Modena – home of culinary genius Massimo Bottura

March 8, 2019 – March 10, 2019

Last year Tyler and I tried to unsuccessfully for months to get a reservation at the coveted Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. The restaurant of Massimo Bottura has been consistently in the top restaurants in the world for the past few years, and there is no shortage of Netflix shows about the restaurant and owner. On the first of the month, reservations open for three months later, and we would get in queue of 1000+ people to try to snag a spot. It wasn’t until Tyler was on a business trip in Russia (which is two hours ahead of Italy), that we finally got a reservation. We were ecstatic and immediately started planning our trip to Modena.

Even if you don’t have reservations at the Osteria, Modena is worth a visit. We had a late night flight Friday after work to Bologna and rented a car to make what was supposed to be a short 35 minute drive to our hotel. After a quite brutal rental car situation, we were on the road an hour after we landed. This is when we learned that it’s just better for our sanity if Tyler navigates while I drive. I accidentally led us onto a toll road that took us back to Bologna and had no exits for 15 minutes, and then additionally led us down some one way road in the countryside where we were forced to do a 30 minute loop. What was supposed to be 35 minutes turned into about an hour and a half. We were exhausted when we finally got to the hotel and they had given our parking spot away.

The hotel we stayed in was pretty old and I could hear the water going through the pipes in the room next to our bed. I wouldn’t really recommend it, but it was a good thing we weren’t there very much. On Saturday, we woke up early-ish to explore!

We headed straight to the Mercato Albinelli to try some world famous Parmesan and meat. It was really hard to choose which cheese stand to visit because there were so many overflowing with various cheeses. We settled on one that also had meat so we could do a one stop shop. No one was in a hurry so it took a while, and the owner didn’t speak great English, so Tyler had to improvise. We ended up with a brick of Parmesean, some salami, and bologna, as well as a block of foccacia. Perfect for a lunchtime snack.

After the market, we needed coffee, and headed to a sunny square to try the gnocchi fritto, basically just some fried bread that you dip in coffee. Which was delicious. We sat in the sun while we mapped out the rest of our day.

We visited the main square where the huge cathedral sits.

We climbed to the top of the tower in said huge cathedral. It wasn’t too strenuous of a climb, but was underwhelming at the top since all of the windows had bars over them. Not great for viewing.

We learned about the stolen bucket of which a replica sits in the tower.

But the bucket was soon to be locked away, in the tallest tower it remains to this day. Up on high the trophy hangs bound, by a great chain nailed far off the ground. A poem about the bucket.

We walked through the streets of Modena.

We ate some lunch in a nice green park, while watching a rooster roam.

Then Tyler took over on the touring front and we visited the Enzo Ferrari Museum. The museum had a bunch of cars and a timeline of the different styles throughout the years. We watched a video about Mr. Ferrari’s life. Then we visited a separate section that had a lot of different kinds of engines. The museum didn’t really excite me, but I can see how a car lover would have been enthralled. We spent maybe an hour wandering through the different sections.

Hers and his Ferraris
His and hers Ferraris

Modena is also known for producing Balsamic vinegar, and one of the supposed best places to do a tasting of the delicious black nectar is the Acetaia Giuseppe Giusti just a short 15 minute drive from the city center. Luckily we were able to book an afternoon tasting at the oldest Acetaia in Modena, and we headed out to the farm. The drive was very scenic through the Italian countryside.

We arrived at the tasting and first did a tour through the museum learning about the history of the family and how they make their vinegar. Balsamic vinegar starts with grapes, just like wine, but the main difference is that the grapes are cooked to produce the vinegar. The liquid is then aged in barrels of varying sizes. I thought it was interesting that each year as part of the liquid evaporates, the vinegar maker will steal liquid from the next biggest barrel with a thief and transfer it to the smaller barrel. This process continues and eventually the last and largest barrel can end up with a reduced amount of liquid so a different mixture of grapes is added. The smallest barrel ends up being the most pure and also the most pricey.

varying sizes of barrels. the one on the right would be the most pure. We got to smell the liquid in these barrels, you could definitely tell a different between the four.

The so called perfect recipe involves aging the vinegar for 100 years, and therefore the barrels are passed down from generation to generation. If you marry into the family, you may end up getting some barrels for a wedding gift. The oldest barrel at this particular Actetaia was from the early 1600s. WoW.

