How I Ate at Bottura’s for 10 Euros…Well Not Quite.

Chef Massimo Bottura opens canteen in Modena.

Duomo di Modena

At Self Service Ghirlandina for sure you cannot eat the sophisticated dishes of Osteria Francescana, however you can tell your friend that you ate at Bottura’s “Restaurant” in Modena. Moreover you can sample dishes from the Modenese tradition like passatelli, tagliatelle, tortelloni, tortellini, prosciutto di Modena, ragu’, and zampone. The average meal is 10 euros or less, what are you waiting for?

Chef Massimo Bottura opens a canteen in Modena, being part of the food for soul initiative to reduce food wastage and help social inclusion. Self Service Ghirlandina, the name of the canteen is situated at a historic and very popular place, near the cathedral in Modena.

What is the food for soul initiative

This is what I had: Pappardelle con sugo d’oca only 4.5 euros.

If you have never heard about communities to fight food waste through social inclusion, then here are some interesting facts about food for soul. Food for Soul is a non-profit organisation founded by chef Massimo Bottura & Lara Gilmore.

Do you know that food waste is a huge problem and that there are food sources that can be used more effectively with the right knowledge and education? So, what are the main features of this initiative aiming to combat food waste?

Food for soul key features

Many partners collaborate with the main aim to raise both the awareness on issues related to food waste and social isolation. This happens not locally but around the world. Of course, not all local communities are the same, therefore the local needs are being considered and these needs can lead to the creation of brand-new possibilities to be examined, never considered before.

Special attention is given in the renovation of neglected spaces and their creative transformation into inspiring community kitchens, where people that feel socially vulnerable can feel the welcome atmosphere and experience the meals created with food surplus. These special meals are prepared by renowned chefs, with emphasis given on making them both delicious and healthy. Social issues such as hospitality and dignity are given a lot of importance.

Social awareness in practice

Social Tables or “ Refettorios” are another service highlighting the need to create both an active and a conscious as well community. Social Tables Ghirlandina were launched 3 years ago, in 2016 and once per week, each Monday this community kitchen serves about 70 persons in need from the local community.

The concept of theme meals is to be inexpensive. But their low cost does not mean that they are not delicious or healthy. On the contrary besides these features there is a special atmosphere as local artists, designers and even actors are being involved to create a community being well-conscious.

Bread is Gold

In financial world gold is a precious metal with many desired features such as a hedge for inflation. But bread can be gold too.” Bread is Gold” is a book written with many recipes and the combined effort of over 50 chefs who got the idea to write how to transform in many cases neglected ingredients and turn them into a meal both delicious and most importantly healthy.

This book has been written is many languages, some of them being English, Italian and Spanish. Buying the book is another way to increase the social impact of the food for soul initiative. Doing so helps the food for soul initiative to open even more Refettorios and Social Tables around the world.

Self Service Ghirlandina in Modena is a canteen with a special social purpose. Being part of the food for soul initiative it is also a part of a community which wants to decrease drastically food waste and at the same time decrease the impact of social isolation. The location near the cathedral in Modena has the potential make it popular.

Who is Massimo Bottura?

A true son of Emilia Romagna, the culinary capital of Italy, Massimo Bottura was born in Modena in September 1962 and is one of a growing band of innovative chefs that are pushing the boundaries of food and dining as we have come to know them. Massimo’s first experience of food and ingredients came from the many hours he claims he spent under his grandmother’s kitchen table, where he went to seek refuge from his older brothers. Here, at her knee, his great love affair with all things culinary began, and he took the first steps of his journey to the culinary excellence that would one day see his restaurant receiving no less than 3 Michelin stars.

A bit about his background.

Massimo did not initially set out to become a chef; he was studying law in 1986, when he heard that a roadside trattoria on the outskirts of Modena was for sale. He decided to take a break from his studies, bought and renovated the building and a week later he opened his first restaurant, the Trattoria del Campazzo; the rest, as they say, is history and the law faculty’s loss was the Culinary world’s gain.

It was not an overnight success story for Massimo Bottura, but rather a journey of discovery as he first apprenticed with Chef Georges Cogny, where the foundations of his culinary knowledge were laid down with a good grounding in the principles of regional Italian cooking combined with classic French cuisine. He later worked with renowned chefs Alain Ducasse (Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo) and Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame in Spain.

Massimo opens his restaurant in his home town: Modena.

In 1995 he opened Osteria Francescana in the medieval city centre of his home town, Modena, with the intention of combining contemporary art, traditional Italian cuisine and his now-renowned innovative genius. In the following years Massimo and Osteria Francescana received numerous awards, including his first Michelin Star in 2002. A second star followed in 2006 and in 2012 he received his third Michelin star, making him one of only 7 Italian chefs to have been so honoured.
In addition, Osteria Francescana was named the Best Italian Restaurant in the world, and the 4th Best Restaurant in the World in 2011, on The World’s 50 Best Restaurant List. In the latest list for 2013, he has climbed yet another rung of the ladder and is placed at no 3!

