Massimo Bottura’s Modenese masterpiece leads the world once again
Believe the hype: Massimo Bottura may be a big personality with high-profile international projects, but Osteria Francescana remains a small, discreet restaurant in the relatively modest Italian town of Modena. It also happens to deliver one of the very finest dining experiences in the world, combining nods to tradition with fierce modernity, philosophical conceptions with old-fashioned flavour, warmth with daring.
It could have been different: In its early days, the restaurant almost closed after conservative locals were resistant to Bottura’s tradition-busting approach to the Italian kitchen. Thankfully, the locally born chef and his American wife Lara Gilmore persevered. Now, of course, Bottura is feted by fellow chefs, critics and diners both closer to home and from across the globe.
On the menu: Bottura weaves a range of narratives through his dishes, playing with ingredients from the surrounding Emilia-Romagna region. Courses include the now-famous (and equally delicious) Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, which takes the diner through the region’s esteemed cheese in different temperatures, textures and tastes, as well as Adriatic Chowder. The latter takes the form of pie crust ‘pirate ship’ filled with sea snails, razor clams, blue lobster and truffle clam chowder as a representation of travel, seasonality and the local coastline.
Food meets art: The kitchen’s creations are heavily influenced by art and music (in particular, jazz), and the dining space is made up of three elegant rooms that are adorned with high-quality contemporary artwork.
Back on top: Osteria Francescana topped The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2016, was named No.2 in 2017 and returns to the summit in the 2018 edition as winner of The World’s Best Restaurant award, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna.
Images: Paolo Terzi; portrait: Alessandro Moggi