Over our years traveling to Emilia Romagna, Italy, we’ve learned all about how they make Balsamico di Modena, the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena. I now consider myself a bit of an expert on the process. One of our favorite places to visit also happens to be one of the most well-known producers of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP, Acetai Pedroni di Modena.
In this post, I will talk about the history of Acetaia Pedroni Modena. I will also share how Aceto Balsamico tradizionale is made and what the difference is between Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP and Aceto Balsamico Tradzionale di Modena DOP. Also, I will share what it’s like to eat as Osteria di Rubbiara, Pedroni’s historic restaurant in Nonantola.
Learn more in our Emilia Romagna Food Guide – Every blog we’ve written about Emilia Romagna in one place
What is Aceto Balsámico Di Modena
The first step to understanding traditional balsamic, or Aceto di Modena, is to understand the production process. This is a very high-level overview. There is a lot more detail in my book, The Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.
In order to make traditional balsamic, grape juice is heated on a fire and cooked in open air for about 24 hours. About 100 kilograms of grapes are used to produce about 75 liters of liquid. After the heating process, only 35 liters remain. The reduced liquid is placed into a series of a minimum of five barrels, called a batteria. Over time the balsamico Modena is transferred from one barrel to another, from the largest to the smallest barrel. The increasingly smaller amounts are due to the evaporation that occurs, which makes the balsamic more dense and sweeter. This process occurs over 12 years, or 25 years, or sometimes for decades.
Businesses who produce balsamic usually have done so for generations, in an acetaia di Modena, the place where balsamic is made. Whereas a family might maintain a few batteria for family use, an acetaia might have dozens of batteria, with possibly hundreds of individual barrels.
What is Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena
After either 12 or 25 years of work, from 100 kilograms of grapes, the result is maybe one liter of aged Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP. And, this is why true balsamic is so expensive.
The consortium that regulates Balsamico di Modena, sets the standards in the region. There are two DOP versions of Modenese balsamic. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena Affinato, or aged, must be aged a minimum of 12 years. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena Extra Vecchio, or extra old, must be aged a minimum of 25 years. There is also an Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP, but it doesn’t go through as many of the steps as the DOP version. That’s why to ensure you are tasting the good stuff, the real stuff, ensure the bottle is labeled Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP.
The history of the Acetaia Pedroni is undeniable. Giuseppe Pedroni started an osteria, or tavern, in 1862. Since then, six generations of Pedroni men have run the osteria and acetaia, or traditional balsamic vinegar production. There has been Claudio, Cesare, Giuseppe II, Italo and ultimately, Giuseppe III, who we met at Acetaia Pedroni.
The quality of Acetaia Pedroni is also undeniable, with a reputation that spans Emilia Romagna, and the globe. When we talked with people during our time in the region, and mentioned that we were visiting this particular acetaia, often they would smile or even roll their eyes back into their head, making an unmistakable yummy face, to let us know it is one of the best.
Tasting Acetaia Pedroni Balsamic Vinegar
After our tour of the acetaia, we moved into the family’s historic tavern, Osteria di Rubbiara, for a tasting of these historic bottles and a lunch that featured balsamic vinegar.
Our translator helped us with the balsamic vinegar tasting, which was offered by Giuseppe III himself. I assumed that Giuseppe did not speak English, although he understood some of my questions. He walked us through four of their vinegar, including two of their Balsamico di Modena Tradizionale (aged at least twelve years) and the luxurious Balsamico di Modena Extravecchio (aged at least 25 years). Each bottle produced a thicker and sweeter vinegar, with a perfect mix of acidity. It required patience just to wait for it to drip into the tasting spoon.
After the tasting, I was surprised that Giuseppe even allowed the tray of vinegar to remain in our possession at the table. It was as if he immediately trusted us with the bottles that cost as much as €85. Then, I realized he would be using these bottles to aid in preparing the Osteria Rubbiara dishes.
A Traditional Lunch at Osteria di Rubbiara
Over a bottle of Pedroni Lambrusco sparkling red wine, we were fed a meal that, although lacking formality, was one of the best we had during our first trip to Modena. It was almost as though you could taste the tradition behind each dish. Since that time, we’ve returned to Acetaia Pedroni and Osteria di Rubbiara multiple times.
