What's in a Name? Everything!

Parmesan Reggiano. Wrong!

Reggiano Parmesan. Wrong!

Reggiano Parmigiano. Still wrong!

Trying to come up with the correct name of Parmigiano Reggiano® cheese—also known as Parmesan—people don’t always get it quite right! Sometimes it’s the customer reaching for the right words, other times it’s the retailer who slips up in writing the label.

How Parmigiano Reggiano Got its Name

Understanding that the words Parmigiano Reggiano indicate the place of origin makes remembering the cheese’s name a little easier. Parmigiano means “of and from Parma,” while Reggiano means “of or from Reggio.” The cheese was first made in the land between the neighboring towns of Parma and Reggio Emilia and its two-word name pays tribute to that history.

Parmesan, an older French name, dates back to when the ducal princes from Parma took their local cheese as a gift when visiting nobility in France.

Why Name Protection Matters

parmigianoReggianoWhy are these distinctions important? Protecting the name of their cheese, and therefore its identity, is one of the main reasons producers joined forces to form the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano. In Europe, the laws specify that this is the only cheese that can be called Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano. To say “Grana Padano Parmesan,” for instance, is incorrect—Grana Padano cheese is the correct term.

In other parts of the world, these name issues are not always well understood or legally enforced. Calling the cheese Parmesan Reggiano, Reggiano Parmesan or Reggiano Parmigiano is likely to be an innocent mistake. The same is true when just part of the name, like “Parmigiano” or “Reggiano,” is used.

But sometimes competing cheese makers form new sound-alike names that only confuse consumers, and that can be a threat to the good reputation of Parmigiano Reggiano. In cases like this, the Consorzio has successfully sued companies that encroach on their cheese’s identity.

Uses and Misspellings to Avoid:

  • Parm
  • Parmiggiano
  • Parmagiano
  • Parmegiano
  • parmigiano
  • Parmigiano Reg
  • Regg
  • Reggano
  • reggiano
  • Regiano
  • Regianno
  • Reggiano Parmesan
  • Reggiano Parmigiano
  • Parmesan Reggiano

What to Say Instead?

Parmigiano Reggiano, of course! And be sure to look for the words spelled out in a pin-dot pattern on the rind.