Table of Contents
- Food in Modena
- Restaurants in Modena
- Modena Food Guide
- Modena Restaurants
- Modena Pizza
- Modena Cheap Eats
- Modena Gelato
- Modena Desserts
- Modena Drinks
- Modena Market
- Further Afield
- Things To Do in Modena
- Plan Your Modena Stay
- Hungry for More Italian Food?
- Pin It for Later
- About the Authors
Some businesses may revise their hours and menus due to COVID-19. Others may close, either temporarily or permanently, without notice. Be sure to check websites for updated information and make advance reservations where possible.
Travelers visit Modena in Emilia-Romagna for a multitude of reasons.
Car enthusiasts flock to Modena to pay homage to Italy’s motor valley that produces some of the world’s most luxurious sports cars. Many visit the Enzo Ferrari House Museum while the most obsessed live out their dreams by taking a spin on a Ferrari driving experience at Autodromo Di Modena.
Culture vultures head straight to the Luciano Pavarotti House Museum, a fascinating tribute to the opera legend who traveled the world but called Modena home. The museum touches all who visit by unveiling elements of the great maestro’s life and reincarnating his large presence through photos, mementos and loads of performance videos.
A giant both in physical and spiritual presence, the maestro’s house conveys a certain level of intimacy. Yes, Pavarotti did not live a life without controversy.
A failed marriage, estranged family members and impulsive daily dalliances certainly display human shortcomings. But, at the same time, Luciano lived a life to share and he lived it in Modena.
Visitors can walk through his intimate (yet versatile) Italian kitchen where he amiably cooked meals for himself and guests, strolling past the grand piano where he mentored burgeoning talents. Seeing his wardrobe on display makes operas such as Rigoletto and I Pagliacci burst to life.
Then there are food travelers who plan their Modena meals before they book a Modena hotel. Don’t judge these eager eaters. If you’re reading this Modena guide, then you probably fit into this category as do we.
Food in Modena
Thanks to Modena’s prime spot in Emilia-Romagna‘s Po Valley, the Modena food set is filled with familiar Italian food favorites like Tortellini, Tortelloni and Proscuitto. However, this Food Valley city has much more to offer when it comes to the gastronomy of Italy.
Modena’s most famous foods, Balsamic Vinegar and Parmigiano-Reggiano, line the shelves at specialty stores around the globe. Visitors to Modena can visit producers of these two certified DOP products, wandering through large aisles stocked with Parmigiano wheels and traipsing through attics filled with assorted sized barrels used to make Modena’s legendary dark brown elixir.
Lambrusco is another important Modena product. The dark red sparkling wine pairs magnificently with Modenese cuisine. Lambrusco is sold all over the world but, for some reason, it tastes best in its home region of Emilia-Romagna. Food travelers who plan their trips in the autumn can visit a local winery and view the local harvest.
Restaurants in Modena
Restaurants in Modena are as famous as the food they serve. A-list food star Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana leads the pack with its three Michelin stars and former title as the “World’s Best Restaurant.”
Diners who want to eat at Osteria Francescana need to book WAY in advance and come to dinner with a healthy credit card limit. The restaurant’s 12-course tasting menu tallied 290 € at the time of our most recent visit to Modena – and that’s before the addition of wine and other beverages. Judging by the awesome, progressive food served at Bottura’s more casual, progressive bistro Franceschetta 58, the food is most likely worth it. More on that later…
But Osteria Francescana isn’t the only restaurant in Modena worthy of advance planning. You’ll also want to book lunch at Hosteria Giusti before your trip. The super intimate restaurant ‘within a salumeria’ only has four tables and achieved international fame from a date scene in Netflix’s Master of None.
Modena Food Guide
We’ve experienced both a summer heatwave and autumn rainstorms in Modena, but one thing remained the same during our multiple visits – the quality of the food. This is a city with a deep culinary history and some of the best Italian food products in the region.
Though it’s difficult to eat badly in Pavorotti’s hometown, some places to eat in Modena are better than others. This guide highlights the eateries that you don’t want to miss regardless of the reason for your trip.
Don’t despair if you didn’t score Osteria Francescana reservations. Although the Osteria Francescana menu is famous around the world, it’s not the only game in town. In fact, Modena has more places to eat than one would expect for a city of its size.
After eating our way around town, these are our favorite Modena Italy restaurants:
Franceschetta58 may seem like Osteria Francescana’s cheaper, lesser sibling but don’t discount Bottura’s more accessible restaurant on the outskirts of town.
