Last summer, while on vacation in Italy, my blog’s name took its full meaning when I travelled a few hours out of my way “just” to have lunch. It wasn’t your ordinary lunch though but quite a memorable one at chef Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana in Modena, a restaurant that has garnered three stars in the esteemed Michelin Guide, ranks third on the San Pellegrino list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and has been voted best restaurant in Italy for the past 6 years. I can say without any hesitation that the lunch was worth every extra hour spent on the road to get there. It was one of my most memorable meal of 2014 and I would gladly drive out of my way for another meal there should the opportunity arise.
Osteria Francescana is housed inside a coral-coloured building on a quiet street in the center of Modena. The façade is discreet and the only indication that one has arrived is a small brass sign with the restaurant’s name. Inside is an elegant hall that leads to small dining rooms each holding a handful of tables. The decor is minimal, elegant and discreet with modern art adorning the walls.
Chef Bottura is one of those rare Italian chefs who has managed to put a modern twist on a cuisine that is entrenched in tradition. The menu – adorned with beautiful watercolour illustrations – is divided into three parts: a “Tradition in Evolution” menu that explores the traditional cuisine of Emilia-Romagna, a “Classics” menu that lists some of the restaurant’s most renowned dishes and finally, a “Sensations” menu that hails from Osteria Francesana’s seasonal experimental dishes. For our lunch, the waiter suggested a mix between the classics and the sensations menus and we acquiesced enthusiastically since it allowed us to taste some of the restaurant’s best known plates as well as the latest experimental dishes.
Below are some photo of our sensational lunch. Each plate was like a work of art esthetically but also with regards to the pairing of textures and flavours. Each dish is anchored in its Italian roots but holds the chef’s signature, sense of humour and a desire to reinvent and refine in order to constantly evolve. The Caesar salad below for example, contains 22 ingredients hidden in its buttery leaves; twenty-two tiny bursts of concentrated flavour including classic Caesar ingredients like Parmesan cheese, crisp bread, pancetta and vinegar.
One of my favourite dishes of the lunch was the fantastic play on Parmigiano Reggiano, one of Emilia-Romagna’s most famous products. The cheese is transformed into a foam, a mousse, a soufflé, a cream and a crisp using Parmigiano cheeses that have been aged anywhere between 25 and 50 months. Another favourite dish was the foie gras crunch, a classic Bottura dish that’s been on the menu for a few years and for good reason: it is absolutely exquisite! The acidity of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena that oozes out when one bites into the pre-dessert cuts through the richness of the foie gras to create a perfect balance between sweet and savoury and an ideal bridge towards the sweeter courses of the meal.
Enjoy the photo and make sure to detour through Modena the next time you’re in Italy!
Via Stella 22, 41121 Modena, Italy