Chef Nicole Zerbini & Chef Mario Marini

2 Renowned Chefs from Parma, Italy to Tour Tucson’s Food Scene

January 11, 2024
By Shane Reiser
By Shane Reiser

Next week, the nonprofit Tucson City of Gastronomy (TCOG) is bringing two renowned chefs from Parma, Italy (a sister UNESCO City of Gastronomy) to town.

Chef Nicole Zerbini and Chef Mario Marini will be in Tucson from Thursday, January 18 to Monday, January 22 — these chefs are stars and leaders in the Parma culinary scene and economic sector.

During their visit, they’ll share valuable best practices from a city and its region known worldwide for its gastronomic heritage, with famous products such as Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Parma Ham. They are also known for developing technologies for food packaging and preservation.

Their agro-food sector is strong through the whole food chain: typical regional products, producer associations that protect their authenticities, internationally renowned and top-rated restaurants and chefs, schools and teachers of Italian cuisine, food museums, cutting-edge food research and safety, well-developed agro-food industries, gastronomy-related cultural projects, educational events, and exhibitions, and international, national, and local culinary events.

The Visit

While they are in Tucson, the Parma chefs will be taken on a tasting tour of Tucson led by chefs from the Gastronomic Union of Tucson (GUT), and will meet with Tucson officials involved in tourism, economic development, the local food industry, and culinary scene.

On Saturday, January 20 from 3 – 4:30 p.m., Chef Zerbini will demonstrate how to make stuffed pasta at the new teaching kitchen for the Hospitality Leadership program at Pima Community College Desert Vista Campus. Members of the public can register to attend this free demonstration. Their visit will end with a collaborative “Parma Meets Tucson” dinner with GUT chefs, a fundraiser for TCOG to continue these types of chef visits from other Cities of Gastronomy.

Meet the Chefs

Chef Nicole Zerbini
a person posing for the camera
Chef Nicole Zerbini

Chef Zerbini is a young chef and owner of the acclaimed restaurant Trattoria, owned by her family since 1999. She represented Parma at a 2020 COGs conference in Phuket UNESCO City of Gastronomy in Thailand. Zerbini is a member of the Parma Restaurants Consortium, Parma Quality Restaurants.

In the kitchen, she works to create new dishes while remaining connected to the tradition of her territory. 

Chef Mario Marini
a man preparing food in a kitchen
Chef Mario Marini

Chef Marini owns a restaurant, is an instructor at the Alma School of Culinary Arts, the president of the Food Museums of Parma, and the head of Territorial Marketing for the Parma region. From 2002 to 2011 he was a municipal councillor for the Municipality of Parma.

His Il Cielo di Strela restaurant is in an agriturismo, a lodging with a restaurant and winery at a working farm in the hills above Parma. He has a deep passion for Italian gastronomic traditions.

As Head of Territorial Marketing, his role is to identify new unified strategies for promoting the region in the areas of culture, tourism, gastronomy, and economic and social excellence to attract investment and collaborations. He works to coordinate various stakeholders, so they move in coordinated and efficient ways and develop synergies. He is the connecting element among the tourism, culture, and UNESCO Creative City sectors.  

Jonathan Mabry, TCOG’s Executive Director, described the goals of this visit.

“We will learn a lot from a city and region that is a long-established international culinary capital, a global leader in technologies for food preservation, and distributes iconic traditional food products all over the world,” he said. “We hope this is just the first of a series of exchanges to learn from Parma and develop a strong relationship with this sister City of Gastronomy.” 

The visit is sponsored by Pima County Attractions & Tourism and Visit Tucson.

Follow the visit by the Parma chefs through Tucson Foodie and TCOG social media. Learn more about Tucson City of Gastronomy at

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