Just returned from two weeks in Barcelona and Northern Italy, and spent three days in Emilia-Romagna with our base in Modena.
Our base was at the Hotel Cervetta, about a block from the Piazza Grande. Great location for walking Modena and they have a garage. Modena was a fun city to walk around and explore.
Paid a visit to the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, cool thing to do, especially if you enjoy automobiles.
Maybe the highlight of the ER portion of the trip was the wonderful visit to Acetaia di Giorgio. Giovanna and Giogio are super hosts and passionate about balsamico. My wife couldn’t control herself and luckily it is easier to bring balsamico home than Barolo.
On our way to ER from Piemonte we stopped in Zibello for lunch at Trattoria La Buca. What a pleasurable way to spend a Sunday afternoon, eating on the vine covered patio, especially with a couple of bottle of inexpensive, but very enjoyable, Pio Cesare Freisa. Apparently many locals think the same thing, many groups of friends and families enjoying themselves.
We ordered a lot of dishes to share amongst the four of us. We ordered all of the cold starters. Great culatello, good salami, and the girls really like the Spalla cotta (thicker sliced ham) with the horseradish/apple that they brought out. Bread was horrible, and Italian version of Wonder bread.
The pastas were outstanding, Antolini pasticciati ‘La Buca’ (my second favorite), ricotta tortelli, pumpkin tortelli, Bucaneve crepes, tagliatelle with porcini, and tagliatelle with culatello (my favorite). The tagliatelle noodles were fabulous and cooked perfectly. With pasta this good, no need to complicate things.
We also had Mariola sausage (OK, not sure I would order again, especially as one of the last courses, reminded me of corned beef hash) and some overcooked asparagus.
Lucca, the self described ‘son in law’, could not have been a friendlier host and making ordering suggestions. Lucca also gave us a tour of the culatello cellar and we had a great visit with him explaining the process and some history of the restaurant.
I tried unsuccessfully to set up a parmigiano tour that wouldn’t take hours, very frustrating.
We walked around in Parma and there was a Sunday market which we enjoyed. Didn’t see a compelling reason to return to Parma.
First dinner was at Stallo del Pomodoro. Our pastas and risottos were all very good. The seconds, were all forgettable and no one finished their seconds, including our friend who had the horse sausage (I did not care for the texture or taste, and I am a game lover). The service was indifferent. Enjoyed an 06 Antoniolo Gattinara and a, 06 Produttori Barbaresco (which was not as accessible right now as the 07 I had two months ago).
After I couldn’t get a reservation at Hosteria Giusti since they are closed on Mondays, we ate at
La Chersenta in Modena, where we enjoyed tigelle, which are flatbread sandwiches. We arrived just as they were closing after lunch, but opened up again to serve us. Super friendly and a unique sandwiches that hit the spot. We had a variety of vegetable and prosciutto versions, as well as a Nutella and coconut dessert tigelle.
Monday dinner was at Franceschetta 58 in Modena after I could not get a reservation at Osteria Francescana. We had a very fun dinner, great design, lively atmosphere, good service, and delicious food and wine. Marta Pulini, the chef, took great care of us, making suggestions and checking in on us several times throughout the evening and even came to say goodbye prior to leaving and apologized for leaving early after returning from a trip to Milan. Small world, Marta cooked at Coco Pazzo and is a friend of Cristiano Bassani of Bapi in Arlington Heights, who started in Chicago at Coco Pazzo.
Dishes that I enjoyed were the troccolo pasta (with octopus ragout with fennel, olives, capers, and toasted almonds), house made fettuccine (veal ragout with citrus zest and rosemary), cheese and vegetable lasagnette, a beautiful spring salad, fabulous pea and leek soup (with mint, almonds, and parmigiano), fantastic veal cheek (braised in white wine with vegetables and thyme mashed potatoes), and a sheep’s milk ricotta cheesecake with pink grapefruit. Very small wine list, but I was thrilled to see a wine by one of my favorite vintners, Arianna Occhipinti, the 2011 SP68 Nero d'Avola and Frappato blend. The girls loved it so much we had two bottles of the same wine.
Tuesday we spent the day in Bologna and just grabbed a quick lunch of pizzas and wine due to convenience.
Since we decided to not stay in Bologna for dinner, I asked the concierge at Hotel Cervetta for a recommendation for dinner and he didn’t disappoint. We had a great time and unforgettable dinner at Cucina del Museo in Modena. Alberto took care of us all evening steering us in the right direction with the menu and some wines of Emilia Romagna.
We started with complimentary glasses of ER sparkling (methode champenoise, 60/40 pinot noir and chardonnay). Nice, but I forgot the producer. Fabulous zucchini flowers and house cured pancetta (like silk, especially eaten with the ‘fat’ bread Albert brought over), salami (wow!), and a third meat which I cannot remember the name of. At this point we were already stuffed but had one of the most beautiful salads ever (lots of edible flowers, super fresh greens, strawberries), and some pastas (including a farro pasta with asparagus).
Alberto steered us to a 1997 Drei Dona Sangiovese (Grosso) di Romagna Superiore Riserva Pruno (great funky nose and nice secondary characteristics) and 2007 Fattoria Zerbina Sangiovese Torre de Ceparano Riserva (also quite good).
Acetaia di Giorgio
Via Sandro Cabassi, 67,
via Ghizzi 6
Zibello, Emilia-Romagna 43010
Stallo del Pomodoro Osteria
Largo Hannover 63
Via Vignolese, 58
Cucina del Museo
Via Sant'Agostino, 7
Via Luigi Albinelli, 36-38