I’m watered as I examine the restaurant menu hanging at street level. I take it to be an invitation of a sort.
Ristorante da Enzo in Modena (a first floor establishment) has windows back and front, dressed by a variety of healthy plants. Responsibility for their welfare falls upon a green-fingered older woman who is still happily performing her midday ritual as we arrive upstairs. She offers a gentle permesso before closing a window next to me, then wanders off to prepare plates of Prosciutto di Parma.
We are in the middle of the last century, or so it feels. A timeless elegance lightens this blue-walled space.
The restaurant has only just opened for lunchtime service and is empty but for us and the staff. Which gives me time to dry off and watch the scene evolve.
Our waiter is attentive, I tell my children. He knows exactly when to appear to ask for our menu choices, and then when to disappear. Nothing is too much trouble, and he navigates his way around the growing clientele with a swift, old-fashioned courtesy.
I also like him because before I’ve had a chance to wonder if I’d like some lunchtime wine, he asks if I’d prefer il vino bianco o il vino rosso. It’d be rude to say neither.
We opt for freshly made pasta, because we are told that Modena is home to tortellini (below left) – or is it?
An old rivalry between Bologna and Modena as to the provenance of tortellini (as I learn later at legendary Le Sfogline in Bologna) was eventually settled diplomatically. It is now agreed that this small stuffed pasta comes from Castelfranco Emilia, which happens to be midway between the two cities.
The story goes that a cross-eyed innkeeper of that town was inspired to shape the tortellino after a vision involving a naked Venus and, in particular, her navel (as told by Giuseppe Ceri in the 19th century). Since 1974 there has been an official recipe, but tortellini is said to have its roots in the 14th century, and experts like this nonna, who learned from her nonna, are wonderful to watch.
Instead of something sweet for dessert we share some Parmigiano Reggiano. Generously served with a bottle of Aceto di Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP, it’s a steal at just five euros.
A classic and atmospheric lunch – one to savour and remember. Especially the water and wine – nice touches both.
Ristorante da Enzo
Via Coltellini, 17, 41121 Modena
Open daily except Mondays: 12 – 2:30pm, 7:30 – 10:30pm