Franceschetta58 is far from a consolation prize and provides diners with a great opportunity to sample the genius of Massimo Bottura’s cuisine. Chef Marta Pulini helms the restaurant’s kitchen, adding a modern twist to traditional Modena food favorites.
In a country grounded in intense culinary tradition, Franceschetta58 manages to stamp a progressive footprint while still remaining utterly Emilian. Italy is filled with osterias and trattorias, but this restaurant plays like more like a modern bistro, daring to push the casual envelope of Italian cuisine.
The wonderful element of Francheschetta58 is that the menus can be mixed, allowing a range of courses to be shared and enjoyed. We encourage ordering a large sampling of food since there are so many interesting dishes to experience.
During our mid-week lunch, Franceschetta58 offered three different tasting menus – Tradition in Evolution (five courses at 50 €), Smart Lunch (three courses at 25 €) and I Heart Modena (seven courses at 70 €). Wanting to taste a selection of dishes, we followed our own advice and ordered two different menus.
Without a doubt, the Smart Lunch is a terrific deal. Mindi ordered this menu and selected two excellent dishes – a Roast Beef starter topped with a velvety Tonnata (tuna) sauce along with comforting Tortellini in Brodo – traditional tortellini swimming in a meaty capon broth.
We don’t usually think of Roast Beef as sexy, but that’s exactly how the starter looked as the server slowly poured golden tuna based sauce over layers of thinly sliced meat before topping the miniature mountain with aromatic herbs.
Daryl opted for the restaurant’s more elaborate Tradition in Evolution menu. Pancetta aged for 18 months and accompanied by a spicy Apple Mostarda kicked off his delightful meal which included a juicy yet distinctly local Emila Burger.
One of the restaurant’s featured and fun dishes, the slider-sized burger is indeed rich. Many of the greatest burgers in cities like New York adhere to the rule of only seasoning the outside of the patty while letting a hamburger’s beefy flavors sing. This Modena burger maintains those flavors, while the addition of Parmigiano-Reggiano to the patty mix adds a touch of deep, Emilian umami panache.
Tortellini with Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce was a deeper flavored answer to a standard cheesy cream sauce. That was followed by a meltingly braised beef Tongue with red wine and truffle sauce that rivaled some of the best braised dishes of Europe.
The meal’s coup de grace came at the end in the form of what may be the best Zuppa Inglese on the planet.
This apotheosis of the classic Italian dessert combined a melange of rich lemon custard with a layer of deep scarlet Alchermes liqueur-soaked red sponge cake. A crown of ganache-like piping of deep dark chocolate completed the masterpiece.
While other Italian Zuppas may be provincial and subtle, Francheschetta58’s version punches you in the face with flavors that are best slowly savored and can be easily shared between two people.
We’re not going to pretend that eating at Franceschetta58 is equal to dining at world-renowned Osteria Francescana. However, it’s still a wonderful Modena dining option. In fact, we look forward to returning when we’re next in Modena.
Franceschetta58 is located at Via Vignolese, 58, 41124 Modena MO, Italy.
Osteria Ermes is a hidden local dining gem. We use the word ‘hidden’ with a grain of salt since Osteria Ermes has been popular with locals since Ermes and Bruna Rinaldi opened the homey Modena restaurant in 1963.
Most tourists skip Osteria Ermes when they visit Modena. Perhaps they only have time to eat at more famous Modena restaurants. Or maybe they’re deterred since Osteria Ermes isn’t open for dinner and doesn’t take phone reservations. They’re missing out.
We put Osteria Ermes toward the top of our Modena dining list after a local driver told us it was his favorite restaurant in the city. To us, driver recommendations are never to be discounted.
We both got good feelings about this passionate recommendation. Armed with the driver’s tip and an address from Google Maps, we arrived at Osteria Ermes without knowing much about the restaurant or its menu.
After being quickly seated at a table across from a young couple and their newborn baby, we scanned the simple room decorated with wood panels and framed mementos. We were the only non-locals in the room filled with diners seated elbow-to-elbow while enjoying classic Modena homestyle cuisine.
The restaurant doesn’t actually have a menu and the cuisine, separated into primi and secondi categories, changes daily. Primi plates are familiar Emila-Romagna pasta favorites like Tagliatelle, Passatelli, Gramigna and Lasanga, whereas Secondi options run the gamut from Osso Bucco to mixed vegetables. All meals include antipasti, bottled water, wine, dessert and coffee.