The signature dishes of Massimo Bottura.

And the food, you may ask… Massimo himself describes each of his innovative dishes as being a reconstruction of an idea, a memory or a smile, and since he has lived in Modena all his life, the region plays an important role in his food. To whet your appetite, here are a couple of the dishes which will be served for his New Year’s Eve dinner – dedicated to his friends around the world with inspiring dishes from all corners of the globe. From Italy comes Sea urchin spaghetti in the Neopolitan tradition with aglio, olio e peperoncino (olive oil, garlic and chilli), from France there is Foie gras and white truffle (a marriage of French and Italian delicacies) in an Emilian ravioli. Nordic countries are represented by the Aurora borealis dish – porcini, black truffles, chestnuts, chocolate and pumpkin beneath a blanket of leaves.

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Massimo at a recent food event in Modena

Supercars, Super Foods of Modena

Connoisseurs of wonderful cars and superb cuisine will find a holiday in the delightful medieval town of Modena in northern Italy most rewarding.  Modena and near-by Parma are the home of Italy’s greatest exports, Parma Ham, Parmesan Cheese, Balsamic vinegar and, of course, Ferrari and Maserati.  Plan your next holiday to include enough time in this region to get a true taste of some of the best that Italy has to offer.  Here are some of the attractions that you must include in your holiday plans.

Romanesque cathedral
Cathedral of Modena

Hombre Farm – Motorvalley Panini Collection Tour.

Matteo Panini is a young farmer in the region, one of many Parmesan cheese producers, who also happens to  have an amazing collection of motor vehicles which have been passed down to him from his illustrious family which included his father Umberto, who together with his brothers Benito, Franco and Guiseppe, invented the famous Panini stickers.

The motor collection started with tractors, which all farmers needed, and one of the exhibits is a 1934 Landini, still in perfect working order.  After tractors came motorcycles, the most common mode of transport after WWII, and after that came the wonderful cars, featuring examples from Maserati that are thought to be the most important collection of these super cars in the world.  In addition to Italian motor vehicles, there are also many examples from other countries such as British motorbikes from Norton, and even a Messerschmitt car and a Lotus!

A visit to the Hombre farm is an excellent family day trip.  First visit the dairy, where 12 wheels of Parmesan are produced daily, and then enjoy the motor museum.

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The Maserati Eldorado at the Panini Museum

Osteria Francescana

No culinary visit to Modena would be complete without having a meal at this wonderful restaurant, the brain-child of world-renowned chef Massimo Bottura, who grew up in Modena and developed his love of cooking by watching his mother prepare food.  Massimo has come a long way since then!  His food is a modern interpretation of classic Italian cuisine, but this chef, who has worked with some of the big names of the culinary world, such as Alain Ducasse and Ferran Adrio (of El Bulli) is forever pushing the boundaries.  He won his first Michelin star in 2002, a second in 2006 and a third in 2011, as well as numerous other awards and distinctions.  This year, 2013, La Francescana came in 3rd of the 50 best restaurants in the world.  Of course you have to book well in advance, and of course it is expensive, but it is worth it!  His signature dish for 2013 is called Camouflage – a hare in the woods; it is made up of a thin layer of foie gras decorated with various powders composed of hare blood, chestnut and several herbs – perhaps this dish is not for everyone, but it is an example of the chefs’ innovation.  Of course, there are more conventional dishes to suit all palates.

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Chef Massimo Bottura at his restaurant La Francescana in Modena – Source

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Genuine Balsamic Vinegar has been produced in Modena for centuries, and is a unique artisanal product, completely unlike regular vinegar.  The basic ingredient is grape Must (juice) from predominantly Trebbiano grapes (sometimes with the addition of Lambrusco grapes).  The must is simmered (never boiled!) for a lengthy period to reduce and concentrate the liquid.  This liquid is then allowed to ferment and mature for a minimum of 12 years in the case on a “true” Balsamic.  This wonderful product, known as Black Gold, can sometimes be matured as long as 25 years and a new batch is traditionally started to mark the birth of a baby girl, and treasured to become a part of her dowry!  Balsamic vinegar should be used sparingly – just a drop or two to enhance a sliver of Parmesan or a slice of Parma Ham.  Make sure to visit one of the Balsamic producers of Modena during your visit to learn the process of the production, learn how to use it, taste the wonderful nectar and, of course, buy some to take home with you to remind you of Modena.

