Bocce’s Parma Night spreads the prosciutto love

Thursday night (Nov. 12) customers walked into Bocce (3252 NE 1st Ave., Miami) to an unusual sight next to the bar: guest chef Salvatore Fraterrigo (of Italy by way of New York) deftly wielding at 12-inch knife into a beautiful leg of prosciutto di Parma, dried for 20 months in a breezy curing house in Parma, Italy.

Ask him anything about Parma prosciutto and he explained, in charmingly broken English, while offering you a slice. The scene was all part of Bocce’s Parma Night, an effort by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, a consortium of 156 prosciutto di Parma producers.

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Bocce’s Parma Night took the form of special menu items such as prosciutto and fresh cut figs, and a pizza wisely subtle enough to let the delicate ham shine — just a dollop of sweet ricotta in the middle, and a dusting of savory Parmigiano reggiano. The bartender even whipped up a delicious pepper-rimmed cocktail of Averna and fresh lemon juice, which danced nicely with the prosciutto and reggiano garnish. 

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As chef Fraterrigo carved away at the ham leg, the evening turned into a bit of a show-and-tell/taste, with he and Bocce chef Nunzio Fuschillo, a fellow countryman, elaborating on the ham’s creation. There are several regions of prosciutto production in Italy, each with their own character and stipulations.

Parma prosciutto uses only pigs from approved farms in north and central Italy, where they eat grains and the whey from Parmigiano reggiano production. The ham legs are then hand-massaged with a minimal amount of sea salt, chilled for 100 days, then air-dried for at least another 300. “The only ingredients are sea salt, air, and time,” said Fraterrigo, noting that other styles in Italy and the New World often allow for spices or other manipulation. Chef Fuschillo added that along Parma’s Po River

valley “the ham dries at just the right altitude to get breeze and the perfect temperature.” It’s a deceptively simple process, with a 1000-year history, that yields surprising flavors.

“I don’t prosciutto enough,” said customer Christia Dunne, a Midtown resident seated at Bocce’s bar. “This is a type of art. With American ham you’re not sure what it is. But look, the leg is right there,” she said between nibbles.

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On this night, Bocce served both wheel-sliced and hand-sliced ham. The secret with either is to take your time and chew for quite a while, not because the ham is tough (it’s not) but because of the little parade of flavors you experience as you chew. With wheel-cut Parma prosciutto, flavors come more quickly—first savory then a subtle sweetness and nuttiness. The hand-cut offers more variations in thickness and thus texture, offering a more complex profile, and giving greater sweetness off the quite soft and delicious fat. A wonderful way to experience the ham is to simply pair it with fruit and lambrusco. Or match it with the earth and sweetness of a Manhattan and you’ll be in hog heaven (sorry, couldn’t resist).