We ordered two pasta dishes (Passatelli in Brodo and Tagliatelle al Ragu) and one secondi, roasted chicken, during our lunch without having any idea of the prices. As we ate a plate of cured meat while drinking fizzy Lambrusco, we wondered how much the authentic meal would cost but decided we didn’t really care. Plus, we decided, how bad could it be?
Excellent news – our lunch cost a total of 30 € for everything including the bubbly wine. We left full and happy, knowing we had just eaten genuine Modenese food at a true local gem.
Osteria Ermes is located at Via Ganaceto, 89, 41121 Modena MO, Italy.
Recommended to us by a local barista, Trattoria Tagliatella is a friendly spot to eat traditional Modena food favorites. Located on a quiet street just minutes away from the action, this traditional trattoria is just steps from Birreria Artigianale Over 18 (see below).
Trattoria Tagliatella serves a reasonably priced selection of Modenese comfort foods starting with Gnocco Fritto (fried gnocco) and ending with housemade desserts. Pasta options include Tagliatelle, Tortelli, Tortellini, Gramigna and Risotto.
Our meal highlights were Tagliatelle al Funghi Porcini and Tagliata. Though the names were similar, the dishes couldn’t have been any more different from each other.
Tagliatelle, one of our go-to pastas in Emilia-Romagna, reached new territory when topped with seasonal porcini mushrooms. The Tagliata, a steak similar to a New York strip, was grilled medium rare and served over local olive oil.
FYI – Both names derive from the word ‘taglia’ which translates to cut.
Trattoria Tagliatella is located at Via Masone, 16, 41121 Modena MO, Italy.
Trattoria Pomposa al Re Gras
Opened by Luca Marchini, the famed chef at Michelin-starred L’Erba del Re, Trattoria Pomposa al Re Gras provides a casual Modena dining experience that honors local culinary traditions.
Not surprisingly, Trattoria Pomposa al Re Gras is substantially less expensive than L’Erba del Re. Unlike the more upscale restaurant, the trattoria serves traditional Emilian dishes at typical, everyday prices.
Diners could just eat heaping plates of handmade pasta at Trattoria Pomposa al Re Gras and leave happy. However, that approach would be a shame considering the menu’s varied local specialties like Calzagatti (polenta and beans), Carpaccio of Modena and Cod Fritters.
We recommend ordering a mix of pasta dishes and local specialties at Trattoria Pomposa al Re Gras. This approach will give you the chance to taste a range of Modenese food including but not limited to pasta.
Although we dined at Trattoria Pomposa al Re Gras during a wicked heatwave, it didn’t stop us from ordering hot dishes like Lasagna Verde al Forno and Calzagatti, crispy polenta sticks (studded with soft beans) served over mounds of sweet Ricotta cheese.
Our dishes showed us a sophisticated yet rustic side of Modenese cuisine that almost made us forget the heatwave. We say almost since it was literally 40°c (100°f) that late June day.
Trattoria Pomposa al Re Gras is located at 57 V. Castel Maraldo, 41121 Modena MO, Italy.
Ristorante da Danilo
Dining at Ristorante da Danilo isn’t all about the food. Sure, the cuisine is solid here with dishes like Gnocchi Fritti and Tortelloni in Brodo on the menu. However, this Modena Italy restaurant delivers a full dining experience.
Crowds fill tables inside Ristorante de Danilo each evening and spill onto the sidewalk dining area. The buzz is contagious while the service is efficient and friendly.
We scored an outdoor table for our dinner with friends after a visit to the Luciano Pavarotti House Museum. Dining with a group allowed us to taste more dishes starting with a plate of mountain Salumi, soft Pecorino cheese and Gnocchi Fritti.
As we sat outside in the fresh air and sipped glasses filled with local red wine, dishes like Tortelloni in Brodo and Gramigna with Sausage Sauce tickled our taste buds. We savored each bite and sip of the lovely weeknight meal that ended with the restaurant’s colorful rendition of Zuppe Inglese.
Beyond pasta, Ristorante de Danilo serves carnivorous dishes like Cotechino, Ossobuco and Bollito Misto – a meaty mix of slowly braised pig and beef parts and other meats served with zesty mostarda.
Ristorante da Danilo is located Via Coltellini, 31, 41121 Modena MO, Italy.
Daytrippers to Modena probably won’t have time for pizza. Instead, they’ll want to spend their time eating pasta, pasta and more pasta.
