A former farmhouse and stable, the site was first used as a canteen for the Ferrari workforce, before opening to the public in 1950 as the Cavallino restaurant. The furnishings were simple and rustic, while the menu specialised in the dishes and ingredients that makes Emilia-Romagna such a powerhouse of Italian cuisine. Fast cars met slow food.
On weekdays he would arrive with Ferrari managers and sometimes racing drivers. Translating mealtime chats was said to be frowned upon by the head of the table, so non-Italian guests – including Scuderia piloti – had to try to keep up with the conversation.
On Saturdays car talk was strictly frowned upon. Instead it was a time reserved by Enzo for a group known as gli amici di sabato – the Saturday friends. Lunches with these half-dozen trusted associates were dedicated to enjoying the traditional food, talking of family, and having animated discussions about life in general. The Italian way.
From then on the modest saletto attracted visits from a roll call of famous names in racing and beyond, including the likes of Paul Newman, the Shah of Persia and Peter Sellers. The list of visitors doesn’t end there either…
‘Many famous people have come to the Cavallino: actors, sports champions, nobles and royalty,’ recounts Piero Ferrari, Vice Chairman of Ferrari. ‘A lot of Formula 1 history has been created here too. For instance, in 1981 Bernie Ecclestone and Jean-Marie Balestre came to lay the foundations for the so-called Formula 1 ‘Concorde Agreement’ that was to be signed that year in Paris on the Place de la Concorde.’
Clientele also included piloti past and present, with the likes of Niki Lauda, Gilles Villeneuve, Nigel Mansell, and Michael Schumacher all regularly tussling with a menu that challenged their rigid athlete diets to the guilty limit.
As for Enzo, he was known in these parts as una buona forchetta – literally ‘a good fork’. Meaning he liked to eat. And the Cavallino menu was replete with traditional dishes. Modena-born Enzo favoured tortelli in burro e salvia (tortelli in butter and sage), followed by risotto with parmesan cheese, from nearby Parma. In winter there would be bollito misto – a mixed broth of boiled meats.
When the Ferrari founder celebrated his ninetieth birthday with a huge factory lunch, well over fifteen hundred past and present employees attended – and the Cavallino did the catering. The entire production line of the eight-cylinder engines was suspended for a whole day in order to allow it to be decked out to resemble the restaurant.
Following Enzo’s death in 1988 the private saletto was left intact but unused, in honour of its most revered buona forchetta.
Massimo Bottura, born and raised in Modena, describes the reinvigorated Cavallino as ‘a new vision and a new way of bringing Modenese cuisine to life’. As such, the history and identity of the area is revisited in a contemporary style to bring out the best of the past in the flavours of the present and the future.
A new red façade adorns the old farmhouse building and inside India Mahdavi has played with the traditional decorative vocabulary of the Italian trattoria. The floor is covered with terracotta tiles, the walls are oak-panelled – and, of course, feature photographs, posters, souvenirs and memorabilia – but there is bespoke furniture and a pixelized interpretation of the Prancing House logo to create a unique identity for the restaurant.
Open now for bookings, the Ristorante Cavallino embraces a vision of hospitality to offer everyone the possibility to be part of the Ferrari universe, to breathe in the same atmosphere, and to celebrate the delights of an Italian way of life.