First, a tortelloni drizzled with balsamic vinegar that is a specialty of Emilia Romagna. I was left smacking my lips in anticipation, as we watched the balsamic vinegar pour slowly from the bottle.
Tagliatelle with homemade ragu, a traditional dish that Eric certainly cannot get enough of. Although this course did not feature aceto balsamic Modena, it was perfectly prepared.
Our meat course included a Lambrusco braised chicken, which apparently is a Pedroni family secret, roast pork ribs, cippolini onions cooked in balsamic, and Acetaia Pedroni’s famous balsamic vinegar omelet. The pork ribs were to die for. Seriously. So crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. After we wolfed them down and complimented Giuseppe on how good they were, he asked if we wanted more. Eric did not hesitate longer than a second before saying yes, and out comes another plate with two more ribs.
Eric was smiling like the Cheshire cat. The smile on Giuseppe’s face was also telling. He was proud that his tavern, and his food, was eliciting such enjoyment from these two crazy American foodies. The ribs made Eric and I talk about the concept of vegetarianism, as Eric pronounced “there is no way you could ever make vegetables come close to tasting this good.” For Eric, those ribs were as good as a dessert.
Later trips to Osteria di Rubbiara included grilled chicken with roasted potatoes, also drizzled with Acetaia Pedroni balsamico.
The Real Treat at Osteria Rubbiara
But Giuseppe had one more dish up his sleeve: a vanilla ice cream drizzled with Acetaia Pedroni balsamic vinegar, the Giuseppe Extravecchio, aged at least 25 years. Some of the balsamic vinegar dripped over the side of my ice cream dish. I just could not waste it. I am not proud. Okay, who am I kidding, I am totally proud of this behavior.
Along with the creamy ice cream, Giuseppe placed three bottles of liquor on the table. I thought maybe this was a VIP service for the American bloggers. When I looked around, though, every table had three bottles of liquor to finish off their lunch. I love Italy. Each bottle included a local specialty liquor made by Acetaia Pedroni.
During a later trip to Acetaia Pedroni for lunch, the ice cream was not offered. This is when the American in me helps. I spoke up and asked for the ice cream with aceto balsamico Modena, and I was glad I did.
By the end of our first meal as Osteria Rubbiara, it seemed that Giuseppe had warmed to us. Once the translator had left us to our meal, it was Giuseppe who served us. Imagine the 6th generation proprietor of the famous Acetaia Pedroni balsamic vinegar producer, serving us our meal. Talk about a family business.
As the meal progressed, so did Giuseppe’s English. At first, he spoke in some broken English, mostly Italian, but before we left he was chatting a ton. We bonded over the enthusiasm we share for food, and of course the balsamic vinegar, which you could tell he was passionate about.
Our first visit to Acetaia Pedroni was one that I loved. It’s why we keep returning to Acetaia Pedroni Modena and to Osteria Rubbiara. A meal where I could taste the tradition of balsamic vinegar, and the generational pride behind a business. It is always a lovely afternoon in Nonantola.
Acetaia Pedroni di Modena
Acetaia Pedroni and the Osteria di Rubbiara can be found at Via Risaia, 4, Rubbiara di Nonantola, 41015. Although the address is in Nonantola, the acetaia is actually located on the road between Modena and Nonantola in a very small town. In addition to tastings and tours, Acetaia Pedroni offers a shop for purchasing aceto balsamico Modena and liquors.
The tavern serves lunch most days between 12 pm and 3 pm and is open for dinner Friday and Saturday nights. There is no menu. Food just starts to arrive. The meal costs around €35 a person. Reservations are recommended, particularly on the weekends. Learn more about Acetaia Pedroni on Tripadvisor.
Be prepared, you must leave your mobile phone in a lockup on the wall – they want you to actually talk with one another and enjoy your meal at Osteria Rubbiara.
Planning a Trip to Emilia Romagna?
Looking for more travel tips on Emilia Romagna, and how to eat the best food in Italy? My book The Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna: How to taste the history and tradition of Italy, is available on Amazon now.
More About Our Trip
We were supported during our tour by Emilia Romagna Tourism, but all of my opinions, and all of my yummy sounds are of course my own.
For more about the food in Emilia Romagna, check out our Emilia Romagna Food Travel Guide.
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Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.