Financial Times – Parma is quiet at night. The man sitting opposite me is paranoid someone will overhear our conversation. “They hate me here,” he explains in a hushed voice. He checks behind him, but the only other person in the osteria is a waitress who has had nothing to do since serving us our osso buco bottoncini. The aroma of roasted bone marrow wafts up from the table. Amy Winehouse’s cover of “Valerie” plays on a faraway radio.
“Can I badmouth them?” he asks. I tell him he can. After all, he hasn’t been invited here to expose corporate fraud. He has come to tell me the truth about parmesan cheese.
The man I’m dining with is Alberto Grandi, Marxist academic, reluctant podcast celebrity and judge at this year’s Tiramisu World Cup in Treviso. (“I wouldn’t miss it, even if I had dinner plans with the Pope”.) Grandi has dedicated his career to debunking the myths around Italian food; this is the first time he’s spoken to the foreign press. When his 2018 book, Denominazione di origine inventata (Invented Designation of Origin), started racking up sales in Italy, his friend Daniele Soffiati suggested they record a spin-off podcast.