Pleasures of Piacenza

March 7, 2014 / Food & Wine
Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna

Founded by the Romans, devastated by the Goths and resurrected by medieval noble families, this elegant Emilia Romagna city flourished due to its location on a natural commercial artery, the Po River. The 16th century Pope, Paul III, gave the town another boost to glory, declaring his son Duke of Parma and Piacenza. In front of the porticos of the 13th century Gothic marvel, Palazzo del Pubblico, bronze statues of Farnese dukes on horseback inspired the piazza’s name Piazza dei Cavalli.

Porticoes of city hall
Porticoes -  a Piacenza theme
Piazza dei Cavalli

The presence of a Papal court is a guarantee of wealth: by the 18th-century, three hundred patrician families had settled into their luxurious palazzi piacentini. As you stroll through Piacenza – passing one elegant palace courtyard entryway after another – you can almost hear the clatter of carriage wheels on cobblestones as elegant coaches returned home…

Patrician entryway
Palaces all over
Palace elegance
Porticoes is the theme
Porticoed courtyard

But porticoes grace not only Piacenza’s noble courtyards and medieval city hall: there were some in the dining room of Osteria Carducci where we headed to savor some specialita’ piacentine. Pisarei e faso’ is one such dish, in which the pisarei – tiny gnocchi made with breadcrumbs and flour – are married to a sauce of borlotti beans (fagioli, or faso’ in piacentino dialect). A signature dish of the region’s cucina povera, farm women would have used lard (from the family pig) in the sauce but the Osteria cook added a touch of pancetta.

I pisarei e faso'

Our young waitress, Antonella (daughter of Sicilian immigrants – so the connection with Pino was immediate) helped resolve the dilemma: a small portion (ha!) of the pisarei for antipasto and then the tortelli afterwards. Both dishes were feasts for the palate – and the tortelli, also for the eye: tortelli piacentini are braided!


Co-owner, Giulian (from Albania, though he grew up in Piacenza), served us cafe’ but made sure we tried at least a taste of the sbrisolana before leaving. From sbriciola (crumb), the sbrisolana’s crumbly goodness was the prefect topping for a day of piaceri piacentini.


Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

32 Responses to “Pleasures of Piacenza”

  1. Gina Jones

    Thank you Annie for this article. Emilia-Romagna is a beautiful region of Italy which Mike enjoyed exploring. It’s interesting that Italian Notebook would post one of your article the very morning you’re leaving our home after an amazing 2 night cooking event. We were blessed by your cooking and your knowledge and effection of your beloved Italy! God’s speed as you continue on your tour.

  2. J. Kevin Crocker

    Thanks Anne. Another terrific insight into Italy. Your writing must inspire a legion of future explorers to the wonders of Italy. Piacenza will be next. Hope to see you soon.

  3. Another well written and informative report from Anne. I read this and guessed it was her style before scrolling back up to see who the author was but had guessed it was hers.

  4. It was so lovely seeing you again Anne! Your pasta and dessert dishes you left for us were amazing! See you soon- much love

  5. Stef

    Great note! Reckognize a lot from our neighbouring region, the Oltrepo Pavese in Lombardy. Pisarei e Faso lovely. Tortelli we learned to make at our cooking class!

  6. Danial

    Great article Anne. Always like reading your articles. Provides the history, the people, the art, architecture and of course the sumptuous Italian food. Thanks for introducing Italian Notebook to me.

  7. Cindy Tanner

    I always enjoy your articles. Your descriptions are so vivid and the pictures of the food are mouth watering! So enjoyed seeing you.

  8. Janet Eidem

    Braided pasta!!! I’m so tempted to try that. Retiring in three weeks so I may find the time! Love your article as always Annie.

  9. Thanks Anne,
    I will have to try this out when in Italy next fall. Can you get there on public transport from Assisi?

  10. Joanne De Cecchis

    Would love to have the sauce recipe for the gnocchi.

  11. Anne Robichaud

    Joanne, no recipe for that sauce – you’d just have to go there and ask Giulian if you can watch the women cook it in the restaurant kitchen! And thanks to each for your comments

  12. Had another wonderful evening cooking, eating, and laughing with Annie!! Will try not to eat again for a week! Thanks, Annie!

  13. The photos are inviting invitations [is that redundant? :)] to Italy and to dinner. Even though I just finished a hearty Sunday breakfast, the pictures of beautiful food make me hungry. If that handsome bearded man in the last photo is Pino, he looks like the twin brother of one of the men I hope might join us for a gathering next year.

  14. Sarah Waltrs

    Love seeing Pino enjoy his meal – but then, he usually does! Great meals with you here in Denver and Longmont, CO. Feasts!

  15. Tom & Cissy Wilson

    Hi Annie, we had a lovely time visiting with you in Houston. Cissy & I are excited about our upcoming trip to Umbria & the tours you have suggested in Perugia, Assisi & Spelo! Can’t wait. Ciao and safe travels home.

  16. Anne, what great photos of the food and diners! The pisarei e faso’ sounds fantastic and the tortelli piacentini is something I’ve never seen. Thanks for all the information!

  17. Onil Chibas

    How fantastic! It makes me want to get to Italy ASAP! And that tortelli looks especially delicious and beautiful the way it’s braided. A great shot of Pino whom I’ve never seen. Thanks for your enthusiastic writing–you have a wonderful way of drawing us into the moment!

  18. Mitti Meyers

    Sbrisolana?I am almost sure that the name is sbrisolona… They make it in Modena too! It is delicious. I am originally from Bologna!

  19. Jeanne Paris

    I may not make it this year, but I have to go! Your descriptions and photos are delightful. Thank you for sharing your passion; it’s contagious.

  20. Mary Wozny

    Just looking at the food photos makes me hungry! I’ve never heard of braided pasta. Something new to look for. I still wish we had connected in Italy last fall. We had great regional guides, but you would have added some extra fun! Hope to see you in Milwaukee.

  21. The ironwork on each of the courtyard gates is so beautiful! And the food looks delicious!

  22. Louise Montalbano

    Another beautiful city to explore while we live in Italy. And of course it looks like a restaurant we cannot pass up. Thanks so much for the information and history.

  23. Susie Caskey

    What beautiful photos and commentary! As always, Annie is informative and creative and can make me hungry even when I am not! I love the photo of Pino… We have already made part of the Umbrian dinner we made when you were here a month ago…the pasta and the liver pate were very well received by our favorite culinary friends. Have a safe trip home to Pino!

  24. Mary Cappiello

    Reading your article and seeing your wonderful pictures has convinced me that Piacenza is a must see on our next trip to Italy.! We love to see your byline when we open IN. We know your contribution will be educating and inspiring for our next trip!

  25. Deborah Salae

    Wow, I had never seen braided tortelli before. Your posts are always unique and so informative, and your photos are full of life. Thanks so much for the visual treats.

  26. What beautiful architecture– and food! Not to mention the vibrancy of the wine… and loved the braided tortelli, so delicate! Safe travels on your U.S. tour– hope to visit with you!! :)

  27. Cousin Mary

    Anne, your visit here with us made me again realize there is a big, beautiful and delicious world out there beyond my comfy home in MA. A visit to your Italy is on our short list. Love.

  28. Your photos make me miss Italy even more! Thank you Anne for sharing, especially the picture of the tortelli piacentini. I think making a braided pasta as beautiful as your photo will take some practice!

  29. Marianna Raccuglia

    I love reading your stories and the comments of your wonderful followers. The photos make me want to be there. How nice that you included a photo of your handsome Pino! Mille grazie, Marianna


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