However, those who dedicate more time to Modena will be rewarded with the luxury of eating other Italian food favorites like pizza. Though Modena isn’t famous for its pies, pizza lovers won’t be disappointed when they visit the Emilia-Romagna city.
We recommend the following spot for a pizza break in Modena:
With more than two dozen classic and creative pizza options on its menu, Erasmo has been satisfying pizza lovers in Modena since 2013. Most pizzas are served Neapolitan style, although diners can pay extra for double dough or gluten-free pizza options.
We shared two pizzas during our lunch with references to both Campania and Emilia Romagna – a Napoletana pie with San Marzano peeled tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, anchovies from Cetara and Oregano and an Emiliana pie with fior di latte mozzarella, bacon, chili peppers and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Erasmo is located at Via Del Taglio, 40, 41121 Modena MO, Italy.
Modena Cheap Eats
Most Modena restaurants are value-priced considering the quality of Emilia-Romagna products and the local culinary commitment. Accordingly, travelers will find plenty of affordable dining opportunities away from the city’s two Michelin-starred restaurants.
But what about cheap eats?
We recommend the following place to eat for those looking for top-level cheap eats in Modena:
Bar Schiavoni is a mandatory stop on any Modena food tour. Originally opened in 1932, this cheap eats favorite was later bought by sisters Sara and Chiara Fantoni who do a bang-up job running the local sandwich institution.
Although the chalkboard menu at Bar Schiavoni changes daily, diners can expect to find sandwiches with locally sourced ingredients like Prosciutto, Cotechino, fresh Tuna and Jerusalem Artichokes. Depending on the season, the panini shop adds ingredients like pumpkin and porcini mushrooms purchased at Mercato Albinelli (see below).
Despite its small size and fast-casual style, Bar Schiavoni has a comprehensive beverage menu featuring local wine, craft beer and coffee. In other words, this is a great spot to enjoy a loaded sandwich and a glass of Lambrusco while touring Modena.
Bar Schiavoni is located at Via Luigi Albinelli, 13, 41121 Modena MO, Italy.
A day in Modena without gelato is a sad day. The city has multiple gelateria options including boutique shops as well as chains like GIOELIA Cremeria Italiana (formerly Emilia Cremeria) and Gelateria K2.
If you only have time for one gelato during your visit, we recommend the following Modena gelateria:
Emilia-Romagna is a worthy mecca for gelato lovers. Not only is the region home to the prestigious Carpigiani Gelato University, but it also claims fame for hosting many of Italy’s best gelaterias including Cremeria Santo Stefano in Bologna, Cremeria Capolinea in Reggio Emilia, Ciacco Lab in Parma and Bloom in Modena.
Awarded three cones by Gambero Rosso, Gianluca Degani’s Bloom sources raw ingredients from local producers. He and his team then “merge innovation and tradition” to make creamy creations like Blueberry Cheesecake and Ricordo Catalano as well as traditional flavors like Pistachio and Peach.
In addition to its award-winning gelato, Bloom offers a large selection of sorbetti for those who prefer dairy-free frozen treats. The gelateria also sells artisan chocolates that they make in house.
Bloom has two Modena locations. We enjoyed our scoops at the gelateria located at Via Del Taglio, 16, 41121 Modena MO, Italy.
The challenge with eating in Modena is saving room for dessert. Local favorites include Torta Barozzi, Amaretti di San Geminiano, Zeppole and Bomboloni.
If you’re not familiar with these sweet Modena treats, we suggest you start your exploration at the following pasticceria:
Antica Pasticceria San Biagio
A Modena institution for more than a century, Antica Pasticceria San Biagio gives local gelaterias a run for their money with its selection of tempting baked goods. The centrally located pastry shop is a tiny treasure box that displays pastries both inside and on top of a long glass case.
Antica Pasticceria San Biagio has sold a range of pastries since 1900, with popular items including Torta Barozzi, Torta delle Rose and Amaretti di Modena. We taste-tested a variety during our visit, literally devouring our sugar-filled bounty on the sidewalk just outside the shop, and can’t pick a favorite. They were all divine.
Antica Pasticceria San Biagio is located atVia Emilia, 77, 41121 Modena MO, Italy.
If it were up to us, we’d drink Lambrusco in Modena all day, every day. Although the local red sparkler is literally sold everywhere in Modena from markets to fine restaurants, we appreciate that this drinking plan might get boring after a while.
