I am not exaggerating when I say that one of the best things I have ever eaten is Gnocco Fritto. A specialty of Emilia Romagna, this is not to be confused with the pasta that we all are familiar with called Gnocchi (small potato dumplings). To make it even more confusing, there is also a dish called Gnocchi alla Romana, which are actually totally different, being made with semolina in a polenta-like consistency and shaped into rather large, round disks, and baked with Parmigiano and butter. As delicious as those Gnocchi sound, try and focus on Gnocco Fritto, a fried bread, that is empty and airy inside.
Gnocco Fritto, when made well, is not as greasy as you would expect it to be. It is served with Salumi (cured meats) and cheeses. Since its home is in Emilia Romagna, those salumi are Salame, Mortadella, Prosciutto, etc and the cheese is Parmigiano, but even the Crescenza (aka Stracchino) from neighboring regions shows up alongside the Emilia-Romagna delicacy.
In some restaurants, Gnocci Fritto is offered, on the house, as you walk in, along with salame and cheese. It sounds simple and you may be wondering why I would write on something “common” but please believe me….there is nothing like it. These square/rectangular shaped airy pockets of pleasure go by diffeent names in different dialects around the region, but “Gnocco Fritto” is the general and most well known one. Back here in New York City, I have tried one or two that were pretty good but not nearly as good as the ones I had in Parma. It is worth the money to book a culinary pilgrimage to Emilia Romagna for not just Gnocco Fritto but all the other specialties that make that region known as one the most important food meccas worldwide.