Not surprisingly, Modena is located in the Emilia-Romagna region, which has one of the best cuisines in the north of Italy. The region is famous for its gastronomy full of sophisticated local products such as Parmigiano Reggiano (typical Italian hard cheese), Prosciutto di Parma (dry-cured ham from Parma), and Aceto Balsamico (balsamic vinegar). And the city of Modena is known for its high-quality balsamic vinegar which is often aged for 15 years or more.
Did my family and I came to Modena to buy balsamic vinegar? Yes, but it was not the main purpose of our trip. We were on a special quest - that is to dine at chef Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana, the World's Best Restaurant in 2016. The restaurant also holds three Michelin stars. After many attempts to book a table there, I was over the moon to finally get a table for lunch in December just before I left Italy. To get there from Rome, we took a fast train from Roma Termini to Bologna and then took a regional train from Bologna to Modena. We decided to stay in Modena for one night but I wish we could stay longer because the hidden gem Modena had so much to offer.
Modena itself is worth visiting, even if you do not have a reservation at Osteria Francescana. While walking from our hotel near the train station to the restaurant, we passed by the Ducal Palace of Modena, Piazza Grande, the Modena Cathedral, and Mercato Albinelli. Shopping at Mercato Albinelli (chef Massimo Bottura's favorite market) was an authentic and delightful experience. Luckily, we visited Modena during Christmas time so the city was adorned with lovely sparkling decorations and Christmas trees. I must say that the Christmas atmosphere in Modena was much better than in Rome.
Then it came the much-anticipated meal at Osteria Francescana. The most memorable dishes were:
* The Crunchy Part of Lasagne - according to the chef, it is every Italian child's favorite. This is an interpretation of the burnt parts in the four corners of the lasagne dish. The smoky flavor and the playfulness of this creation blew my mind. The lasagne sheets are actually made of parmesan. How brilliant and memorable!
* Suckling pig tender and crunchy with Villa Manadori traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena - this dish contained slow-cooked pig served with pickled apples, carrots, beetroot and radish. My favorite parts of the dishes were the tasty crunchy skin, the radish pickles and the vinegar. A divine combination!
* Oops, I dropped the lemon tart - This deconstruction of a lemon tart was also divine. The lemon flavor was perfect and the dish was not too sweet. I would love to have some more of it because it was refreshing.
Overall, the meal at Osteria Francescana met my high expectations. It was memorable as I could recall every single dish I ordered. I will totally come back if I can because I have not tried Ceasar in Bloom, which is a beautiful flower salad dish. To me, the highlight of the meal was meeting my idol chef Massimo Bottura and having a lovely chat with him.
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