Uncovering Italy’s Superlatives in people, places and things

La Mia Modena by Massimo Bottura

Michelin, Modena and more

Massimo Bottura loves Modena. Born and raised in the Emilian town, Bottura grew up to become the world’s Number One chef all the while keeping it real on via Stella in Modena’s historic centre. Bottura’s inspirations come from Emilia Romagna and he’s never shy to celebrate his hometown. For ISSIMO, he dishes up his personal recommendations for Modena.

What makes your city unique to you? 

The words “Avia Pervia” are written on Modena’s coat of arms dating back to the 13th century. The Latin expression insists that the difficult is never impossible; that there is always a solution, and even the most difficult paths can be walked. This motto is the spirit of Modena. Modena is not a tourist capital. Many people do not know where it is. Modena is the unexpected. The small town that could. A medieval town with winding cobblestone streets, an 11th century Unesco Romanesque church, artisan shops and family run trattorias are surrounded by the rich farmland of Emilia Romagna. This is where I was born and where I chose to open Osteria Francescana because balsamic vinegar runs in my blood and my bones are made of Parmigiano Reggiano. Modena is the land of slow food and fast cars. This is our tradition of excellence and our identity.

What is the most unique place / experience you always suggest when in your city?

Mercato Albinelli is Modena’s covered market built in the 1920s and set in the heart of the city. It sits just behind the Piazza Grande square with the Town Hall, the Duomo, an 11th century Romanesque church and La Ghirlandina, the gothic bell tower that can be seen from miles away. The market offers a selection of the best produce, cheeses, meats, cold cuts, fresh pasta as well a gourmet stands for a quick bite inside the market.

The Iconic Mercato Albinelli. Courtesy of Mercato Albinelli

What do you miss when you are away?

I’m used to traveling a lot and that’s something that excites me and gives me great energy, but a part of me always misses Modena. It’s a strange relationship: when I’m at home I just plan to leave and when I’m away I miss this place. I think this city keeps me grounded and that is fundamental when you have to remain focus on your values and goals.

What are your 5 favourite shops?

Forno San Biagio is one of my favourite spots in town, crowded and tiny. They make the best Amaretto cookies in the world.

The tiny Forno San Biagio. Courtesy of Gazzetta di Modena

Closer for men’s and women’s clothes. There is everything from Patagonia to Commes des Garcons, all rigorously selected by Ludo and Gabri, and it is around the corner from Osteria Francescana.

La Consorteria 1966 in Piazza Mazzini sells a vast selection of the best balsamic vinegars from diverse producers in Modena. The staff are very friendly and helpful and generous with balsamic tastings. This is a great way to understand more about the Modenese tradition.

Free’n Joy is our florist. The shop sells not only fresh flowers but accessories for the home and garden. Chiara and Jerome have a great eye and have a great selection of home objects, vases and plants.

What are your 5 favourite bars from coffee to aperitivo time?

Schiavoni mini bar and sandwich shop in the corner of the Mercato Albinelli with outdoor tables. Fabulous sandwiches for a little snack.

Archer is one of my favorites for their selection of natural wines. Lovely outdoor tables on the cobblestoned street of Cesare Battisi, full view of the Ghirlandina, and Marina, the sommelier and owner, makes this a must.

Archer. Courtesy of Archer
A delicious silde of pizza at Bar Schiavoni. Courtesy of Archer

Ristretto Our dear friend Gian has a wine bar with an amazing cheese selection, beer list from all over the world and wines from Italy and France. A tiny spot on a tinier alley with a view of the Ghirlandina bell tower, this is where Osteria Francescana staff go for a drink and a bite to eat after work.

Mon Cafe is the hot spot for coffee, light lunch or dinner or just pre-dinner drinks. With lots of charm and outdoor dinning, you will often see us there getting our caffeine fix. Run by ex Osteria Francescana chef de range Alessandro Bertoni, Mon Cafe is stylish, popular and hard to find a seat.

Gusto restaurant and bar has tables in Piazza Grande in the shadow of the Duomo. A great spot for a glass of wine to take in the stunning 11th C church.

What coffee do you order at the bar? (espresso, macchiato, al vetro, caffè latte etc) 

Cappuccino doppia schiuma.

What is your favorite Italian aperitivo drink?


What’s is your family signature dish or meal?

Passatelli in brodo. It is the ultimate comfort food meal. It is a way of creating a hearty and satisfying meal out of almost nothing which is really a kind of metaphor for the making due with what you have. It is one of our family oldest tradition, and It is also what I’ve done on Kitchen Quarantine or how we cook at the Food for Soul Refettorios around the world.

Whats is your favourite regional dish?

If I had to eat only one food for the rest of my life, it would be traditional Modenese tortellini.

What is your favorite merenda / street food? 

A traditional gnocco fritto or our delicious Casa Maria Luigia focaccia made from the wood burning oven.

What are you 5 favorite galleries / museums or art sites?

Emilio Mazzoli Gallery, Galleria Civica, Galleria Estense, Fondazione della Fotografia and Museo Enzo Ferrari.

What is your favorite day trip in your region?

There are some wonderful towns just 15 minutes outside of Modena and interesting places to visit.

Parmigiano Reggiano Courtesy of Hombre

Hombre Parmigiano Reggiano dairy farm with antique Maserati Car Museum

Parmigiano Reggiano Courtesy of Museum of Balsamic Vinegar

Museum of Balsamic Vinegar, Spilamberto

Advertising dedicated to Torta Barozzini. Courtesy of Torta Barozzini

Vignola – cherry capital of Italy and famous for crumbling castle and Torta Barozzi chocolate cake served at Gollini Pastry shop and bar

Castelvetro di Modena hills during sunset

Castelvetro – medieval town on a hillside with panoramic views of vineyards and lovely country driving.

Where would you go for a weekend in your region?


Where would you travel for a meal in Italy?

Anywhere where I have friends in the kitchen.

What is your favourite detto (saying)?

Ciao vecchio!!!

Tòla dòlza, which means “take it easy”, and is also the name of our new Sunday brunch at Casa Maria Luigia, a new concept where we invite our guests to relax in our beautiful park and enjoy a slow-countryside afternoon with creative dishes cooked in our wood burning oven.

3 things / towns / sites not to be missed in your region

Aceto Balsamico at the Consorteria di Spilamberto

Parmigiano Reggiano at the Caseificio Rosola di Zocca

Culatello at Antica Corte Pallavicina

3 of your favourite Italian songs?

Paolo Conti – Boogie

Lucio Battisti – Motocicletta

Vecchio Frac – Domenico Modugno

Where in Italy you would like to explore?


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