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Jun 9, 2013 12:46 PM

Emilia-Romagna (Modena and Zibello)

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,
41123 Modena

La Buca
via Ghizzi 6
Zibello, Emilia-Romagna 43010

Stallo del Pomodoro Osteria
Largo Hannover 63
41121 Modena

Franceschetta 58
Via Vignolese, 58

Cucina del Museo
Via Sant'Agostino, 7
41121 Modena

La Chersenta
Via Luigi Albinelli, 36-38

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  1. Thanks for the detailed trip report and the contact info. We will be in Modena in five weeks (not that I'm counting the days) and I think we'd be happy following in your footsteps. Does Franceschetta 58 take advance reservations?

    1 Reply
    1. re: EAOrelup

      They did take reservations, which I would recommend, not a table open on a Monday evening.

    2. What a terrific report with lots of new and good info. including re the wines you drank. Curious, can you estimate the per person cost of each of these meals?

      1 Reply
      1. re: jen kalb

        I don't remember, but none were expensive. Franceschetta 58 and La Buca were exceptional values.

      2. Thanks for the report. Would love to read one on your Barcelona trip. We're headed there in October.

        1. Can I get from Parma to Zibello without a car?

          30 Replies
            1. re: allende

              Okay I reserved a car.

              If I'm coming from Bologna and need to be back in 3 days, do I have enough time to visit Parma/Zibello and Modena? Where would you suggest to stay? Is there anything else on the route I should check out?

              1. re: Negaduck

                Stay at La Buca for a night (I presume you're speaking of La Buca when you say Zibello).

                Also go to Hostaria Da Ivan in Fontanelle di Roccabianca, and Locanda Mariella in Calestano. I've written about both places here on Chowhound.

                These are trattorie in the countryside where wonderful food from Emilia is served. In our opinion, they are much better places than those in Parma, Modena and Bologna. All excellent trattorie. All have excellent, reasonably priced wine lists.

                1. re: allende

                  Thanks. Would you recommend staying there for just one night? After the first night, in the following 2 days I'd like to: tour a parmigianno reggiano dairy, a balsamic vinegar house, see the Ferrari museum, and head back to Bologna.

                  Any suggestions where to stay the 2nd night?

                  1. re: Negaduck

                    I'd spend one night at La Buca, then spend a night at Da Ivan, which will be an entirely different food experience even though the places are only 10 miles apart. But again, the second night only if you want to experience the greatness of Emilia's country trattorie.

                    Kmzed is correct... it can be done by train and bus, but it is going to take you a lot longer because of the schedules. Also, if you take a bus to Zibello, you then have to walk the two miles or so to La Buca, unless you are fortunate enough to be there on the odd days where there are actually taxis in town:)

                    If you do go to La Buca, there is a bicycle shop about 100 yards away, by the argine (the embankment). You can rent bikes for a very nominal amount and ride along the top of the argine for miles and see all of the area. It is delightful. You can do the same thing at Da Ivan.

                    1. re: allende

                      It looks like Da Ivan is fully booked on the nights I'm there. I can still eat there but I'll need a place to stay afterwards.

                      1. re: Negaduck

                        Unfortunately, I don't have an alternative.

                        1. re: Negaduck

                          Ask La Buca if you can stay for two nights, but eat there only one. If they don't have reservations for the rooms, they'll let you do that. We've had friends who have done it.

                        2. re: allende

                          It should be a simple matter to find a taxi in Busseto right at the train station and it is only a 15 minute ride to the restaurant from there. It actually is not a lot longer journey than renting a car and driving from Bologna once you factor in all that is involved with renting a car. Yes it is a longer journey from Bologna if one takes a bus from Busseto to Zibello at the dinner hour because you'd need to wait for the bus in Busseto -- which is an exceptionally pretty town -- but once you are on the bus I believe one of the stops it makes in Zibello is right down the street from La Buca .