When you’re ready to explore drinks in Modena beyond Lambrusco, we recommend the following spots:
X marks the spot at this sophisticated Modena enoteca. The wine bar, which feels like a Modena living room with its book-lined walls, features wines from Emilia-Romagna as well as from the rest of Italy and other wine-producing countries.
Beyond wine, Archer serves cocktails and a rotating selection of Italian craft beers. Add a plate of cheese or salumi for a stylish Modena aperitivo experience.
Archer is located at Via Cesare Battisti, 54, 41121 Modena MO, Italy.
Birreria Artigianale Over 18
We literally stumbled upon Birreria Artigianale Over 18 on our way to dinner, a fortuitous discovery for these two craft beer fans. As we quickly learned, this Modena bar serves Italian craft beer in bottles as well as on tap. Following our noses, we also discovered that the bar also serves complimentary food during the happiest hour of the day.
Creatures of habit, we both ordered Trippels from Vecchia Orsa, a craft brewery located in the Bologna province. Clocking in with an 8.5% ABV, the malty beer paired quite well with our pre-dinner snack.
Birreria Artigianale Over 18 is located at Via dei Gallucci, 30, 41121 Modena MO, Italy.
Breaking Italy’s trend of serving old-school coffee in lieu of modern specialty coffee, Menomoka is our go-to coffee shop in Modena. And the best part? This Modena cafe serves the good stuff from early morning until 10 pm at night.
Menomoka is a great spot to chill between meals. Internet is free and fast. Plus, you may be inspired by the cafe’s wall art featuring the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx and Albert Einstein.
Menomoka is located at Corso Canalchiaro, 136/a, 41121 Modena MO, Italy.
Savvy food travelers know that most Italian cities have at least one great food market. In Modena, that market is Mercato Albinelli.
Read on to find out why you need to visit this Modena market as part of your Modena food tour.
Mercato Albinelli has been a city fixture since it opened in 1931 with an iconic Giuseppe Graziosi statue in the center of the building. Set atop a fountain, Graziosi’s recreation of a young female shopper serves as the market’s touchstone and meeting spot.
This is a Modena market where housewives and chefs buy daily supplies for their kitchens six days of the week. More than five dozen stalls sell locally sourced fruits, vegetables, cheese and meat as well as fresh pasta in various shapes and sizes. Some vendors also sell a range of prepared foods.
Seasonal products like Vignola Cherries in the summer and Porcini Mushrooms in the autumn get prime shelf space. However, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Balsamic Vinegar are always in season at Modena’s best market.
Buy food to enjoy back at your hotel room or during an afternoon picnic. You’ll find all the necessary fixings including Proscuitto and Lambrusco for a memorable Modena meal.
Mercato Albinelli is located at Via Luigi Albinelli, 13, 41100 Modena MO, Italy.
A trip to Modena would be incomplete without visiting a Parmigiano-Reggiano dairy and/or a Balsamic Vinegar producer. These memorable activities complete the Modena food picture while providing bragging rights to those willing to journey outside the city limits.
Parmigiano-Reggiano, Italy’s king of cheese, can only be produced in four specific Emilia-Romagna provinces. Modena is one of those provinces. Bologna, Parma and Reggio Emilia are the other three.
Though food travelers can easily find Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at restaurants and markets throughout Modena, visiting a cheese dairy is a special, not-to-be-missed experience. Not only is this type of tour educational for those interested in learning about the cheesemaking process, but it also provides excellent photo ops and a chance to taste the king of cheese at the source.
Balsamic Vinegar Producer
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Tradizionale is an entirely different product than the condiment vinegar sold at mass-market grocery stores around the world. In Modena, Balsamic Vinegar (i.e. Aceto Balsamico) is a luxury item sold at luxury prices.
Producers age grape juice in oak barrels for 12 to 25+ years to achieve DOP status. They then bottle the liquid gold and sell it to gourmands and chefs. This stuff is good with just about anything from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to strawberries to ice cream.
Things To Do in Modena
Eating at restaurants is just one way to experience the Modena food scene. Check out the following culinary tours that you can take between meals:
- Learn all about Modena food during a Market Tour and Cooking Class.
- Eat the classics during a Pasta and Tiramisu Class.
- Experience the Art of the Italian Aperitivo with a Local.
- Take a Parmesan, Balsamic Vinegar, and Parma Ham Tour from Modena.
Plan Your Modena Stay
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.