Emila Romagna, Italy 2009
Modena, which has three DOC’s, is the centre for Lambrusco production but Reggio has the latest and only other DOC (go for dry-secco, rather than sweet-amabile). Locals tend to be quite disparaging about their own wine as they are sandwiched between Tuscany to the south and the great Barolo region to the north but it can be quite good as well as very cheap, typically €7 in a restaurant. The best I found was the Concerto 2007 (B+),others varied from poor to just ok. You can buy the Concerto for €4.50 at Bigliardi Enoteca at 21a Via Emila all’ Angelo. A good sweet white (untried) is apparently Bianco di Scandiano, and the drier Pignoletto.
The local pasta to try is Capelleti (filled with a pork ragu, particularly famous in Ferrara) and Tortelli, which look like Ravioli but have vegetarian fillings as opposed to meat. The most common fillings are the ‘verdi’ ricotta & spinach, asparagus or potato, the last being my favourite.
Via Roma seems to have most things you might might need, a macrobiotic restaurant at number 55c, a salumeria at 53, internet at 56, a curry house at 40, North African food at 35, barber at 29a, tabbacheria at 30b, supermarket in the basement at no 1 and an antique street market on Saturdays. Avoid Trattoria Canossa (the hotels recommendation), it’s overpriced and fusty. I walked out after 10 mins of waiting for the menu and being ignored.
The town centre is very relaxed, I counted four bars in the centre that were playing chilled house or live blues with the speakers out on the street. Most of them have comfortable seating areas outside.
Da Italo (Intermediate A), 14 Via Sessi, off Via Roma, look for the white awning. GEM ALERT!
I love this place, mainly for the wonderful Parisian cafe atmosphere (low lighting, wooden cabinets dark red painted walls, booths, quirky pictures, accordion music) but the food is also very good. There is no name on the outside and you have to ring the bell to be let in.
Davide the friendly owner speaks English and was happy to chat about such subjects as art deco and balsamic vinegar (I didn’t know you can put it on cheese, meat, ice cream, strawberries). I had Gnocco Frito, (a typical Emilian starter of pastry that puffs up when deep fried), accompanied by some excellent Grana cheese (put the Balsamic on it) and Parma ham, followed by Fileto di Cafe Paris (a steak with a sauce of 10 herbs and roast potatoes), all excellent. Only the Malvasia Secca (a local slightly sparkling white wine) was disappointing. Splashed out a bit and spent €48 euro, but that included an excellent grappa riserva as well.
La Spaghetteria (Intermediate A), 38 Via Emilia S.Stefano, about 10 mins walk from the Astoria via the park and Via Mazzini, turn right onto Via Emilia and it’s on the left.
A bright, modern place with an outside courtyard. Get there soon after 8 when it opens as it fills up quickly and it’s not possible to reserve. I had hand cut chips with rosemary to start and the wonderful Spaghetto al Chianti con Funghi Porcini, Speck e Fontina. A good wine list but sadly bereft of local tipples, the half bottle of the local dry lambrusco was ok. Total cost €18, cover and water apparently free.
A Mangiare (A+), 3 Viale Monte Grappa (not Sunday). Go straight up Via Independizia which is opposite the station and cross the main road, keep going straight and it’s on the right. Best to reserve, tel 0522 433600. GEM ALERT!
This is probably the best place in town. I splashed out €56 (€20 on drinks) here on my seven-course blowout, and it was worth every cent, however you could do it much more cheaply. Service is exemplary, it’s the kind of place where they scrape the crumbs off the tablecloth between courses. Don’t worry though, you can dress informally. The cuisine is a combination of traditional and innovative, all beautifully presented. I had the Menu a Degustazione della Tradizione (€36) and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (Collis de Scandiano e Canossa 2006) a locally produced white, slightly fizzy and cloudy, made using ‘agricolotora biologica’ (i.e. organic) methods. Although beginning with an amuse bouche of ricotta and sweet pepper, the actual starter was Spuma di Parmigiano Reggiano con Mostarda di Pere (a parmesan mousse with a sweet mustard sauce on pears, B+). Followed this with Afettato Misto (hams and cheese, B) and Gnocco Fritto (A). The pasta was the best Tortelli Verdi (A) I had had so far, and the Capelletti in Brodo di Gallina was good too (B+). The Sfilacci di Coda di Manzo Stufati al Lambrusco con Patate Cremose (oxtail with cream of potatoes, A) was wonderful as was the dessert Gelato Matildico con Aceto Balsamico (A), accompanied by Malvasia da Uve Appacessite dessert wine. Culinary bliss!
Ristorante/Pizzaria Condor (Elementary B), 3 Via Spallanzi
A popular value-for-money option, selling national classics rather than local fare. The pizza ‘Speicale’ I had for €7 euro was pretty good (I’m very fussy about pizza) but the mezzo of lambrusco was deservedly cheap at €2.50. If its full they have a sister restaurant around the corner, on Via Secchi I think.
La Tavernetta (Intermediate B),1 Via Don Andreoli
The only place I found open on a Sunday. The food and wine were ok, nothing special, total cost €12.50 for a pizza Siciliana, a mezzo of red, water and cover. It has a bar and a gelataria as neigbours so you have it all covered in one street.