                          Coming from Bologna I would recommend including seeing the centro storico of Busseto in the afternoon as part of an excursion to eat La Buca. It is a lovely place that is rich in culture (and with some interesting food shops too) and then if one prefers a bus to a taxi to Zibello one can catch the 6pm bus. I would take a taxi after 7pm.

                          There are lots of destination worthy eateries and food producers in the Emila Romagna that are impossible to reach without a car. But there are also some that are only a bit off the train lines -- like La Buca or Cavallino Bianco -- where especially if one is willing to take a short taxi ride you can eat and drink and spend the night in a very relaxed way. This is especially helpful I think to people who understandably do not want to miss visiting Parma and Modena (for Modena's terrific covered market among other attractions) where having a car turns into a nuisance.

                          However this works best for people who enjoy trains and travel light (but you can store heavy luggage in Bologna's train station and take a toothbrush).

                          1. re: kmzed

                            Seeing as how I do have a car now, which of these destinations can you suggest that are not too far from my route from Bologna to Parma?

                            1. re: Negaduck

                              I'm not sure I understand your question. if I were looking for a place to stay near Da Ivan I would focus on finding a place in Busseto unless I wanted to eat at Al Cavallino Bianco instead and spend the night there. I think Arnaldo in Rubiera has rooms as well if you wanted to eat there.

                              Or are you asking what is of interest between Bologna and Parma foodwise -- or otherwise? It is a wonderfully rich area for many things but only food is up for discussion on this website.

                              1. re: kmzed

                                I meant food destinations only reachable by car between Parma and Bologna.

                                Also Da Ivan emailed me back saying they have availability. So now I'm wondering if I should stay a night there (or La Buca) and then my second night somewhere along the way back to Bologna, perhaps near one of these aforementioned food destinations.

                                1. re: Negaduck

                                  Where did you have in mind between Parma and Bologna?

                                  No place that I've been to between the two cities is like La Buca or Da Ivan. These places are serving osteria food in the Parmense countryside in the Po Delta, with passionate owners (and very good wine lists). This is different food from that between Parma and Bologna. As I have mentioned and as others on Chowhound Italy have mentioned, these places are special, but there are other places that are special as well. Seems to me that you have to decide what type of food and experience you want.

                                  Perhaps kmzed can recommend and give a review of a place that he has been to and really likes.

                                  1. re: allende

                                    If Negaduck wanted to eat at Da Ivan and sleep at Da Ivan and the news from Da Ivan and Negaduck is that Da Ivan now has room available for Negaduck -- erm.... what is this about? You were the one who suggeseted Da Ivan in the first place and now I have encouraged that.

                                    There is nothing "special" about going to a restaurant whose menu or specialty doesn't appeal to an individual palate.

                                    I thought I made my suggestions clear. Negaduck should pick a menu he or she finds appealing where he or she can also sleep after dinner without driving ! (I've made some suggestions and even provided links.) You apparently agree with that overall premise (although maybe not about the driving).

                                    Since Negaduck will apparently have a car during mornings and lunches and afternoons I shared some of my favorite eating destinations as requested. Emilia Romagna has many many food experiences to offer -- cheese and fruit and frogs and pasta and vinegar and pig and mushroom and markets and.... well -- and I've not sampled all of them because not all of them interest me but I thought I would share what I like just the same.

                                    I find this view of Emilia Romagna that there are less than 5 special places to enjoy food and eating .... I'll say: not plausible

                                    (especially after one takes into account individual palates -- at which point it just gets absurd).

                                    1. re: kmzed

                                      Sorry, I wasn't being clear.
                                      I only asked because I have 2 nights at my disposal and figured I would spend 1 at either La Buca or Da Ivan, and then the other night perhaps somewhere along the way back to Bologna.

                                      My current plan is to arrive in Bologna around noon and then drive up to Parma and spend my dinner+night at either La Buca or Da Ivan.

