PDO Explained: Special Italian Meats and Cheeses

After how frigid it’s been, there is little that would entice me to leave the warm, coziness of my home. However a dinner in NYC, incorporating several types of Italian-cured prosciutto and aged Italian cheeses, had me running for the door. Would I be interested? Is this a real question?

Dinner At SD26 In NYC
Dinner at SD26 In NYC

The dinner was hosted by the Legends from Europe, a campaign financed by the EU and Italy which aims to educate the U.S. consumer about the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) classification of an elite group of high-quality European foods. As stated in their literature, “the farmers, artisans and technicians who make PDO products are not only highly skilled, but share a passion for upholding traditional methods passed from one generation to another.” The PDO seal ensures you’re getting authentic, quality products made in a traditional way, from strictly defined geographic areas.

Italian Wine
Wine for the evening

To taste these incredible products, the Legends from Europe invited area foodie bloggers and journalists to attend a special dinner at SD26. This contemporary NYC Italian restaurant uses a number of PDO products in their everyday menus. For this dinner, Chef Matteo Bergamini curated a menu to highlight the hallmarks and quality of Proscuitto di Parma, Proscuitto di San Daniele, Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano and Montasio. Wines were paired with each course, courtesy of the sommelier.

Proscuitto with Melon and Spuma
Proscuitto di San Daniele with melon and spuma

Upon arriving in the chic, European party space, I was handed a glass of sparkling wine, then positioned myself to see the first act: prosciutto sliced fresh from the cured pork leg and a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano being flaked into bite sized pieces. The bubbly was a perfect pair for the saltiness of the prosciutto and cheese. We mingled, chatted and tasted, then made our way to the simple, yet elegant table.

For a cold appetizer we enjoyed sliced Proscuitto de San Daniele over a wedge of melon with Grana Padano spuma (a delicate, yet incredibly flavorful foam), with a watercress pesto. Paired with Lambrusco, the flavors danced in our mouths. The spuma was a huge hit—how did they pack so much flavor into something so light?

Cheese fondue with poached egg

Next, we were greeted with poached egg bathing in a creamy Montasio cheese fondue, topped off with a prosciutto tuille. The textures and flavors were endless—this was, by far, my favorite dish. I wish I had had a spoon to clean the saucer. The Ribolla Gialla, a fresh white from Fruili, had enough body to stand up the cream sauce, while refreshing the palate for the next bite.

Parmigiano Reggiano Risotto

Our pasta plate arrived shortly after. We were given small, shallow paddles to scoop the Parmigiano Reggiano risotto drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar. The dishes kept getting better! The Valpolicella Ripaso, with its bright cherry fruit and good structure, were a good pair for the cheesy rice and tangy vinegar.

Proscuitto wrapped rabbit

We were getting full and slowing down, but with the reveal of the Proscuitto di Parma wrapped rabbit, we found some more room. Paired with a Lagrein from the Alto Adige region of Italy, this was my least favorite of the courses, but it still showcased the prosciutto in an undeniably delicious way.

Red wine poached pears

Lastly, the dessert: red wine poached pears, with Grana Padano mousse and chips. The chips were unlike anything I had ever tasted—not crispy like one might think, these soft, dense rounds presented a delicate, cheesy flavor. A wine and cheese pairing of which I’ve never imagined, but now dream about enjoying again and again. The dessert wine—an aromatic, sweet Brachetto d’Acqui— blended excellently with the chips and matched the sweetness of the pears.

I commend the chef on an excellent menu. He used the unique flavors of these PDO Italian meats and cheeses to create a menu that was a treat for the senses. Bergamini clearly demonstrated that using quality ingredients—like these PDO products—really does count when crafting a dish.

KarinNastawaPhotoKarin Nastawa grew up in the great Garden State, leaving only briefly to attend college in Philadelphia, where she developed a love for all things cheese steaks. She has lived in Hoboken for over nine years, taking in the incredible dining scenes on both sides of the river and has a particular affinity for staking out interesting BYO establishments in Hudson County. She is the founder and owner of VinEatsi, a boutique wine & food digital marketing agency and has also studied wine and spirits extensively, receiving her advanced degree from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET). Along with running VinEatsi, she is an avid cook and food enthusiast and writes about her wine & food adventures in the VinEatsi blog. She dreams of having a chef’s kitchen and a state-of-the-art wine cellar filled with Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Left Bank Bordeaux… someday.