Chef Massimo Bottura helped catapult northern Italy’s Modena to worldwide gastronomic glory when he opened his Osteria Francescana in 1995, showcasing his avant-garde take on traditional Italian cuisine.
But even before Bottura came along, Modena was a culinary center that created Parmigiano-Reggiano, tortellini pasta, balsamic vinegar, sparkling red Lambrusco wine and more.
To find out what to see, do and, of course, eat in the Emilia-Romagna region, we turned to Modena-born and -raised Bottura. Before his appearance at Once Upon a Kitchen, an exclusive gourmet affair from the Gr8 Group on December 1 in Miami Beach (which also will include star chefs Mauro Colagreco, Alex Atala and Antonio Bachour), Bottura made time to share his favorite places to visit in Modena in his own words.
This beautiful dairy farm is set in the countryside with views of the Apennines. The farm not only makes one of the best Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses in the area, but it’s 100 percent organic. The cow feed is grown on the property — alfalfa, barley and soy — and all the animals reside at Hombre.
It is a small-production farm run by the Panini family. Umberto Panini, the founder, was also a car collector and has on the property an incredible museum of vintage Lamborghini tractors, Maserati cars and motorbikes.
The shop on property sells many local products in addition to cheese, ricotta, butter and jams made on premises.
The Museo dell’Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is in the nearby town of Spilamberto and worth a visit to understand the incredible story behind this ancient condiment. There are also many private acetaia in the area run by Modenese families. Near Maria Luigia, we have many to choose from, such as Villa Bianca, Acetaia Giusti and Villa San Donnino.
Antica Pasticceria San Biagio
Could be in the book of world records for being the tiniest pastry shop in the world with delicious cakes, cream-filled mini doughnuts and my favorite amaretto cookies. They also sell chocolates, balsamic vinegar and lots of Old World charm.
Surprisingly enough, it’s also open on Sunday mornings.
A very special osteria with four tables hidden behind the Giusti gastronomy shop on Via Farini.
Classic Modenese dishes are served here. After Hosteria Giusti was featured on Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series Master of None,it is very difficult to find a table.
La Boutique del Tortellino
A great place to buy handmade egg pasta, from tortellini to lasagna to tortelloni. Luca dall’Olio has taken over this charming little boutique from his mother, Angela, who is famed for teaching Aziz Ansari how to make tortellini.
A très chic coffee shop, casual café and place to be seen at anytime of day.
Owner Alessandro Bertoni also runs a quaint two-room bed and breakfast called Quartopiano.
Sommelier Jan has an excellent selection of wines, cheese and a delicious kitchen for a casual wine bar. On a tiny alley with views looking out to the Ghirlandina belltower.
Modena’s covered food market has iron detailing from the 1920s. Here you can find everything from the freshest fruits and vegetables to dairy, meat, poultry, fish, bread and even flowers. Open mornings during the week and Saturday afternoons.
The Fantoni sisters run this historic corner bar in the Albinelli market famous for its toasted sandwiches and osteria glasses of Lambrusco. It’s lunch only.
Fabulous coffee shop with a great selection of filtered and espresso coffees.
Just across the street from the Albinelli market, Trattoria Aldina is a bustling place with communal tables and lots of good cheer, as well as traditional Modenese specialties such as tortellini, tortelloni and tagliatelle al ragu.
Marina Bersan is the owner and sommelier of this unique wine bar. She offers, in addition to wines by the glass or bottle, a selection of refreshing cold dishes, cheese plates, salumi and anchovies in a cozy indoor space and on her outdoor patio with views of the Ghirlandina belltower on one of Modena’s most charming streets, via Cesare Battisti.
The region is also known for its car production — Ferrari, Maserati , Lamborghini and Pagani cars are designed and produced in Modena. Visits to the factories and museums, like the Museo Enzo Ferrari in Modena and Ferrari Museum in Maranello, offer an interesting insight into this phenomenon that rose after WWI and still defines the area.
Internationally famed gallerist Emilio Mazzoli has a constantly changing roster of artists he exhibits in his gallery, including David Salle, Alex Katz, Ross Bleckner, Mimmo Paladino, Enzo Cucchi, Carlo Benvenuto and more. Always worth stopping by.
This casual-contemporary clothing store is located next to one of my favorite coffee shops, Mon Cafe. It’s selling Comme des Garçons, Kitsuné, Tendresses, John Smedley sweaters, Ann Demeulemeester, Red Wing boots and Teva sandals as well as perfumes, coffee-table books and gadgets.
Clothing, shoes and accessories by designers like Forte_Forte, Isabel Marant, Phillip Lim and Marni.
La Vacchetta Grassa
This leather shop features an upstairs leather laboratory where you can see and select items for custom-made leather goods. Everything in the store is made in Modena, from belts to wallets to bags and shoes.
Bensone is a classic Modenese coffeecake made with jam and a simple cookie dough. This shop does have a cute coffee shop with handmade treats, but it really specializes in unique objects from around the world as well as stenciled T-shirts, bags and sneakers.
Free ’n’ Joy
More than a flower shop, Free ‘n’ Joy sells plants, vases, candles and home accessories in addition to some of the freshest flowers in town.
A shop with stylish selection of spices, teas, salts, soaps, wax paper tablecloths, and objects for the kitchen and home.