                                      The next morning I was hoping to do a parmigiano reggiano tour (but I am still awaiting for the consortium to get back to me) the followed by exploring Parma. At night I would make my way to another destination worthy meal+accommodation, and thought maybe there is one (or some) along the way back south, perhaps in a different area I could experience.

                                      The day after that I was planning on going around the Modena area, eat at Giusti, and eventually visit Ferrari and Lamborghini before going to Bologna.

                                      1. re: Negaduck


                                        All good choices. I honestly don't know how you can choose between Da Ivan and La Buca or other places I suggested without considering what they serve -- which is information available online or in food guidebooks -- but in my view there is no point in going to Zibello if culatello is not a big deal to you.

                                        1. re: kmzed

                                          It looks like I was able to get a tour in the Reggio Emilia region and since they start early in the morning, I'd prefer to spend my first night near there. Then the 2nd day after the tour I can make my way to Parma.

                                          So are there any meal+accommodation destinations closer to Reggio Emilia where I can spend my first night?

                                          1. re: Negaduck

                                            Arnaldo's Clinica Gastronomic is located in an old inn also incorporating a pleasant small hotel in a nice small town, Rubiera, on the via Emilia between Modena and Reggio Emilia.
                                            While we have not been there for maybe three yearsl we found the experience warm and convivial, with a celebratory feel in the dining room, kind lady servers and the food excellent - with selection from a menu as well as carts which allowed the sampling of a number of very well prepared regional specialties. We drank their recommended lambrusco which was a good specimen of the breed and went well with the food on offer - so Im not in a position to critique their wine list - it thats a significant consideration to you I would pay attention to Allende's opinion.

                                            I think there have been reports here in the past on Hotel Posta in Reggio Emilia, in the center of that very nice town. You can use the search feature to find these reports if you are interested.

                                          2. re: kmzed

                                            I guess I won't have to decide between Da Ivan and La Buca now since neither are open on Tuesday, and now that's the night I'm looking to fill.

                                            1. re: Negaduck

                                              Looks like al Cavallino is also closed Tuesday, and so is Ai Due Platani. Guess I chose a bad time to go to Parma.

                                              1. re: Negaduck

                                                Tuesday can be hard in that area. It seems however that Antica Corte Pallavicina, a more luxe establishment with rooms as well as a restaurant, part of the same Spigaroli property,is open on Tues even if al Cavallino Bianco is not. I think there is an allende review of it on the site.

                                                Previously mentioned Arnaldo is also open on Tuesdays

                                                There is lots of good traditional eating in this regions - standards are high - so the places mentioned are far from the only alternatives.


                                        2. re: kmzed

                                          As I mentioned to you the other day, unlike you, I don't believe one can tell what a restaurant is like by its web site. Nor can one tell what a restaurant is like by its menu. Nor, should one eliminate going to a restaurant because it is in The Michelin. As you made plain on The France board and on this one, you believe differently.

                                          Was your idea of suggestions just "mentioning" two places or do you really like, and have been to, Cavallino Bianco, Arnaldo and La Buca. You've been very critical of what people have posted on Chowhound Italy (and France) but have never, to my knowledge, written anything substantive about a place that you like. Have we missed something?

                                          Sorry I only put one "L" in Cavallino. My mistake.
                                          Speaking of mistakes...if one stays at Cavallino Bianco, where does one sleep? On the Argine? Does Cavallino Bianco have rooms as you say it does? Perhaps they do and I missed them. If so, my apology.

                                          1. re: allende

                                            I think she's talking about Antica Corte Pallavicina which of course has rooms and is under the same ownership as Al Cavallino Bianco?

                                            1. re: allende


                                              Well, one more for the files of no-good-deed-goes-unpunished.

                                              I only weighed into this thread because I thought at some future date other people finding it who didn't have a car might want to go La Buca -- apparently one of your favourite restaurants, apparently owned by a friend of yours, I only wanted to tell them they could do this without a car. I deliberately did not offer any personal opinion whatsoever about the choice of La Buca.

