Meet Trattoria Aldina, a restaurant so good, even Michelin-starred Chef Bottura recommends it
Modena is rightly famous for its incredible culinary heritage; an hour west of Bologna, it’s where balsamic vinegar and parmigiano reggiano were born, along with ethereal fresh pastas, rich ragùs, and a delicious local style of prosciutto. For many food-lovers, the city may be best known as the home of the best restaurant in the world, Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana. With three Michelin stars (the highest ranking they award), Osteria Francescana has twice been ranked No. 1 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, beating international superstars like Spain’s El Bulli and Denmark’s Noma. And it is, indeed, incredible! You’re guaranteed a once-in-a-lifetime meal there filled with Chef Bottura’s creative, labor-intensive dishes inspired by his hometown. It’s also priced accordingly: the 17-course tasting menu is $350.
For an equally rapturous meal with a much friendlier price tag, take a short walk down the road to an unassuming place many locals say is actually the best restaurant in town. Trattoria Aldina is the kind of local favorite we love to find: a comfortable, family-owned restaurant that has been following its own path for decades, unbothered by trendiness or tourism. Located across the street from Albinelli Market, where chefs and locals alike come to shop for ingredients, it’s been at the heart of the city’s historic center since 1973.
Aldina specializes in classic Emilia-Romagna dishes like tortellini in brodo, bollito misto, and zuppa inglese. You’ll even find rarely seen local specialties like horse-meat tartare! We adored the local green lasagna (vibrantly colored with spinach) and gnocchi with gorgonzola drizzled luxuriously with our favorite balsamico from Guerzoni. Located on the second floor of a nondescript building, the comfortable dining room is homey and unfussy, with cheerful plaid tablecloths and nostalgic images of the city dotting the walls.
It's the perfect embodiment of Modena’s hearty, never fussy cuisine, firmly rooted in the region’s culinary history. Even Chef Bottura loves it! He included Trattoria Aldina in his own guide to Modena for Forbes, calling it “a bustling place with communal tables and lots of good cheer, as well as traditional Modenese specialties such as tortellini, tortelloni and tagliatelle al ragu.” If a reservation at Osteria Francescana is out of your reach, you never know—you might just see the star chef enjoying himself alongside his fellow Modenese at Trattoria Aldina.