Having just thrown back a rich shot of espresso, we slipped into black ‘Chef for a Day’ aprons. Our cooking class in Modena, Italy had officially begun.
In strolled our instructor, Chef Massimiliano ‘Max’ Telloli of the Osteria Stallo del Pomodoro restaurant. He wore a kelly-green chef’s hat and a warm smile. Chef Max also exuded an enthusiastic willingness to share Emilia-Romagnan cuisine with us.
Earlier, we’d read that Chef Max is a Modena native, longtime gluten-free consultant, award-winning chef, and cookbook author. Now that we’d met him in person, we couldn’t help but notice that Chef Max bore a striking resemblance to the American actor, Gary Sinise. :)
Quickly, we discovered that one secret behind Chef Max’s celebrated cuisine is his use of quality, rich ingredients.
“Each week, we use about 5 kg. (11 pounds) of butter, and 200 eggs at the restaurant,” he mentioned, as he set aside the ingredients for our first dish, a Soufflé di Parmigiano.
When we made a remark about the yolks’ bold, dark-orange hue, Chef Max said that this characteristic hinted at the hens’ excellent nutrition.
In this land of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano, Chef Max added copious amounts of the beloved cheese, noting that the grated batch had been aged for 24 months. He also added ricotta to the gloriously-golden, creamy mix before pouring the concoction into muffin tins.
As the soufflés-to-be were put into the oven, Chef Max and his assistants — like a cadre of busy elves — set to work showing us how to make gluten-free gnocchi, grilled duck, and a chocolate torte. The aroma of melted butter, cacao, cheese, and pasta danced in the air.
As substitutes to traditional wheat flour, Chef Max used gluten-free blends made with corn, rice, potato, and even buckwheat flour.
After all the dishes began cooking, we set off to explore the interior of the cozy eatery. In the early 18th century, the grounds on which the restaurant is now situated belonged to the Countess of Hanover. They housed a stable, where the Countess’ horses were kept.
Today, the Stallo del Pomodoro’s interior is embellished by black & white posters, a vintage radio, and shelves filled with a significant wine selection, the latter of which we’d get to enjoy during our lunchtime feast.
Soon, a triumphant parade of courses streamed through the kitchen door. Each plate offered novel flavors and spices, including fava tonca or tonka bean (a legume with South American origins, it’s curiously banned in the United States).
By the end of the meal, we felt comfortably full, thanks to the richness of the cuisine and the reasonable portions Chef Max and his team had created. A group of local winemakers who’d been dining at a neighboring table, swung by to offer us complimentary glasses of their delightful wine. Had we not had a full afternoon dedicated to seeing more of Modena’s highlights, we could’ve chatted with these friendly vintners for hours.
We reluctantly left a short while later, feeling grateful that Chef Max had shared some of the region’s culinary secrets with us.
- Wine: Saio Rosso – Lambrusco dell’Emilia, 11.7% alcohol content
- Grissini Breadsticks & 3 Types of Panne Aromitisato: Flaxseed, Rosemary & Tomato
- Crêpe with Ricotta & Radicchio Pesto, dusted with Fava Tonca (a South American spice)
- Gnocchi with Sauce
- Soufflé di Parmigiano
- Grilled Duck with Roasted Potatoes, Purée of Leek, garnished with Pomegranate Seeds
- Tortino Ciocallato (Chocolate Torte) Filled with Pears, Dressed with English Cream, Dusted in Cacao & Confectioner’s Sugar
Our Video of This Experience:
Where in the World?
- The Osteria Stallo del Pomodoro is located in the heart of Modena at Largo Hannover 64. Touch base with them to coordinate a cooking class experience, or simply go there to enjoy their fantastic fare!
- While in Modena, we spent 3 nights at the elegant, historic, and centrally-located Hotel Canalgrande (affiliate link). One of our favorite memories from Modena, in fact, was sitting out on our hotel room balcony just before sunset, looking out over Modena’s rooftops, while enjoying goodies that we’d procured at the Albinelli Market earlier in the day.
- Peruse the Emilia-Romagna Tourist Board website for more details about Modena’s and the region’s rich offerings. The tourist board just recently released a free e-book that chronicles Emilia-Romagna’s Art Cities. I wish it’d been published when we were in the region, yet it’s since presented even more excuses to return to this stunning part of Italy.
- If you’d also like to “eat, feel and live local in Italy” as we did in Modena, check out the BlogVille project website.
- Need more inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from Italy.
Disclosure & Thanks:
Our Modena visit was supported by the Emilia-Romagna Tourist Board, to which we extend thanks.
An extra special thank you to Nick and Francesca for coordinating all the details and making us feel so welcome in Emilia-Romagna.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved. Video footage is courtesy of my husband, Shawn.