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The Wonderful Flavors and Tastes of Modena: A List of Top Restaurants

Ghirlandina
The Ghirlandina tower of Modena

Modena is a dream destination for the food connoisseurs. World famous chef Massimo Bottura practices his culinary art here. Besides his famous restaurant Osteria Francescana, there are other places  around Modena to have an unforgettable dinner or lunch, and each one has their own signature cuisine with special flavors. Massimo Bottura has opened a boutique bistro “La Franceschetta” where you can taste pan-Italian dishes for a very reasonable price. For lunch, Caffe Concerto can be a great choice since they offer buffet for 15 euros only. Among other signature restaurants of Modena, Hosteria Giusti and Aldina are noteworthy. Hosteria Giusti: A Culinary Classic Hosteria Giusti is pure delight for your senses with the antique furniture, the aroma of freshly cooked dishes and rich colors of food. Hosteria Giusti is considered as the oldest deli of the world as it was established in 1605 to serve instantly made black cherry jam. The restaurant is quite small with only four tables inside. During the summertime, four more tables are placed outside. The specialties of Hosteria Giusti include Pappardelle with duck, Capon broth tortellini, Pigeon with balsamic vinegar flavor and Tagliatelle with bacon.  Besides these cuisines, Hosteria Giusti offers two incredibly delicious dishes. First one is stuffed pigs’ trotters with lentils and the other one is Cotechino Fritto Con Zabaione (creamy pork sausage), a traditional recipe from the 17th century.

Osteria Francescana: Where Poetry is Served on Plates Considering the taste of the foods and culinary creativity, Osteria Francescana is definitely a champion! Having the legendary cook Massimo Bottura behind the foods served, their dishes are incomparable with any other restaurant. This restaurant produces everything in-house, even the olive oil. Massimo Bottura has an amazing ability to maintain the fine line between tradition and taste. The environment of the restaurant is quite informal and friendly. However, the price might seem a little bit expensive, but the foods served here make justice to the price. Osteria Francescana is now ranks among top 10 on the list of world’s 50 best restaurants. In his own words, Bottura described his food as ‘a reinvention of the flavors of my youth interpreted through the avant-garde’. Of course, then he spend an amazing youth to be be interpreted through flavors. Taste his celebrated cuisines such as iced puddle of oyster juice, marinated Po River eel and Mollito Misto; you have to agree that he is a poet for foods.

La Franceschetta: Expression of Italy Besides Osteria Francescana, the premium food emporium, Mossimo Bottura has another venture – La Franceschetta. The restaurant shares the same playfulness and passion of Osteria Francescana. Located away from the city center, the restaurant offers a more intimate environment for the food lovers. Marta Pulini, an award winning chef and a master of Italian cuisine, pours art into food in this restaurant. Bottura has a vision to establish Francescheta as a restaurant which will represent the Italian culinary as a whole. Pulini, an expert on pan-Italian foods, is an ideal choice to realize that vision and she has already proved herself. This is an exclusive restaurant in Modena that goes beyond the regional dishes in the pursuit to treat the customers with any dish representing Italy.

Osteria da Ermes: Intimate Taste of the Original Osteria da Ermes is another fine restaurant where you are likely to have the best dining experience during your tour in Italy. Ermes, the owner and chef, is passionate about his foods and his greatest pleasure comes from the satisfaction of the customers. Each dish here is prepared with love and careful attention to the details. Ermes and his wife both are exceptionally friendly and known for their caring and loving attitude towards the visitors. This osteria has no fridge in the kitchen as all the items are brought fresh from the market everyday. The place has no fixed menu either, so every new day comes with a surprise for the food lovers. There’s always a long queue in front of this small, cozy restaurant. So, it is better to get there as early as possible to make sure that you are not missing out this amazing restaurant and all the exotic dishes.

Trattoria Aldina: A Hidden Gem of Modena If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive yet high quality lunch in Modena, Trattoria Aldina is the best place to hit. And go there a bit early, otherwise you might not find a seat in this local gem. A tourist rightly commented that if you eat at Trattoria Aldina, your life will be ‘more complete’. Located across the wonderful market near Duomo, Trattoria Aldina only serves lunch. It is famous for the home made pasta varieties that beat the taste of true Modena traditions. You can expect very fast service and immaculate blend of different flavors and tastes.

Caffe Concerto Modena: Delight at the Heart of Modena Caffe Concerto is located at the center of Modena. Being very convenient to access, this place is a regular destination for the tourists. Wonderfully delicious aperitif and fine wines are the signature mark of Caffe Concerto. It’s a great place to unwind and watch the people all around sitting outside. The restaurant offers reasonably priced buffet lunch and dinner, but you can also just stop by for a cup of cappuccino. Your trip to Modena will remain incomplete unless you visit the great dining places and taste all the incredible dishes prepared by the chefs who took culinary to a different level. Besides the restaurants listed here, there are lot other restaurants all over the town of Modena. Try to explore as many as you can during your stay in Modena.