Friday, April 5, 2013

Modena: Hosteria & Salumeria Giusti: Culinary Classics






No food lover's visit to Modena would be complete without a stop at Salumeria Giuseppe Giusti, a deli with a 17th-century pedigree that showcases the superb products of Emilia-Romagna. Presided over for years by Giusti's jovial owner Nano Morandi before he died in 2005, the shop is a culinary wonderland of balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano and artisanal pasta. Hanging Parma hams, cured one to three years, jostle with one another for space along side other specialties of this pork-loving region, including culatello, a pear-shaped cut made from the rear thigh of the hog. Some buy the makings for a picnic to enjoy in the gardens behind the Palazzo Ducale or, but we decided to try and  beat the locals to one of the four tables in back, and enjoy a lunch prepared by Morandi's talented wife, Laura Galli. On a given day, she might be making tagliatelle con ragu, deep-fried minestrone fritters or plump tortellini in capon broth. With three days notice, we were able to secure a reservation at this bastion of Modenese cuisine!




Modena's covered portico on Via Farini




The Giusti family has run the Salumeria, since 1605, and had roots in vinegar production before then. Originally, the store sold both pork and duck. "The duck was for the Jews, the pork was for the Catholics," the current owner, Matteo Morandi says. Starting almost seventy years ago, at age fifteen, Matteo's father, Adriano used to come to work here as a shop boy for the Giustis. He eventually bought the salumeria, and in 1989 opened Hosteria Giusti, a restaurant that, with just four tables, is among the most coveted in Emilia-Romagna. The place is accessible through a tiny passage in the back of the store that winds past the kitchen to tables in the old storage room where hams had hung to cure, and the hooks are still driven deep into the overhead beams.




Salumeria Giuseppe Giusti, Founded 1605 in Modena




The enogastronomia is a small jewel of the finest foods of the region, serving only the best salamis and prosciuttos, cheeses, breads, wines, olive oils, Modena vinegars, and the aromas are intoxicating. The shop’s limited space is only matched by the size of the four tables Hosteria in the back room where a privileged few get to sample Nano’s wife Laura’s cuisine. Opened in 1988 it has remained a gastronomic sanctuary where the joys of traditional local cuisine are celebrated and revered. The great cooks of this world often visit the tiny Hosteria as they come here in search of inspiration and top ingredients. Needless to say reservations are essential.



The interior of the 400-year old Salumeria, which has been around since 1605



Traditional Balsamic Vinegar has one of its two homes here (the other one being in nearby Reggio Emilia) and Giusti produces its own, unique nectar, sometimes aged up to 50 years. Again, no comparison with the caramel flavoured liquid that lines our supermarket shelves. Even Parmigiano Reggiano, the ubiquitous and mistreated “parmesan cheese”, needs to be redefined here. This is the home of the original products you’ll have a hard time finding anywhere else.




The cheeses were luscious and perfectly ripe, in fact we came home 
with a generous wedge of Fontina, and we agreed it was the best we had ever tasted




The shop’s limited space is only matched by the size of the four tables Hosteria has tucked away in the back room where a privileged few get to sample Laura Galli’s cuisine. Opened in 1988 it has remained a gastronomic sanctuary where the joys of traditional local cuisine are celebrated and revered. Despite there being only four tables and one server, and that it's closed for the entire month of August and that it's only open for lunch, Hosteria Giusti is considered the quintessential Modena eatery. 




Modena's tiny Hosteria Giusti has just four tables, and is Mario Batali's favorite restaurant, 
not just in Emilia-Romagna but in all of Italy



Even Mario Batali has named it as his Modena favorite, since the late Adriano Morandi and Batali's father struck up a friendship many years ago, and it is been carried forth by the younger generation.  Here Matteo Morandi runs the place with the kitchen magic of his sister Cecilia and especially his mother Laura. so as you may imagine, it's difficult to get a table there. The great cooks of this world often visit the tiny Hosteria as they come here in search of inspiration and top ingredients. With only four tables, this osteria may be the hardest reservation to get in town, so needless to say, it's advisable to book well in advance — sometimes months. 




