Massimo Bottura is everywhere these days. He’s one of the stars of the new Netflix short series “Chef’s Table“. He is all over Instagram. And maybe most importantly, his restaurant moved up one place in San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna’s “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list this year, and now sits comfortably as the second best restaurant in the world. Yep. The world. That restaurant is Osteria Francescana and it’s in Modena, Italy. You’ll be forgiven if you have no idea where that is. I didn’t either. To be honest, after being in the town for two days I was still pronouncing the name of the city incorrectly.
Modena is about two hours north of Florence, and is famous for a few things. Balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Ferrari’s. You also can’t drive or park in the main city unless you are a resident there, or so says the Italian police. Just trust me on that one. As mentioned, Modena is also where Osteria Francescana is, tucked in an alley-way between nondescript shops, itself blending into the scenery. Except for a very shiny sign about 30cm long which has it’s name and three Michelin stars carved into it, you would have no idea it was there.
Today’s Geography Lesson
We had heard of Osteria the year before when it took the coveted third place in the world award and Massimo himself won the award for Best Italian Chef. We were going to be in Italy that September, and we really REALLY wanted to go. Their online reservations system proved fruitless so we decided to ring up to be put on a waiting list. So here’s the cool thing. Massimo answered the phone himself. You know those famous restaurants with famous chefs, and you know that they don’t actually work in the restaurant but just show their faces at the right time? Massimo is the opposite. Not only did he start Osteria but he lives and breathes it, and is working there most days alongside the rest of his staff. And taking phone reservations.
Long story short, he had a cancellation during the week long period we could manipulate our schedules to put us in Northern Italy, and we visited for lunch. There is a modern Italian set menu, and a traditional Italian set menu, or you can choose the best of both, which is what we did.
It happens to be the greatest meal I’ve ever had in my entire life, but pictures speak louder than words so I’ll stop now, and just show you the dishes in all their glory.
“Tempura with Carpione”
(Tempura Canister with Fillets of Aula and Carp Flavoured Gelato)
“Macaroon of Tomato and Mozzarella”
“Bread, Butter and Anchovies”
Cracking into it.
“Scampi Ravioli, Lentils and Crackling”
“Livorese Red Mullet”
“Eel Swimming up Po River”
(Sous-Vide Eel in a Saba sauce, Apple Sauce and Polenta)
“From Modena to Mirandola”
(Contechino Sausage, Sbrisolona – Almond & Butter Cake and Zabaglione – Custard)
“Caeser Salad in Emilia”
(With 22 ingredients hidden inside the leaves)
As a side note, this is where Massimo himself came out to say hi and explain his dish. I might have fan-girled a little bit.
“Five Ages of Parmigiana Reggiano”
(demi-soufflé from a 24-month cheese, a warm sauce – 30 months, chilled foam – 36 months, a crisp wafer – 40 months and a parmesan water, whipped to an almost-air – 50 months)
“Taglietelle with Hand Cut Ragu”
(Venison stuffed with Fois Gras)
“Fois Gras Lollipop”
(Inside was 50 year aged Balsamic Vinegar)
(Filled with Cherry Liquor on Chocolate Soil)
All the Chocolates
If you’re keen for more info, check out Osteria Francescana’s website.