Acetaia means literally “a place that makes vinegar” and is located in the countryside of the Emilia Romagna region near Novellara, the heartland of two other well-known culinary delights that pair beautifully with aged balsamic vinegar – prosciutto di parma and parmigiano reggiano.
Andrea Bezzecchi, who also holds a law degree, took over the acetaia in 1996 along with his brother, but his family has been making balsamic vinegar since 1960. (Andrea doesn’t call it a business, because as he says “A business is not a passion.”) His product is cherished by connoisseurs not only in Italy, but around the world. In the United States, it is used at restaurants ranging from New York City’s “Le Bernardin” to “Spiaggia” in Chicago, a favorite of President Obama’s. Traditional balsamic vinegar is made in only two places, both of which are in the Emilia Romagna region – the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Modena. This artisanal, viscous nectar accounts for only 1 percent of all the balsamic vinegar on the market. The rest, or 900 million liters, is made in factories and not necessarily in Italy or in Modena, although the name Modena is used on a lot of industrially produced bottles. For the traditional aged balsamic, producers are held to strict standards by a local consortium, who must give its seal of approval before it can be labeled. To start with, only two kinds of grapes are allowed to be used, lambrusco or trebbiano, both of which must be grown only in the local area.