You think you know balsamic vinegar? Think again.
One of my most favorite meals and overall experiences from the honeymoon was in Modena, Italy. It was another recommendation from Anthony Bourdain and it was absolutely worth every calorie!
Pedroni. It’s the only name you need to know. We drove from Florence to the Osteria in Modena. As we walked in, we were greeted by the owner; an older, 80-something man, who speaks strictly Italian. And when I say we were greeted, I mean Mr. Pedroni yelled at us in Italian for a few minutes, picked up a rotary phone, dialed a few numbers, hung up, and then continued to yell at us. If you could only see the stunned look on our faces.. Luckily a woman came out speaking English and was ready to take us on a tour.
We learned all about the process of making balsamic vinegar from start to finish, which, in their case, is sometimes over 25 years! At Pedroni, they do everything in-house, all the way down to the bottling, so while they are making large batches, they only produce 80-100 bottles per year. The rest of the vinegar gets to sit in the wood barrels and continue to age. After the tour was over, it was time to taste!
We started small; balsamic vinegar jam. Holy moly, that stuff was so tasty! The first thing Nathan and I both noticed was that we didn’t get that pucker in the backs of our mouths that we often get from vinegars that we buy at home. It was very smooth and as we continued down the line, it got even better! We tasted four different vinegars; we started with the Italo, aged for 12 years, it was like nothing we had ever tasted before. Followed by the 15-year aged Umberto, this vinegar was aged in oak and juniperwood barrels giving it more of a spicy flavor. The Giuseppe, or the “Extra Old” vinegar, is aged 25 years in oak and chestnut woods. And finally, the Claudio. This cream of the crop “Extravecchio” is aged over 25 years in chestnut and cherry woods. It is so silky, smooth and has a slight fruity flavor. If only it weren’t so pricy, we would have taken home a barrel!
We did, however, bring home a bottle of the Italo and a few jars of the jam. We just couldn’t leave without it; there is nothing that we’ve ever tasted before that could compare. And we will definitely be ordering more when we sadly finish this bottle!
Happily, the tasting didn’t end there. It was lunch time! We started with a bottle of their homemade sparkling red wine. YUM! [We will also be adding that to our online order.] The pasta was served family-style but it was just for the two of us so we had no problem digging right in!
Fresh ricotta tortelloni drizzled with the Italo vinegar. Have you ever had fresh pasta? It completely melts in your mouth. I could have eaten the whole plate myself!
Tagliatelle with ragu sauce drizzled with the Umberto vinegar. Northern Italian ragu is completely different then what you’d expect. It’s more of a meat sauce with just a touch of tomato. Pasta ragu was definitely one of my favorite meals to get on the entire trip. We added a little extra vinegar for those last little bites
Chicken with onions, a couple ribs, and frittata drizzled with the Giuseppe. To say that this frittata was the best I’ve ever had would be an understatement. Nathan, who never ate eggs before, asked me if I would kindly follow the recipe and make him one at home. He devoured it!
Crema gelato drizzled with the 25+ aged Claudio. Good golly! We practically licked all of our plates and bowls clean, which is a very good thing because Mr. Pedroni does not let you leave without finishing everything on your plate!
And if that wasn’t enough, they brought about 9 or 10 bottles of different liqueurs, one being their homemade grappa. Being the polite guest that I am, I promptly began tasting! I might have had 1/10th of a shot of each.. I don’t think I could handle any more but I sure am glad I tried all of them.
Nathan and I wrapped up our amazing [and incredible filling!] two-hour meal and concurred that this was one of our top experiences of the trip. If we do make it back to the Tuscany area, you can bet we’ll be heading to Pedroni for lunch!
Food for Thought
What is the best experience you’ve ever had at a restaurant?
When you return to a travel destination, do you go back to the same places, or do you try something new?