                                              I guess my big mistake was to try to help Negaduck when he or she expressed interest in eating at Da Ivan -- also a favourite of yours owned by a friend of yours -- but Da Ivan didn't have a room for sleeping. Again, without expressing any opinion about the choice of Da Ivan, I suggested looking for a hotel room in nearby Busseto -- unless Negaduck preferred to just find another restaurant entirely where it would also be possible to sleep. So I pointed to some nearby possibilities that Negaduck could research. There is a ton of information online about what these places focus on. One can look at their websites to see their seasonal menu.

                                              (And my additional mistake was to misremember that it is Antica Corte Pallavicina in the tiny hamlet of Polesine Parmense that has the rooms, not Al Cavallino Bianco in the tiny hamlet of Polesine Parmense. Thanks jen kalb)


                                              I don't take your approach to eating in Italy. I am indeed critical of taking an approach to eating in Italy or learning about its food that is focused exclusively on collecting addresses of restaurants from guidebooks, apps or single voices on Chowhound, especially if one is not going to consult menus, think about what season it is, or consider the entire dining experience. But when people have already chosen their restaurants based on your recommendations, not only do I not criticise them, I help them get there!

                                              1. re: kmzed

                                                PS: It just occurred to me that Arnaldo still has its Michelin star. So your characterisations of me are mischaracterisations. I would have recommended Amerigo in Savigno -- another Michelin star -- were it inside the area requested by Negaduck. (Actually Negaduck, you might want to look it up and see if the menu and locale works for you. Amerigo has rooms.)

                                                I didn't think in trying to help Negaduck the thread and its contents should be all about me and my dining preferences. I thought it should be about trying to help Negaduck and others who might follow. Still think that way actually, but if you wish to go on making it about me -- well, that's odd and you're on your own.

                                        3. re: Negaduck

                                          My fundamental personal feeling about driving and dining is that I want to sleep where I eat dinner. I like to enjoy wine with dinner. If Da Ivan now tells you that you can sleep there as well as dine there you might want to take them up on the offer. I am assuming you have been able to peruse the typical menu or have some general idea of what they serve and it is to your thing. You can also check out the menu at Al Cavallino Bianco because they also will take you for the night.


                                          Purely personally I also like Modena as a food destination and place to spend the night because I find the covered market there (open in the mornings) one of the best I have ever used for purchases and lovely to behold (as is Modena itself) -- but if you don't have access to a kitchen and are not interested in shopping to bring food home you may not care. If you do want to go then please be careful not to drive willy-nilly inside the small city because you could get a fine. Pick a hotel on the edge of town. (It is a small town so it's not a problem to get to the morning market and restaurants on foot).

                                          Likewise I have found it delightful to be in castle-dominated Vignola (which can be reached by train from Bologna as well as car) because the local chocolate torta di Barozzi is a winner in my book (and I have long wanted to try its local trattoria -- La Bolognese -- for lunch -- which is the only time it is open). I like vinegar so I am curious to visit the vinegar areas and eat the many dishes that utilize it (mainly in and around Modena). I also like eating the fish of the Po river.

                                          I don't know if you are more interested in restaurant experiences or the core food production of the area. But whichever you are interested in then don't worry. If you have a car you can get to any of them. It is a very small area. You can even go east of Bologna -- all the way to the Adriatic in a car -- and get back to Bologna easily.

                                          1. re: kmzed

                                            Have you been to Al Cavalino Bianco? La Buca? Da Ivan?

                                            1. re: allende

                                              You want 2 L's in that "cavallino."

                                              See my other reply to you.

                        3. re: Negaduck

                          Just for the record, one doesn't need a car to reach Zibello and have dinner and spend the night at La Buca. One takes the train from Bologna to Busseto (90 mins) and then a bus or taxi ride to Zibello (15 mins). It's not all that much longer than driving from Bologna.

                          Returning to the Busseto train station the next day, one can then go to Parma (with a switch in Fidenza). And Modena is on the same train line, heading back to Bologna.