The room has four tables with white cloths, a hutch holding about 150 glasses, 
and a long table with more than fifty different digestifs


Hosteria Giusti is pure delight for your senses with the antique furniture, 
the aroma of freshly cooked dishes and rich colors of food

A choice of antipasti, primi piatti and secondi piatti

We began our sumptuous lunch with a bottle of Lambrusco Di Modena Spumanate, 
a lighter champagne-style Lambrusco



It may seem odd that such a wonderful meal is accompanied by a wine that's mocked by wine snobs — Lambrusco — Emilia-Romagna's curious sparkling red, served chilled in violation of every known rule of North American wine connoisseurship. Outside of Italy, Lambrusco isn't taken very seriously, partly because of a disastrous association with the 1970s, when sales of sparkling red became anathema to a rising gourmet culture. But it's in fact a light, delicious and refreshing wine that seems to cut through the richness of Italian food in the same way that balsamic vinegar is an antidote to the fat. The focus of the wine list is champagne, not that locals order much of it. “Lunch is Lambrusco, Lambrusco, Lambrusco,” Matteo says. For us, a bottle at lunch becomes a kind of guilty pleasure, all the sweeter because we know our liquid enhanced lunches will come to a full stop once we return home. 




Warm homemade bread




Enjoying our Lambrusco, we spend almost half an hour looking over the menu. Among the antipasti, we select two of of Il Giusti's specialties: Bocconcini di Gnocco Fritto e Salumi della tradizione, which are hollow pillows of fried dough topped with Zibello culatello, Langhirano prosciutto and Colonnata lardo, so uniquely delicious it makes you want to cry, as well as Frittelle di Minestrone con Aceto Balsamico Stravecchio, deep-fried minestrone fritters made from yesterday's thickened soup, deep-fried in spoonfuls and topped with aged Balsamico.



Bocconcini di Gnocco Fritto e Salumi della tradizione, 
hollow pillows of fried dough topped with Zibello culatello, Langhirano prosciutto 
and Colonnata lardo, so uniquely delicious it makes you want to cry



Lardo is a type of salume made by curing strips of fat with rosemary and other herbs and spices, and is served very thinly sliced as an antipasto. The most famous lardo is from the Tuscan hamlet of Colonnata, where lardo has been made since Roman times. Colonnata is a part of Carrara, which is famous for its marble, where traditionally, lardo is cured for months in basins made of this local marble. Lardo di Colonnata now enjoys IGP - Protected Geographical Indication - status since 2004. It sounds odd, but is extremely tasty, like most fatty dishes, this pure white lard from Tuscany is practically butter, but has a fragrant and scented aroma, with a delicate slightly sweet taste, enriched by the spices and aromatic herbs used in the aging process. 



Frittelle di Minestrone con Aceto Balsamico Stravecchio, deep-fried minestrone fritters made from yesterday's thickened soup, deep-fried in spoonfuls and topped with aged Balsamico



Frittelle di Minestrone con Aceto Balsamico Stravecchio are deep-fried fritters made from thickened Minestrone soup, deep-fried in spoonfuls and topped with aged Traditional Balsamic Vinegar. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale has two homes: one here in Modena, and the other one in nearby Reggio Emilia. However, Giusti produces its own, unique nectar, sometimes aged up to 50 years, and it's this nectar that's used on their Frittelle di Minestrone.




We chose a local 2009 Vignamorello Colli Piacentini from Piacenza, to pair with our lunch



Among the Il Giusti's selections of Primi Piatti, were Maccheroni di Gragnano con Ragu di Zampone and Tortellini in Brodo di Cappone, a delicate broth made with capons. The tortellini were tiny but exploding with flavour — definitely the best we'd had in Emilia-Romagna so far. The ragu on the Maccheroni was also exceptional. Unquestionably, Laura Galli is a phenomenal cook. At Giusti, the pasta is superior because it's untouched by mechanical devices. As Laura's daughter Cecilia points out, "It takes two or three hours to make four portions of tagliatelle." To eat here is to imagine you are dining in the Italian home you wish you had. "We think our kitchen is very simple," says Cecilia. "It's strange that we've became famous, for this is what we eat every day. For us, it's normal. For our clients, it is not."




