Dining and shopping at Osteria Giusti, in Modena.
Hosteria Giusti is the trattoria of my dreams. Its official address in Modena, vicolo del Squallore 46, is almost impossible to find, and the owner (dad Nano Morandi) used to wait outside the door of the Giusti shop on a main street (via Farini 75) to usher diners through a room perfumed with prosciutto and parmigiano. There are shelves and stacks of foodstuffs to examine: bottles of newborn, adolescent and venerable balsamic vinegars, Carnaroli rice, Sicilian belly tuna, and artisanal pasta. Continuing down a hallway lined with crates from impressive wineries, you are primed for lunch.
Nano's wife, Laura Galli, is a phenomenal cook who rolls all the restaurant's pasta by hand. Begin lunch with her gnocco fritto, a hollow, featherweight pastry pillow, paired with the sweet porcine flavors of prosciutto or, even better, hard-to-find culatello "cured pork culo" (or ass). It's hard to resist the tiny tortellini in capon broth, and Matteo (Nano's son) always brings everyone a serving of deep-fried minestrone fritters (yesterday's thickened soup, deep-fried in spoonfuls). Laura cooks pork - a wide range of cuts and cured varieties - with skill and respect, including cappellino del prete, cotechino, and braised pork shoulder. Taste the capon salad drizzled with ancient balsamic vinegar to understand what this special ingredient is all about. They forced me to taste their panna cotta served with sapa, cooked grape must, the best version I've ever had. The just-baked homemade cakes are also hard to resist. Drink the house wine or check out the cellar, across the alley from the four-table dining room, for something more important.
Hosteria Giusti, vicolo Squallore 46, Modena. tel: 39-059-222533.
Open for lunch Monday through Saturday.
February 28, 1996