Da Danilo on Via Colellini 31, just located on the side of the city’s Synagogue was an unexpected surprise.
This traditional style restaurant faithfully serves all the classics of Modena such as tortellini en brodo, tortelloni, and a trolley of boiled meats. This family run restaurant looks like it hasn’t changed its decor or menu in years, but it doesn’t have to, because the place looks charming and the reasonably priced food seduced us.
You can start with the local gnocchi fritto and add some Parma ham, or try some of the aforementioned tortellini soup in a rich broth, that cooks for a minimum of six hours. We had some arugula salad, which is not as spicy as its counterpart in the Amalfi region. They serve it with a wonderfully aged Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of sweet balsamic vinegar from Modena. Our charming waiter, Brian did not steer us wrong with some fabulous suggestions. We went for a trip of pastas. The specialty was tortelloni (a large size tortellini), stuffed with ricotta and spinach. It had the most extraordinary sauce of balsamic vinegar and butter. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Porcini mushrooms have been readily available in Emilia-Romagna and so we had some with a homemade pappardelle. In fact, all of their pasta is made fresh every morning and it is in the 7-8 Euro range, which is absurd for the quality. Next up was one of the best lasagna dishes I have ever had, cooked with a green noodle and layered with bolognese sauce and bechamel sauce. You can sprinkle on some of that delicious Parmesan cheese for good measure. We thought we would be healthy and order a side of spinach, but in Modena they serve it with butter and cheese. Fattening but oh so delicious. To help cut all this fat we ordered a bottle of Pignoletto, a sparkling white wine that pairs well with all this rich food.
For dessert, we had a tiramisu that was a little too strong in the coffee and anise flavours for my taste. The panna cotta was a little too light. I should follow my own advice and stick with fresh fruit or gelato.
The story is the owner was a waiter at the restaurant when he was 14 and now he owns the place. The food is made the same way as it was 50 years ago. The wait staff are mostly old school except for Brian (what kind of Italian name is Brian?), who is the only waiter or staff who seems to speak English.
The restaurant is like the little engine that could. And let’s hope they never change.