Ombre Rosse

Ombre Rosse (photo by Valerie Broussard 2008)“Body Odor, Band-Aids and Bar-B-Que”

Enoteca Ombre RosseOmbre Rosse (photo by Valerie Broussard 2008) Vicolo Giandemaria, 4
43100 Parma (PR)
Italy
Tel: 0521 289234

Body odor, Band-Aids and bar-b-que. It’s not the scene of a boy’s high school locker room following a football game, smells of tailgating parties mixed with injured, sweaty athletes, but a wine bar in Parma.

We would start the meal by ordering wines by the glass paired with antipasti. I ordered a glass of the Zweighlt 2004 Tschida, an Austrian red. Initially I smelled and tasted a distinct earthy quality. As I swirled and sniffed, the characteristics of the nose evolved: from earthy to briny seawater, and then to another familiar salty scent- sweat. Although the term “body odor” may not be a very appetizing descriptor, I was told by one of my dining companions Liz, a winemaker, that “sweaty” is a perfectly acceptable term.

Another guest detected a subtle antiseptic, adhesive scent in her Sicilian wine. Band-Aids? That’s a new one. But Liz assured us there is an identified aromatic compound with those qualities: brettanomyces, or “brett.” It’s always nice to dine with a living, breathing wine encyclopedia.

Few other wine bars in Parma can match the variety and consistent quality of wines offered at Enoteca Ombre Rosse. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the food.

Initially, the service was attentive, almost overeager to get us started. We were asked about our preference of water, and within a minute, bottles of San Pellegrino and Aqua Panna appeared on the table. Twice our server approached the table to take our orders and twice we asked for more time. During our antipasti course- I had the perfectly arranged salumi misti typical of the region- I noticed that two of the four diners at our table were finished eating. To signal that I was still enjoying the cured meats, I placed my utensils in the universally known position indicating “I’m still eating.” A piece of bread in hand, jaws moving, clearly still chewing, and despite my effort at silverware etiquette, the plates were whisked away. Later in the evening the opposite was true of the service. A sexy striptease on the tabletop would have failed to get the attention of the server. Empty bottles and glasses crowded the table, so I would have to come up with another plan anyway.

My primo, a perfectly cooked al dente risotto, with tender calamari and thinly sliced onions, was the highlight of the meal. Avoid the pasta e ceci at all costs. The chestnut flour pasta was aggressively salted, likely an attempt to improve the cardboard-like flavor. Was it just a coincidence that it looked like cardboard too?

Although Parma is inland and not necessarily a town one would expect to find excellently prepared seafood, I lucked out with the filetto di Gallinella del Mediterraneo al cartoccio.

A mild whitefish fillet, chopped fresh tomatoes and herbs, and a flavorful, aromatic broth are all tucked into a parchment paper husk. The overcooked clams and likely previously frozen bite-sized shrimp were unnecessary additions that hinder the dish.

Ombre Rosse’s desserts are barely worth mentioning. They’re acceptable if you just want something sweet. Or you could order a digestive. Try the nocino, the one that Liz thinks tastes like Bar-b-que’d chips.

ATMOSPHERE The appropriately lit square central room in which we were seated houses four tables, each able to accommodate four guests. Its walls are lined with tall shelves storing a vast inventory of wine bottles, stored upright, labels facing forward. The arched ceiling, painted an earthy tan color, provides an intimate, yet airy atmosphere. The other two rooms consist of a bar area with table seating and a private room separated by a door. By midnight the bar area is especially crowded with mostly twenty and thirty-somethings and the energy is that of a bar rather than a restaurant.

SOUND LEVEL Eclectic music plays at an unobtrusive and enjoyable level. As the restaurant filled up, the noise level naturally increases.

RECOMMENDED DISHES
Antipasti: Salumi misti, chingalle misti, bruschetta misti, and crostone con mozzarella, prosciutto crudo di Parma e fondata valdostana
Primi Piatti: Risotto ai calamari con cipolla di Tropea, Bis di tortelli
Secondi Piatti: Filetto di Gallinella del Mediterraneo al cartoccio, Scottata di Tonno
Dolci: none

WINE LIST Extensive list, including Italian wines arranged by region, and international wines from Western Europe, the United States, South America, Australia and New Zealand. Wines by the glass are € 3-7.20, bottles are offered for all budgets.

PRICE RANGE
Antipasti: € 5-12
Primi Piatti: € 8-10
Secondi Piatti: € 9-15
Dolci: € 4-10

HOURS
Monday through Thursday, 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Friday and Saturday, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Sunday, from 12 to 3 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

RESERVATIONS Recommended

CREDIT CARDS All major cards accepted