if I slathered the budino in turkey gravy on Thanksgiving, budino would suddenly turn into fancy stuffing. Not such a bad idea.

Highlight on the plate was the confit of shallot. Powerful flavor. And I love to confit things like garlic and onion. Leeks and fennel would be solid with this combo. Yes, I'm taking for granted that there was a 30 month aged Proscuitto on the plate as well. Proscuitto is on every menu, everywhere and I have it everyday. I'm in PARMA, duh.

My pasta was a chestnut and potato gnocchi with boiled cotechino and lentils. Cotechino is a special type of regional sausage I have made back in the States before and often paired with lentil. Each item is cooked separately, combined just prior to assembly on the plate. The salami melts. The lentils still have texture and loads of flavor. The gnocchi have solid mouthfeel and offer heft to the dish. Lentils and sausage sound a bid pedestrian, but add gnocchi on a pretty plate and you've got a complete meal...although I didn't stop eating. Solid punch of black pepper on the dish. Downside on this dish, literally was the dish itself. The plates should be warm and this one was stone cold. It rushes the dining experience for the plate to be cold, as it's a race against time to eat quickly cooling pasta. Paired the pasta with a local Romagna Sangiovese. Simple, well constructed and easy to drink with most foods I gather.

My final course, Guancialino (veal cheek) braised in white wine and served with polenta and pumpkin cream. The second thing I notice, after a lovely presentation, is another cold plate, which was a bummer and increases the speed at which I eat. However, outstanding dish.  Polenta is there as decoration and to soak up sauces. The polenta is good, but background noise when compared to the veal and the braising sauce. The veal itself is fork tender, with no residual fat hanging off the edges. If you generally like short ribs, these are a step above. The dark sauce on the veal is deep rich and warm the result of roasting juices from the Guancialino and wine. The second, more decorative sauce is pumpkin. The pumpkin is smooth and flavorful, akin to a pumpkin soup but cold because of its position on the plate. All in all, a splendid dish, but a bit rushed due to a cold plate.

The wine paired with the Guancialino was named Epibios by Podere Colombaiolo 2011, from just outside Siena in Tuscany. Stunning! It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Merlot. Simply put, an awesome glass of wine. Supertuscan and probably a 3oz pour. Bright and fresh for a 2011. 4.50 eu a pour on BTG.