Maranello is the home of Enzo Ferrari’s favorite restaurant
Just a half hour drive due south from Modena (or 45-minute drive west of Bologna) is Maranello – the mecca for a Ferrari lovers where SF90s, 812s, Portofinos and even the elusive Dinos rev the tiny streets. This is the town that Enzo loved and where he built his Ferrari factory in the early 1940s. And Maranello just happens to be the location of Enzo Ferrari’s favorite foodie pitstop Ristorante Cavallino.
You can’t miss it. Directly across the road from the historic Ferrari factory is a farmhouse slash reataurant, Cavallino was aptly named for Ferrari’s iconic prancing horse. Almost every day, Enzo was here in his private ground floor dining room, enjoying Emilia Romagna favourites like tortellini and a bottle of Lambrusco. He hung out with daredevil drivers and particular princes straight off the Fiorano track, enjoying the delicious delights of Emilia Romagna so there was absolutely no need to go anywhere else. Basta, Cavallino it was.
For the past seven decades, Cavallino has been a local landmark. It was originally the canteen for the Ferrari workforce, eventually evolving into a neighborhood restaurant where you could catch Schumacher nibbling a gnocco fritto, and it remained the way it had always been its doors closed in December 2019. Flashforward to June 2021 and the newly repainted Cavallino has shifted into fifth gear with a complete overhaul by architect India Mahdavi and superstar chef Massimo Bottura.
Don’t worry. Cavallino is a farmhouse through and through but inside you’ll find that Mahdavi broke the fifth wall with a little fun while paying homage to history. The dining spaces are luminous, highlighted with Ferrari’s historic giallo e rosso palette – in the colourful Richard Ginori plates, the lacquered chairs and benches. Mahdavi also honours the beloved vintage trattoria by recreating the trattoria checkered tablecloth pattern in the terracotta tile floor. Look around, every now and then you’ll spy subtle and not-so-subtle appearances of the iconic prancing horse motif (which was digitalised into a pixelated version for the very first time). From the entrance gate to the wall paper and mosaic-tiled columns, the prancing horse trots across Cavallino.
For secret gear heads like myself, there are delightful touches like glistening Ferarri engines on display in the dining rooms, vintage posters on the walls and prototype design sketches in the rooms. And future Ferrari lovers will love to follow in Enzo’s footsteps dining in his private salottino, a ground floor inner sanctum with a hidden floor-to-ceiiling window that opens to a driveway where your brand-new, entirely custom Ferrari awaits.
It’s Bottura, baby
As for the menu, Italy’s seemingly inexhaustible culinary champion is having fun with the region’s heritage shown off in the tasting menu: A five-course journey into our interpretation of the timeless traditions of Emilia Romagna, as well as a la carte. My advice? Do what I did- show up famished, order the tasting menu and a la cart. Each dish was amazing and there are so many that will now be my go tos.
Bottura has revived a generations-old Rosette, a long-lost Nonna recipe of baked egg pasta folded with ham, and freshly made bechamel foam with tosone (the trimmings of newly made Parmigiano Reggiano) and decorated edible silver foil as shiny as those motors. The Caesar Salad a Maranello will satiate locavores with its harvest of foraged greens and flowers garnished with a mayonnaise of Po river oysters.
Both Darius and I cried over the tartare Cavallino and the fettuccine al ragu, and we could not get enough of the Just Ribs and the cotecchino. More poignant is the Tortellini del Tortellante, the region’s emblematic pasta traditionally made by rezdore, nonne and zie, but in this dish, made by teenagers and adults form the Modena based autism non profit where Bottura and wife Lara Gilmore are mentors and ambassadors. We decided that when we next return we’ll have the rosette, the just ribs and the salad, but who am I kidding? I’ll let Bottura’s incredible team tell me what I am eating and drinking. It’s all about Emilia Romagna.