trip report: modena
For Bologna, click here.
If you're a Master of None fan, then perhaps you're already familiar with Modena. If you're an obnoxious foodie like myself, you're familiar with this charming city for another reason: Osteria Francescana. The restaurant, run by the enigmatic and brilliant Massimo Bottura, is a three-Michelin star, 12-table spot on a quiet side street. It has been ranked as high as number one in the world by the World's 50 Best list. It is entirely the wrong place to bring a toddler.
Let me backtrack a bit, though. Once I knew we were staying in Bologna for a few days, snagging a res at Francescana was at the top of my to-do list. I'm not joking when I say that we planned the entire leg of this trip around when we were able to get a table. And in case you're wondering, we were able to score a lunch reservation by setting our alarms for 3:50AM, and continuously clicking refresh on two different computers until the tables opened up for the month of June. We didn't even bother with the phone lines, as my friends told me it's impossible to get through.
The plan, of course, was to find a babysitter and not bring Avvie, but even after chatting with Lara, Massimo's wife, we still came up empty handed. Our solution was to keep her awake until about 15 minutes before our reservation and then we walked her in circles in her stroller until she passed out. We actually managed to keep her asleep for about half the meal, so that's a win in my book. Once she woke up, we basically just kept cramming bread in her mouth, which worked like a charm.
But more on the meal later!
We took a train from Bologna to Modena, which was a very easy 20-minute ride. From there, we took a cab to the Ferrari Museum, where Mike ran around like a kid in a candy store. It's basically just one large space with a ton of different cars. Every 15 minutes or so, they dim the lights and run a movie along the back wall that documents the story of Ferrari. If you're a huge fan of the brand, it's worth a trip, but I wouldn't say it was life changing.
Unfortunately we didn't have time to actually drive Ferraris, but that's also a popular (and very expensive) option for true car nuts.
We hopped another quick cab back to the center of Modena, where we sat outside at a cafe until it was time to walk over to Francescana. The city was HOT and didn't have a lot of shade, so make sure to bring sunblock, water, and keep your babies covered if they're with you.
Then it was time to eat! I was pretty giddy the whole morning, but by the time we actually got to the door of the restaurant, I was practically levitating. I had been terrified that everyone was going to give dirty looks when we rolled up with the stroller, but I think everyone else was so excited about their own experience, no one seemed to notice.
While there is technically an a la carte option on the menu, if you came all the way to Modena, go big or go home, right? There were two different tasting menu options on the day we went, one that featured sort of the greatest hits and one that was mostly newer dishes. We opted for the former since I had seen the Chef's Table episode and was dying to try that Parmesan dish.
It was as dreamy and magnificent as I hoped it would be. As you can kind of tell from the photo, there were five different elements, each one Parmesan aged a different amount of months.
Every course was imaginative, playful, and, most important, flavorful and tasty. One of my other favorites was this risotto, which was made up of three different flavors (mushroom, squid, and veggies) and colors, for an overall camouflage look:
And while everyone raves about the lemon tart, I actually loved this popcorn-based dessert even more:
The mix of salty and sweet, plus the soft and crunchy textures was phenomenal.
So, the most important question: was it worth it? Yes. Unlike some other fancy tasting menus, every course here was delicious, in addition to being fun to look at. Massimo even came out to say hello to everyone and met his littlest fan. I'm kicking myself that I didn't get a picture! And, it should go without saying that the service and venue were both superb.
After lunch, we were hoping to go to the Mercato Albinelli, but, as is the case in most smaller Italian cities and towns, pretty much the whole commercial district shuts down from about 12-4. As a New Yorker, this is mind boggling to me, but there it is. So instead, we walked off lunch by roaming through the pretty side streets, eating ice cream (Mike), and picking up almond cookies for later, a Modenese specialty (Me. Duh.) Seriously though, don't miss getting these cookies if you're there. We went to Pasticceria S. Biagio, which was incredible.
A too-quick trip, but many reasons to come back again.