                          It is also possible to eat and spend the night at Al Cavallino Bianco using the same trains but heading to Polesine Parmense instead of Zibello.

                          Not suggesting you change your plans, and having a car can be an asset in that area if you are primarily interested in food and don't intend to see any art or architecture in the historic cities (where you must be careful driving not to get caught inside any ZTLs.)

                          Just wanted others to know that La Buca can be a dinner /overnight destination for people without a car who are visiting Emilia-Romagna or based in Bologna.

                          1. re: kmzed


                            Below, among many other things, is what you wrote on the Italy and France boards about not using the Michelin. Gee, you sound a lot like barberiniabee who used to post here and then just disappeared. Once again, am sure it is just my imagination

                            You wrote: "I suspect you will now swear to us that the family Bison is precisely the old world family Hazan described. But (call me foolish) I don't believe Michelin gives out stars to the kind of cooking and plain trattoria Hazan describes (and I've looked at La Zanzara's website)."

                            You may not believe it, but in my mind you are giving out incorrect information because as I've pointed out (and named many places e.g.Priocca, Zanzara), the Michelin does give out stars to the "kind of cooking that Hazan describes". Another example that you mentioned, is Da Amerigo. You have been to Da Amerigo, haven't you, although I don't see that you've written a review.

                            Can you get to La Buca by train and bus. Yes. Is it very difficult and time consuming? Yes. Have you done it? Have you been to La Buca? Can you get to Cavallino by train and bus? Yes. Is it difficult? Is it time consuming? Yes. Have you walked from Polesine to Antica Corte? Have you stayed there?

                            For whatever it's worth to Negaduck. We've been to Arnaldo three times. We liked it the first two times many years ago (that's why we went back). The last time we went a few years ago (and it will be the last time), it had changed a great deal. The place had none of the warmth of prior times. The arrosti and bolliti were still very good, but what a change in the attitude of the people who own it. The wine list was mediocre.

                            You, kmzed, obviously like it. I don't. That's the way it is. To compare it to La Buca and Da Ivan is quite funny. Arnaldo is a very different type of place from the two of them. Not better, not worse, just different.
                            If you went to Da Ivan, for example, I think you would see that.

                            I agree with your thought that you are just trying to help Negaduck, but it might be wise to actually go to places before you comment on them. I don't think it can be done honestly by just looking at a web site or looking at a menu on a web site, as you have done with La Zanzara and other places.

                        4. We just spent a week or so in E-R and had a great time. Foodwise, it was much better than the time in Rome and Milan either side of E-R. Just too many tourists (ironically), and I won't be going back to Perilli despite their still delicious carbonara.

                          Bologna - Meloncello and Amerigo were good.
                          Modena - Francescana and Giusti were both great. Also Rubbiara/ Pedroni.
                          Zibello - we stayed at three places with dinner reservations - Da Ivan and La Buca, really friendly hosts and great food. One other night at Antica Corte Pallavincina which was a lot more luxe but also fun - cookery class, bike/ cheese factory tour etc but we found the more casual Cavallino Bianco offered more enjoyable experience than the main restaurant which was just a bit too snooty for my liking.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: chobochobo

                            Sorry if I am being slow, but are you saying there were too many tourists in Emilia Romagna, or in Rome and Milan?

                            1. re: walker42

                              In the restaurants that I went to, in Rome and Milan.

                            2. re: chobochobo

                              Thanks for the report and glad you ate well! Would love to hear more about your meals and experiences!)

                              1. re: chobochobo

                                I see that Francescana is 'the second best restaurant in the world' now. It was great but a bit of a departure from the places that I usually like to go to. This may be due to the fact that we chose the experimental 'Sensations' degustazione menu, makes it a bit difficult to compare to places such as Arzak and Akelare that we tried in San Sebastien earlier in the year. Service was immaculate and I felt a bit bad that we hadn't taken the advantage to dress to the nines, we generally dress down when travelling to avoid unwanted attention.