This wasn’t it.

After the tour, we did a tasting of about 25 different types of Balsamic vinegar. For the first few, I could distinguish the taste. Some were sweeter and thicker, more like a syrup, while others were more bitter and tangy. After a while, they all started to taste the same. We ended up buying a nice bottle of the stuff to take home with us.

Our dinner reservations were at 8pm, so we headed back to our hotel to get ready and then walked to the square for an aperitif.

Soon it was time to head to the main event. Dinner at the number one restaurant in the world. I was so excited, but also nervous since I had been building up this experience in my head for so many months. Would it be worth it?

We got to the restaurant a few minutes before it opened and took some pictures outside of the door. All the sudden the grand doors swung open and we were greeted by several of the staff. They showed us to our seats in the dining room with only 6 tables. I think there was a separate dining room with another 5-6 tables, but I didn’t see it.

I was immediately impressed by the grandness of everything. The staff were very professional. The table scape was immaculate and posh. The decor of the room was rich in color and tasteful. I sat there for a minute soaking it all in.

We chose the seasonal tasting menu complete with wine pairings. Each course was presented so beautifully and creatively. You expect for the number one restaurant that the food will be good, but there was so much imagination in each dish, that really took it up a notch. The wine pairings were also so different, but really worked with the dish. Here’s how the dinner went:

Pre-dinner goodies.

Filled hamachi in abstract

Autumn in New York as the journey of the eel

Spaghettini between the gulf of Naples and Hokkaido

We are still deciding which fish to serve!

Wagyu non wagyu

When my mom met Bocuse

I asked the waiter about this dish. It’s named after someone that Massimo’s mom knew named Bocuse that has passed away.

Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in different textures and temperatures

Guinea hen in three courses:

Ravioli of roasted potatoes in Guinea hen roasted sauce

Guinea hen a la Crete … tribute to the Cantarellis

Guinea hen crunchy skin, savor livers and truffle

Oops! I dropped the lemon tart

Tribute to Amalfi

Ate this one too quick! No pic 😦

After dinner goodies.

My two favorite dishes had to have been the Parmigiano 5 ways and Oops I dropped the lemon tart. The Parmigiano was hot, cold, foam, cracker, liquid all wrapped into one dish of amazingness. The lemon tart was lemony, spongy, colorful and eye catching. Of course, all of the other dishes were each unique and delicious, but these two really stole the show for me.

The service we had while dining was also unrivaled. The staff really was there to cater to your every need. The biggest highlight of the whole dinner though, was when Massimo came to our table and started talking to us. I couldn’t believe it! The man I had seen on tv so many times was standing in front of us! We chatted for a bit and Tyler told him thank you for creating such a wonderful restaurant and Massimo expressed that it was he who thanked us because without people wanting to dine there his restaurant would be nothing. He was a humble and very charismatic man and I am now a big big fan.

The back of Massimo

It was probably the most amazing dinner we will ever have, and I truly cherish this experience.

We headed back to the hotel after dinner, with full bellies and a bit of a wine buzz. On Sunday, we took our time getting up in the morning and just kind of wandered through the town. It is a pretty small town and we had seen most of it the day before, so we had no real agenda other than taking in the beauty, and enjoying the nice weather.

You could really tell how small of a town it was when we stopped to have breakfast. We stopped at a little cafe for cappuccinos and pastries. After successfully ordering a cappuccino, I tried to also order water, to no avail due to the language barrier. Tyler went inside to try to order food and was also turned away. So we enjoyed the cup of jo and went to a different place. We had almost the same issue, but here Tyler was able to point at things from behind the counter and we finally were able to vanquish our hunger.

On our way to the airport, we made a pit stop at the Lamborghini museum. I can’t believe I let Tyler talk me into going to two car museums in the same weekend, but I did enjoy this one more than the Ferrari museum. The museum featured a showroom of several Lambos throughout the ages. These cars are just incredible and so super fast. I liked looking at the detail of each and every model.

Because it wasn’t very big, we made it through the museum relatively quickly and then headed to the airport, still on a high from the dinner the night before. I have a feeling this is one we will be talking about for years to come.

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