Let’s talk about life in Modena for a moment. This past weekend on Saturday night I convinced my man to take me out. Actually, I should have gone out on Friday the 18th because my horoscope said that Friday was my day for being social. But I’m not complaining, Saturday was just fine!
We spent the day inside in PJs cleaning up my disaster of a house. Then we had late showers and headed out around 6 pm.
We wanted to have a light dinner, something like an aperitivo, but I had noticed a new Italian “fast food” place that just opened so I just had to try it. To be perfectly honest, it was just “ok”, nothing too spectacular. I had an “arancino” a Sicilian style rice ball, and then we shared some pizzas and things like that. I don’t think we’ll be going back. Once you live in Italy, your standards for Italian food go WAY UP, and “ok” just doesn’t cut it sometimes. Needless to say after that dinner I was surprisingly pleased with what I found next.
We didn’t really know where to go afterwards, but we did feel like running into old friends. As I mentioned in an earlier post about “aperitivi” the Italian pre-dinner drink, Italians congregate regularly at the same spots. In this way, you can always find your group of friends on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Wednesday night…..did I mention Italians go out a LOT!
So we were walking in the direction of the usual stomping grounds when wehappened upon a Festival in the Piazza (of course!). This is one of the reasons that I love living in Italy. No plans? No problem! Just head to the centre of the city and you’ll find something to do. And since most things are held in the open-air, are free and are completely inclusive, bringing along your toddler is not only fine but it’s encouraged (I also wrote about this phenomenon here).
This event is called “La Bonissima“, it is dedicated to all of the local food specialties of the Modena area, and it takes it’s name from a statue in the city of a noble woman. I don’t really understand what this noble woman had to do with food specialties, but she has her own leggend, and apparently Bonissima was originally “Bona Stima”, which oculd mean of good opinion. I personally like to call this festival “bUonissima”, which in italian literally means “sooooooo good”!
Then I remembered that last year we also accidentally stumbled upon this festival. There must be something in the mid-October air that makes me want to get out and eat something sooooo good. Last year, we were out in time for the parade in traditional costumes that went through the city (here are some photos).
This time around we noticed that our absolute favorite creamery had a stand the city square. ”Gelateria” in Italian means ice cream parlour or ice cream shop, but personally I feel silly saying ice cream parlour, so I’m just going to stick with gelateria or cremeria (creamery) or some also refers to themselves as “cioccolateria”… you get my drift.
This gelateria is called “Cremeria Cà Ranuzza”, and it takes its name from the small park that is beside it in the town of Castelfranco Emilia. The park probably once had a house “casa” = “cà” in dialect that probably belonged to the Ranuzza family. The owners of this creamery learned their trade from the best of the best, another gelateria located in Bologna, whose flavors have the ability to warrant hour long lines in 40 degree summer weather!
For this special occasion of “La Bonissima” which is also a contest amoungst producers of traditional Modena products, they had a special flavour available, Parmigiano Reggiano Ice Cream, usually available with a pre-order because it is so labourous to make. It is served with real traditional Balsamic Vinegar aged 30 years (“Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale”, that is so thick and dark you’d think it was oil from a car, and so intense with flavor that one drop is enough).
Speaking to the owner, she explained to me that their Parmigiano Reggiano Ice Cream is only made with parmigiano that is GRATED BY HAND, aged 24 months and then mixed with fresh eggs and cream at a slow speed so as not to upset the cheese!
Needless to say it was amazing, as so was their “cream” flavor, and the chocolate flavor that had pieces of “Torta Barozzi” cake, a fudge and coffee cake that is very intense in flavor and also comes from this part of Italy. But their hit, and the reason that they won this year’s contest, was their pumpkin and amaretto cookie flavor, that also received accolades from Italy’s top chef (number 4 or 5 in the entire world, whose restaurant happens to be here in Modena) Massimo Bottura!
All in all it was a great night, we strolled and eventually did end up at the bar where our pre-baby group of friends was hanging out. We even managed to chat for a few hours with them (we kind of took turns chasing our toddler through the streets alternating with wine drinking and adult conversation). And we also stumbled upon a store opening that had djs spinning music and people hanging out and dancing on the streets, no one seemed to even notice we had a kid.
But best of all I got a chance to dress, I wore my favorite pleather pleated midi skirt, and styled it for a chilly night.
I can’t wait until next year, but I think I’ll mark my calendar so that I eat dinner directly at the festival, from all the local companies selling their products instead of at the mediocre fast food joint.
Oh well, live and learn and eat.
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