Eataly, our saviour

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Our last day in Italy wasn’t fun at all food wise. It started fine with a nice breakfast at the hotel in Ravenna and we had a good drive back to Bologna as well, but then it went downhill from there. Sob.

We really wanted to have lunch at Casa Minghetti (the cute bar and restaurant where we had a pre-dinner drink on the Saturday), but they were closed. So we then walked to a restaurant Caroline got recommended by a friend, that according to Google was open, only to find another closed door. Most places were open the other holiday days, but for some reason everything was closed on Easter Monday.

So we walked back to the centre of town to find only a handful of restaurants open for business, serving the same amount of people as the other days when everything was open which of course resulted in full restaurants and massive queues. By this point we were both hangry and about to cry. So we had to decide between a shorter queue for a lighter meal (it seemes less popular) or longer queue for proper cooked food. In desperation we chose the former and went to Eataly (they have a restaurant in New York too, that you may have heard of) as they had lots of tables and a fairly short queue. We weren’t really in the mood for cheese and charkuterie, but as we sat down with it in front of us it was heaven. The mortadella was actually the best one I had during the whole trip!

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The charkuteries from left to right (top pic): mortadella, serrano, pancetta and salami and the cheese from left to right (above pic) were: a nice hard cheese I don’t know the name of, mozzarella, parmesan and dolcelatte.

After lunch our plan was to buy food we wanted to take home with us. We had eyed up courgette flowers at every greengrocer since our first day here but as they wilt quickly we wanted to buy them fresh on our last day. That back-fired as most the food shops were closed as well. What was going on?! In the end I managed to find parmesan, ricotta, salsiccia, erborinato cheese and asparagus to take home, but it was a real mission. Still quite happy with our efforts we drove to the airport only to find out that our flight was two hours delayed. No probs, we read magazines and enjoyed a glass of wine in the lounge. But there was no food, so after consulting an online map of the airport we thought we’d have dinner at one of the two restaurants after security.

Again, things back-fired. There was only one restaurant and one cafeteria after security but the restaurant was closed and the café didn’t really sell anything edible apart from two scary looking sandwiches, ice cream and snacks so we had another glass of wine and some parmesan snacks for dinner. Now, it’s almost funny how we could have such a bad food day in Italy of all places. But in the moment it wasn’t funny at all. I’ve never been so happy to come back to Heathrow and see an open M&S late at night!

The rest of our trip was absolutely fab, and luckily both Caroline and I react the same way to not getting fed, so at least we were in it together.

Eataly, Via Degli Orefici 19, 40126 Bologna, Italy

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Franceschetta 58, Modena

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We rented a car on our second day in Bologna and I got a crash course in how the Italians drive, i.e. a bit crazy, but it was fun too.

The car took us to Modena, the city most famous for balsamic vinegar and the second best restaurant in the world right now; Osteria Francescana.

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We were sadly not lucky enough to nab one of the twelve tables there, despite being waitlisted for every meal, so I guess we’ll just have to come back. I would sooo like to try Massimo Bottura’s iconic cooking.

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But when I researched restaurants in Modena I discovered that chef Bottura has another restaurant in town; the much more low key Franceschetta 58, so that’s where we had lunch. They only serve a buffet for lunch, but it was very very good. I would have liked to try the a’la carte as well though, so I need to come back here one evening.

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The buffet had both a cold and a warm section. The cold section (above) contained charcuterie, parmesan, bread, salads and cakes for pudding.

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I tried most things from the cold buffet and everything was excellent. The charcuterie was very nice, just like the aged Parmesan. I also got to try proper ricotta (light years away from what we can buy in a packet at Waitrose), and it was mild but salty and very fluffy in texture. The salads were also very good and I especially enjoyed the one with bitter leaves, pears and crutons but also liked the one with farro, feta and courgette.

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The hot dishes the staff plated for us. We had the pasta as primi and then came back for the main courses.

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Both pasta dishes were amazing! The spaghetti hoops to the left (does anyone know the proper name for this pasta shape?) with speck, walnuts and endive was very earthy in flavour and very nice. But the orecchiette with salsiccia and tomato sauce was out of this world. I still dream about it; it was that good.

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The main courses were great too. I absolutely loved the beef stew with cream and mustard (top right) and the sweet roasted vegetables. The potato purée was heavenly creamy and the pork stew with an undefined bitter vegetable was nice too.

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There were two types of cake for pudding, one with chocolate and nuts that was rather dry in texture and not really my thing, but Caroline liked it. I preferred the other one with apple and pears.

If you find yourself in Modena I urge you to go here. It’s one of the best buffets I’ve ever had. And although it’s simple cooking and not extravagant in any way it’s done very very well. It’s also very good value for money; all of this gorgeous food only cost €17!

Franceschetta 58, Via Vignolese, 58, 41124 Modena, Italy