In preparation for opening the Italian-focused Che Fico in San Francisco, chef David Nayfeld took a little R&D trip to Emilia-Romagna to basically eat his weight in pasta. Here’s where he hit up along the way.
After working at fine-dining temples in New York City—Eleven Madison Park, Cru—chef David Nayfeld is venturing into slightly different territory. Rustic Italian.
Opening soon, he unveils his years-in-the-making project with chef (and fellow Eleven Madison Park alum) Angela Pinkerton. It’s called Che Fico, and it’s focused on food all over Italy, not just one specific region.
But to prepare for opening the restaurant, Nayfeld took an R&D trip to Emilia-Romagna, where he ate his weight in pasta.
“The beauty of Emilia-Romagna is that you can explore so many cities in a short amount of time, and each is famous for their own export or specialty,” says Nayfeld.
Follow the chef to see all the spots he sought out in Italy.
“When I travel to Emilia-Romagna, I always fly into Bologna’s airport. It’s on the smaller side, so it's easy to navigate. Plus, it’s right by one of the most classic trattorias in Bologna. Swing by for lunch, so the light comes into the old-school restaurant, highlighting the quirky white and red tablecloths and mint-green chairs. But the order here is the tagliatelle al ragù, my favorite dish in the whole city.”
“Walking through Bologna’s city center, you’ll find beautiful architecture as well as a number of shops selling cured meats, cheese, pre-made pasta and wines. This well-curated shop is my favorite of the bunch, so I like to grab some meat and cheese to snack on.”
“If you’ve got a sweet tooth, head to this hidden spot in a brick-lined Bologna building. I really enjoyed the grapefruit gelato. It was super refreshing, the perfect balance of bitter, tart and lightly sweet.”
“Drive an hour southwest of Bologna, and you’ll find yourself in Savigno, the city of truffles. It’s best to go between October and January, and my favorite hotel to book there is Locanda Amerigo. The owner also has this homey restaurant close by, which specializes in regional classics. Order the tagliatelle al ragù, tortellini en brodo and passatelli con tartufo.”
“After stopping into one of the cafes for a quick coffee and cornetto, get in the car and drive to Parma, which is less than an hour away. After filling up on prosciutto and Parm or seeing the opera, make sure you get some pasta at this white-tableclothed restaurant. You can taste multiple preparations on one plate, which I like especially if you’re not with a group and don’t have the luxury to order multiple plates.”
“The final stop for me was in Modena, home of balsamic vinegar. You can tour production facilities and try different vinegars through booking Zest of Italy, but save yourself for this rustic hotspot. You need to reserve in advance—they only have four tables! When you arrive, go with the gnocchi fritto and some mixed salumi.”