By Robert Bradley
Modena, on the south side of the Po Valley in northern Italy, is known for producing the world’s first balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese. It also boasts having Italy’s most acclaimed restaurant, Osteria Francescana, which holds three stars in the Michelin Guide, and has been named as the best restaurant in the world in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants guide.
Modena is also the birth place and training ground of Cuenca chef Massimo Bulgarelly, owner of Salumeria Vecchia Modena on Paseo de los Cañaris.
Bulgarelly honed his craft working with his father and uncle at the butcher shop and pasta emporium they opened in Modena in the early 1960s. He apprenticed for over 20 years. His education was not the making of the moment, and surely not gleaned from “celebrity chefs”, Youtube, or silly television shows.
Bulgarelly’s skills are on display every day at Salumeria, where he insists that the quality of the ingredients are the key to an authentic Italian dining experience. “What goes into our dishes is what makes them good, whether it’s pasta or pizza,” he says. “I maintain the old preparation and cooking standards I learned in Modena that have stood the test of time.”
Many of those ingredients, including cheese, pasta and cheese, Chef Massimo makes himself at Salumeria or a shop he owns in Guayaquil. They are for sale to other restaurant as well as to the general public.
Opened in 2013, Salumeria is a no frills restaurant that has proven a big hit with Cuencano diners on a stretch of Paseo de los Canaris known for good restaurants. It features seating in two areas, one inside, next to the open kitchen, and a second outside, covered by plastic tarps.
Salumeria’s menu is expansive and provides an impressive sampling of Northern Italian cuisine. Among the standard offerings are the tortellini alfredo for $9.50 and the spaghetti bolanese for $8.50. The pizza choices, also numerous, reflect the tastes of Modena and wouldn’t be mistaken for Dominos and Pizza Hut fare. The menu also offers a variety of small and light dishes.
If the evening I dined there is any indication, Salumeria has won over a loyal following that considers Chef Massimo a friend. Nearly every patron who walked in the door headed right to the kitchen counter to say, “Hello,” with many inquiring about the day’s special (On my visit, it was a tortellini in brodo, a light yet filling dish).
If you miss Massimo when you come in, don’t worry. He’ll visit your table to tell you about his food and to make sure you’re satified.
A tip: For evening dining, come early to Salumeria unless you don’t mind waiting for a seat. When I arrived at 6:30 on a Friday night, the dining area was almost empty but when I left an hour-and-a-half later, it was full.
Salumeria Vecchia Modena: Paseo de los Cañaris at Modesto Larrea; Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m to 11 p.m on Friday, 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday; Phone: 098 763 3506; Facebook