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Some meals worth stopping for in Italy on a summer road trip, Part 2

Bollito misto, which can include different cuts of meat depending on the chef, with sauces, from a Los Angeles Times recipe.

Bollito misto, which can include different cuts of meat depending on the chef, with sauces, from a Los Angeles Times recipe.

(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

While we were in Modena, my wife maintained, we should try to visit Arnaldo Clinica Gastronomica, a restaurant in the nearby town of Rubiera we had enjoyed on our first trip to Italy 25 years ago.

The suggestion was reasonable enough on its face — the Clinica’s reputation had if anything become more robust in the succeeding decades, and it had become acknowledged as the best place to go for its particular specialty. (It was nicknamed “clinica’’ when the owners noticed its popularity among doctors at a nearby hospital.) The restaurant, founded in the 1930s, was old even then.

The problem was that its specialty is bollito misto, Modena’s famous dish of sliced boiled meats served with a condiment made from mustard-preserved fruit. Bollito misto is a hearty dish, appropriate for the region’s harsh winters. It happened to be 102 degrees in the shade.

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It would be all right, Laurie assured me. At least the Lambrusco would be cold.

The Lambrusco was cold. The air conditioning was not. The captains looked miserable in their tight-fitting black suits. The salad cart and the salumi cart were unappealing in the jungly heat. When the silver cart rolled up to the table, roasts piled on each end and a steaming central basin holding quivering slabs of boiled meat, I was tempted to call off the meal.

Nothing could have seemed less appealing in that instant than long-cooked slices of veal tongue, translucent curls of pig’s foot, or boiled brisket turned the rich, dark color of cordovan shoes.

But the Arnaldo salsa verde, also from a cart? Intensely green and herbal, with just a touch of pungency from mashed anchovy. A yellow sauce based on chopped boiled egg was cool and slippery; the pear mostarda was sweet but carried the punch of the hot mustard Philippe’s in Los Angeles has on the table for its French dips.

A slice of cotechino sausage, scarlet as pomegranate seeds, melted on the tongue. Pink, wet twists of ham were soft and sweet. Clearly, someone in the kitchen here knows how to boil meat. I have never had a bollito misto, or even a pot au feu, this delicate.

We didn’t finish it all. But when the dessert cart came around, we locked in on the semifreddo. A wisp of frozen, nougat-laced cream seemed appropriate for the occasion.

Piazza 24 Maggio 3, Rubiera, 0522-626-124.


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