The Gastronome Restaurant Reviews - Osteria Francescana, Via Stella, 22, 41121 Modena MO, Italy

Address: Via Stella, 22, 41121 Modena MO, Italy

Visit: 14 March 2024

Award: 3 Michelin Stars

Price: ***

Website: https://osteriafrancescana.it/

The Review:

Modena is a city in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, known for its balsamic vinegar and opera heritage, plus Ferrari and Lamborghini sports cars.  Massimo Bottura opened Osteria Francescana in Modena on the 19 March, 1995.  Today, this restaurant holds three Michelin stars and has been ranked first on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list twice, in 2016 and 2018.

In 2002, Bottura received his first Michelin star, followed by the second in 2006 and the third in 2012.  In 2020, he was awarded a Michelin Green Star in recognition of his ongoing commitment against food waste and in favour of a more equitable and sustainable food system.

Since 2019, the restaurant has been part of the Best of the Best list, the category that includes all restaurants that ranked first in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and can no longer be voted in new editions of the list.

The restaurant has also received top ratings from L’Espresso, Gambero Rosso, and the Touring Club guides.

When we visited, there was a tasting menu (at €325 per person), with optional matched wines (at €210 per person), and an a la carte menu available.  The wine list is extensive with a wide variety of Italian varieties.

Stuart Clarke Restaurant ReviewThe dining room is small and elegant with layered white tablecloths covering round tables, defused lighting, and interesting artwork on every wall.  There was a selection of Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup can paintings on display.  We visited for lunch and there were only twelve diners with nearly as many waiters.

A plate of superb grissini bread sticks was placed on the table, and refilled throughout the meal.  These were sensational.  We started with a selection of four snacks.  “Mare Nostrum”, a macaron filled with salt cod, tomato, and lemon; “Under the vines” which was a venison tartare with porcini mushroom powder and truffle; “Carbonara” a donut filled with two different cheeses; and “Vignola”, a prawn broth with cherry juice and cacao.

The next dish was “A Potato that wants to become a truffle”.  This was a potato loaf where the potato had been boiled and then dehydrated until it became flour, then kneaded like bread and filled with potato, hazelnut, and black truffle cream, with black truffle shavings on top.  The hazelnut and truffle worked very well together.

“Camouflage South” was a parsley pesto made with parsley and fava beans, on a flan made from chicory and black olives.  This was served with a separate cup of broth made from artichoke and orange.

Next, “A fish as a pumpkin ravioli” was fish (I am not sure what type, but it was from Galicia apparently!), with pumpkin powder on top, apple chutney, and a fermented pumpkin and Amaretto sauce.

“Lentils are better than caviar” was fregola pasta made with lentil flour and squid ink, to resemble caviar, with mantis shrimp, served in a bowl on top of roasted veal and a grapefruit reduction.

“Tortellini or Dumplings?” were delicate tortellini made using dumpling dough, made with flour and water, and filled with prosciutto crudo, mortadella and Parmigiano Reggiano, with a cream of toasted nori seaweed, and a capon broth poured at the table.  This was served with a very good sourdough bread.

“A thousand layers of leaves” was fried veal sweetbread, roast potato foam, covered with caramelised leaves made from basil, celeriac and red cabbage, with black truffle shavings, finished with a sauce made from toasted tubers.

“The pigeon hunt” was a Bologna sourced pigeon breast and leg.  The breast had a marinated endive on top and a red beetroot jus, the pigeon leg was in the form of a bonbon covered with tequila, finished with the pigeon cooking juices.

“This little piggy went to the market” was a sweet and savoury chocolate pre-dessert, a “bonet” from Northern Italy.  This was a small, layered pig presented in a bowl, with a base of amaretti biscuit, dark chocolate and Amaretto liqueur, and a sauce made from dark chocolate and a suckling pig reduction was poured over it at the table.  It tasted both bitter and sweet, but with roasted pork.  This was unusual and very enjoyable.

We also ordered the famous “Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in different textures and temperatures”, as an additional course off the a la carte menu.  This was my favourite dish of the lunch.  It features five different preparations of the cheese, each representing a different “age” of the cheese and showcasing its versatility and depth of flavour.  The five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano used in the dish consisted of a soufflé of 24 month old parmesan, a crisp galette from 40 month old, an ‘air’ made from the crusts of 40 month old Parmigiano Reggiano and grated 50 month old, a foam made from 30 month old, and a creamy sauce made with a 36 month old cheese.  This was immensely impressive, amazingly innovative and very flavoursome.

“Consistencies of Milk and Herbs” was a dessert celebrating Parmigiano cheese production.  It focuses on the milk and byproducts of cheese production and the grass the animals graze, using whey ice cream covered with crispy milk chips, a milk mousse, caramelised milk, fresh herbs, and an extraction of aromatic herbs and cut grass sprayed at the table for an extra effect.

The dessert “Bread is Gold“ resembled a slice of bread, lacquered in gold, in the centre of the plate.  It is actually a soft panettone mousse with almonds, raisins, candied orange, and zabaglione cream.

Finally, three small desserts were served.  “Better than Pop Corn as Croccantino” was hazelnut caramel on the inside, covered with caramelised popcorn, presented on a stick; “One bite of the South” was a mini version of the famous “Oops! I dropped the lemon tart” with lemon, lemon zest and capers; and a version of “Zuppa inglese” an infusion of caramel, a sponge, and covered with chocolate.

Service was precise, but brisk and impersonal, and I had great difficulty understanding the description of the dishes.  I think that clearer descriptions and the inspiration behind the creation of each dish, such as you are given at The Fat Duck in a small booklet, would improve the experience.  Overall, this was an excellent experience with some truly extraordinary dishes that were variations on classic Italian dishes that had been transformed dramatically.

Prior to visiting the restaurant, we spent the morning at Massimo’s country hotel, Casa Maria Luigia, restaurant, and balsamic vinegar cellar, that is just outside Modena.  This was a very enjoyable trip.  Massimo has acquired and restored a neighbour’s property, an old Acetaia or balsamic vinegar cellar founded in 1969.  With it came more than 1200 barrels, some dating back to the1900s, that now produce the most exquisite balsamic vinegar.  The traditional balsamic vinegar production process is explained as you tour the acetaia.  You also have the chance to purchase bottles of the vinegar.

The Menus:

Tasting menu:

The Food:

 

The People:

Massimo Bottura grew up in Modena, Italy.  After secondary school, he enrolled in law school at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, but in 1986 he left to join the family business, initially, and then took over his first restaurant Trattoria del Campazzo, near Nonantola.  He learned classical French techniques from Georges Coigny in Piacenza.

In 1994 he began an internship of several months with Alain Ducasse at Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo.  In 1995 he returned to Modena and took over Osteria Francescana.  In 2000 Ferran Adrià invited him to the kitchen of “El Bulli” in Spain.

In 2002 Massimo received his first Michelin star, followed by the second in 2006, and the third in 2012.

In 2016, Massimo together with his wife Lara Gilmore founded Food for Soul, a nonprofit organization that runs inspiring food waste, social and cultural initiatives around the globe.

The Restaurant:

Outside the restaurant

The Wine:

The wine pairing

Acetaia Maria Luigia:

 

Acetaia Maria Luigia

 

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