Maccheroni di Gragnano con Ragu di Zampone

Tortellini in Brodo di Cappone

Parmigiano from next door at Salumeria Giusti



Our Secondi Piatti were equally phenomenal, if that was possible. We chose the Stracotto di Manzo con Pure di Patate and the Guanciola di Vitello al Vino Bianco con patate al latte e caponata di melanzane. The braised meat was so tender and delicious, it just seemed to fall apart — absolute perfection.




Guanciola di Vitello al Vino Bianco con patate al latte e caponata di melanzane

Stracotta di Manzo con pure di patate

A family run restaurant, Matteo Morandi has taken over running the dining room
since his father passed away 7 years ago


The dolci, all fatto a mano, were tempting: Budino di Cicciolato, Crostata di Amarene and Crostatina di Creme Fresca e scorzette di agrumi caramelatte al moscato, a warm custard with candied zest in an impossibly thin and delicate pastry. We were the last ones to finish our lunch, which gave me time to ingratiate myself to Cecilia Morandi, and convince her to allow me to photograph her mother and chef of il Giusti, Laura Galli. Laura used to make all the pasta herself, but has passed on the mantle to a younger talented lady, who allowed me to watch her roll out the pasta in an upstairs kitchen.  



Crostatina di Creme Fresca e scorzette di agrumi caramelatte al moscato,
a warm custard with candied zest

We were the last ones to leave the restaurant

The tiny 15th-century door to the kitchen of Laura Galli-Morandi, chef of Il Giusti

Chef Laura Galli-Morandi in the kitchen of Hosteria Giusti, 
in he midst of making her Gnocchi Fritti

Laura used to hand make all of the pasta at Giusti, 
but she's passed on the mantle to this young and talented lady

She makes all the pasta for Hosteria Giusti as well as the Salumeria, 
which is why the restaurant only serves lunch 4 days a week

A little basket of Hosteria Giusti business cards




There's more to Modena than food, of course. The rich art collections of the Galleria Estense are a legacy of the d'Este dukes, who moved to Modena after being booted out of Ferrara. Unfortunately, the gallery and collection are currently closed due to last years earthquake, with no current updates when it might reopen. Musical events abound here in Luciano Pavarotti's hometown and in nearby Reggio Emilia, known for its winter opera season. 




The gorgeous windows of Luisa Spagnoli on via Farini in Modena

The brand is available only in Italy, Beirut and Abu Dhabi in the UAE

It's most likely a good thing Luisa Spagnoli isn't available in Canada, 
because I could have bought the whole shop!



The shops are fabulous with gorgeous shops like Luisa Spagnoli, a chic women's clothing store, where I made a mandatory pilgrimage, as well as the spell-bounding covered Albinelli Market. However you decide to spend your time, any well-spent day in Modena should end in the lovely Piazza Grande where, when the weather allows, it's a sublime pleasure to sip a grappa or Fernet Branca while gazing at the 12th century Duomo, one of Italy's finest Romanesque cathedrals.






Gnocco Fritto alle Giusti
Serves 12

This sublimely simple appetizer is from the kitchen of Laura Galli at Hosteria Giusti in Modena. Thinly sliced prosciutto, pancetta, or culatello are placed on top of these deep-fried pieces of dough while they are still warm; they will practically melt in your mouth.


1/2 ounce or 10 grams of cake yeast, or 2 tsp dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water at 105°F - 115°F
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
About 1 tsp carbonated mineral water
Olive oil for deep-frying
12 slices prosciutto di Parma, pancetta, and culatello di Zibello


In a small bowl, combine the yeast and the warm water and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Mound the flour on a work surface and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, butter, and enough mineral water to produce a soft dough. Knead until smooth. Put the dough in a medium bowl and cut an X on top. Cover and let rise for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out to a 1/4-inch thickness. With a knife, cut the dough into 2-inch-wide diamonds.

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat 3 inches of oil over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the dough pieces a few at a time. Fry, turning once, for about 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Using a wire skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain. Place in a low oven to keep warm while frying the remaining pieces. Place the gnocco on a platter, drape with the desired meats, and serve warm.