Modena may be one of my favourite places to eat in the world for a very simple reason.
There are no tourist restaurants.
Need to see it for yourself? Check out this quick video of where to eat in Modena. And then get more details below.
It’s a small city so there’s no room for a tourist ghetto in Modena. When you eat in Modena you are sitting alongside locals. For this reason alone I know I’ll return.
Covered by every major travel publication, word is this tiny sandwich shop in the corner of the Modena market was sold to the sisters who worked there and unfortunately quality has suffered.
You wouldn’t know that by the line-up of locals and friendly service. With hearty options of traditional cotechino or whimsical smoked salmon combinations it’s worth a visit.
Love charcuterie? Love sandwiches? Eat here.
The owner of this new restaurant once worked at Michelin starred Osteria Francesca around the corner but left to open this small, but charming deli and sandwich shop.
The owner speaks English but the staff may not. Don’t fret because it’s a simple menu of sandwiches at a communal table so if you see something you like just point.
Ristorante Da Danilo
It’s pretty tough to find a bad review of Da Danilo with swift service and comfort food. You’ll find a true Modenese experience here, seated next to families and groups of friends.
For the adventurous, try the bollito misto, traditional boiled, stuffed pig trotter, head
and tongue. My personal favourite is the mostarda di frutta, it looks like strange candied jelly but this sweet and spicy condiment pairs perfectly with meat.
Osteria Stallo del Pomodoro
This former horse stable is now a casual restaurant offering great, traditional dishes. Chef Massimilliano ‘Max” Tellol has published a gluten-free cookbook and offers many gluten-free meals at the restaurant including pasta and mains.
I spent the morning with Max as he showed me how to make tortelloni using gluten-free flour. If he hadn’t told me it was gluten-free I would have never known.
Another great option if you’re looking for traditional food, charcuterie and a local
crowd. This is THE place to try traditional meat in balsamic sauce, I highly recommend the guanciale – but then again who doesn’t adore pork cheek?
Ristorante Da Enzo
Simple clean decor with classic food. Like much of Modena, this Ristorante da Enzo is casual, filled with groups of friends and happy servers, happy to offer recommendations.
Try the handmade fresh pasta or lasagna. Fancy dessert? Order the traditional Barozzi cake with mascarpone from Vignola.
L’Erba del Re
After a few days of eating traditional food, treat yourself to fine dining. Chef Luca Marchini’s food is rooted in tradition, like this balsamic risotto with a modern touch and thoughtful approach to the tasting menu. Don’t worry if you don’t have formal wear. While there are white linens and haute service aplenty, you’ll find locals wearing jeans.
Mercato Albinelli is a modestly sized market that can be explored in an hour or two, not surprisingly there are no tourist stalls. This is a working market but vendors are friendly to tourists and will offer suggestions for local treats. It’s a cheap place for lunch and is often recommended for great food souvenirs, offering DOP products.
Note, the market also practices pausa pranzo opening from 6:30-2:30pm and 4:30-7:30pm.
Out of Town: Trattoria La Campagnola
One dish that is difficult to find in Modena is borlenghi, as this thin crepe-like bread is time consuming to make and therefore usually for social gatherings. However, if you venture outside to rural Vignola there are two restaurants which specialize in it.
Delicious but rich, the borlenghi are stuffed with Modenese pesto and parmesan. Order one to start and wait to see if you’d like more.
Best Restaurants I Missed
One of the oldest delis in the world, it was established in 1605 and while it is highly praised, it only has four tables – or eight in the summer. It is widely praised for delicious, traditional food.
Chef Massimo Bottura is a heavy weight in the food world with three Michelin stars. With only 12 tables and menus beginning at 130€ you may opt to dine at his more casual, less expensive brasserie Franceschetta 58.
Osteria Da Ermes
This osteria is run by Ermes and his wife, with a small menu that changes daily and what many locals proclaim to be the best representation of Modenese food.
Show up at 12pm if you would like to be seated. I arrived at 1:30 and it was the height of lunch with a line out the door. I hand signalled to Ermes that I was solo and he threw his hands up in the air in despair and asked another person in the queue to explain in English that I must return in an hour as the singles table was full.