Dinner in Pavarotti’s House With the Mayor of Modena

It happened that last night I was at dinner at the house of Luciano Pavarotti sitting next to the mayor of Modena and the head of the city’s chamber of commerce. Pavarotti’s digs, in the countryside outside Modena where he died in 2007, provided the setting and his personal cook Cesare manned the kitchen.

Modena is located in the heart of Emilia-Romagna, one of Italy’s 20 regions and by most accounts is among the top 3 when it comes to food (not sure I agree), and Il Maestro loved to eat so only the biggest risk takers would have bet against us getting anything less than a memorable meal. And those risk takers would have lost miserably, maybe not as big as those who bet on the U.S. housing bubble never bursting, but miserably nevertheless.

Remembering Pavarotti

Pavarotti’s wife still lives in the house, though she wasn’t there last night, and keeps it as a shrine to her late husband. Costumes from his great performances can be found on the three floors as can his many naïf paintings, photos of him with everybody who was anybody in the past four decades, and letters from foreign dignitaries.

Not long after having taken my seat, and just as the mayor was telling with great pride how he had convinced a local bank to put up 3 million euros to redo a part of Modena’s stunning cathedral, the prosciutto and other sliced, cured meats started arriving. The gnocco fritto followed close behind. This is a sort of fried bread not that dissimilar to the pittule I ate a few weeks back in Puglia only bigger and with more air inside. A hot piece of gnocco fritto wrapped in a slice of lardo, yes lard, that melts and fuses with the gnocco is a thing to behold. Smooth, creamy, slightly salty and addictive.

Good, though not during a heat wave

A mild summer engulfed Northern Italy until about mid-August when the heat arrived evidently with plans to make up for lost time. We are still waiting for a break in the temperature, which might be coming in the next few days, but in the meantime we sat there in Pavarotti’s dining room sweating in stifling 90+ heat and though the windows were flung wide open that did little to help. I had come without a jacket so I could not take part in the standoff between the mayor and Mr. Chamber of Commerce to see who would be the last to succumb and strip down to the shirt.

Neither could keep the jacket on once we had started on the tortellini in brodo, small ribbon pasta filled with meat and floating in a rich meat broth. Though this is the primo par excellence for this part of Italy, as I sat there mopping sweat off my brow I had to question the choice of menu. I continued to question all the way through my second helping of tortellini, which, I have to say were undercooked, but nice nevertheless thanks to the phenomenal broth. I’ve never understood how the Bedouins in North Africa can drink hot tea in the desert heat and to that list of wonders I will now add the Modenesi who eat tortellini in brodo during a September heat wave.

I had planned to say no to the second primo piatto though when I saw the risotto sprinkled with balsamic vinegar, one of Modena’s dearest native sons, I changed my mind. Good move, as was my decision to accept a second helping of the tagliata, sliced beef steak. This was right about when the mayor began to explain how Italy’s new austerity budget was going to ruin his city.

A great meal became terrific when a tenor and soprano magically appeared next to the piano near our table and took turns singing arias. This was, after all, Pavarotti’s house and the foundation that bears his name promotes young opera singers.

A real soprano

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “Dinner in Pavarotti’s House With the Mayor of Modena

  1. I’d tend to disagree with the statement that gnocco fritto has anything to do with pittule but I don’t exactly know why. Pittule are full while gnocco fritto is empty but why that is I couldn’t say. They both have yeast in the dough and they both grow before being deep-fried … boh?

    • Vale,
      You might be right, they perhaps seem on first look to be closer than they really are. there is the fact that they are both fried dough, but maybe that’s not enough to make them similar. I’ll investigate why the pittule remain denser while the gnocco fritto has a really thin outer shell and then is empty on the inside.

      • I’d tend to disagree with the settemant that gnocco fritto has anything to do with pittule but I don’t exactly know why. Pittule are full while gnocco fritto is empty but why that is I couldn’t say. They both have yeast in the dough and they both grow before being deep-fried boh?

  2. Putting the lie to the fact that all Italians north of the Po just subsist year-round on polenta, a certain Rovigotta I know attests that her grandmother’s weekly cooking of massive amounts of chicken broth from scratch has left her with enduring memories of the smell of marrow. They’re not all pleasant — it’s hard for me to get her to eat the ossobuco I was happy to learn to make in Milan. All along the Adigetto, from Badia out the Delta, tortellini in brodo are eaten as a primo, rain or shine, torrid afa or bone-chilling fog, all year round. No exceptions. You don’t like it? Get thee to Padua and dine on bigoli.

    • @Henry: I’ve never seen an Emiliano open up a gnocco fritto, they seem to just wrap the affettato around the outside. Tortellini in brodo with that heat we had the other night at Pavarotti’s added to some thick humidity I think would be enough to send somebody to the hospital. Maybe you get used to it…

  3. @eric: Maybe that’s what I get for eating gnocco fritto with a Veneta, then. (Although she called them crescentine.) I wish I remember where — a sort of divey place in the hills above Bologna where everyone was watching calcio. Excellent place, open-air.

    It’s lunchtime, definitely.

  4. I will say that I appreciate the seasonal dining of most Italians. I had a Croat roommate who insisted on heating goulash in sweltering mid-Atlantic heat. That’s how they do it in the motherland, too: I’ll never forget rail-thin Macedonians wolfing down multiple courses of meat and potatoes during a summer seminar in Ohrid as I listlessly forced a few leaves of cold cabbage down.

  5. Does anyone know who lives in this house? Is it Pavarotti’s second wife? It looks like her photo on the piano. And does anyone know where this house is located outside Modena? Thanks,

    • Hi Patty,
      The house is in a little town just outside Modena called Santa Maria del Mugnano. Nobody lives there now because it has become a museum where you can also organize special events.

  6. Can anyone tell me how to get to Pavarotti’s house? During a trip to Italy in April, I will deliberately go to Modena to see the house where my lifetime idol lived and I’d sure like some directions rather that leaving if to asking directions locally with no Italian in my vocabulary

  7. Hi Paul,
    I went to the house/museum not too long ago. It’s just south of Modena on a road called Stradello Nava. Here is a link to it on Google maps: http://goo.gl/maps/wD6Bh. You could take a taxi (it’s not that far from the city centre so don’t think it will cost you that much) or if you have a car you could drive.

    • I will say that I appreciate the soanesal dining of most Italians. I had a Croat roommate who insisted on heating goulash in sweltering mid-Atlantic heat. That’s how they do it in the motherland, too: I’ll never forget rail-thin Macedonians wolfing down multiple courses of meat and potatoes during a summer seminar in Ohrid as I listlessly forced a few leaves of cold cabbage down.

  8. Can anyone tell me how to get to Pavarotti’s house? During a trip to Italy in April, I will dleaberitely go to Modena to see the house where my lifetime idol lived and I’d sure like some directions rather that leaving if to asking directions locally with no Italian in my vocabulary

    • Numbers #10 and #11 are soooooo good! I love ’em. Great list once again Gattina. Yes, I just read on Yahoo news about Pavrarotti!! So, so sad. I too loved his voice, and will truly miss seenig him entertain us. The world has lost its songbird!!

    • Uninsured motorist protection has nothing to do with prop�erty damage. QuotesChimp is specifically designed to pay your losses for bodily injury. Thus, the more you have, the safer you will be. It is better to err on the side of paying a little extra premium than to have inadequate coverage. Here are some of the important points that you should know about the protection.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s