Osteria expression of Emilia-Romagna

Osteria Francescana, one one hand, has become a destination for the international Michelin star hounds, who see restaurants as status as opposed to a place of restoration and satiation. They Eurostar or drive to Modena and make a beeline for the 11 table austere jewel on Via Stella, where chef Massimo Bottura crafts three different tasting menus and a cellar and service team that rivals the best restaurants in the world, with zero pretense or ceremony.

Because Osteria Francescana has 3 Michelin stars, and is ranked #5 restaurant in the world by the San Pellegrino survey (and #1) in Italy, there is a perception that Massimo Bottura, because he travels in the same circles as Ferran Adria, and has worked at El Bulli, is solely a cucina creativa chef, a molecular gastronomist making complicated dishes with strange visuals and ingredients and cooking methods. Indeed, what goes on in the kitchen of the newly renovated Osteria Francescana may involve hydrocollides, liquid nitrogen, sous vide, blowtorches, tweezers, all the stereotypes of molecular cooking.

I'd argue instead that Osteria Francescana is as traditional as a mom and pop trattoria: it is unassuming and gracious, it is tucked into the ground floor of an apartment building in a quiet and plaintive Modena neighborhood, and the accoglienza or hospitality is warm but with a professional efficiency that has contributed to its world rankings. The omakase menu is for the inevitable second visit, but for Chef Bottura and his crew to earn my "trust", I went with the traditional tasting menu with a supplement of Osteria Francescana classics.

Rarely mentioned in the flurry of recent press about Osteria Francescana is (according to the service captain/sommelier at least) that any bottle on the ample wine list can be opened to pour by the glass. It is beyond generous and allows for some adventure...though I kept my wine travels within Emilia-Romagna.

Grazie to Massimo Bottura and his team for a memorable meal in my favorite town in all of Italia, where I have had the pleasure of living and working on two occasions. And without further verbiage and hype...I present Osteria Francescana:

                              Lambrusco di Sorbara's finest expression

                              The good Sorbara looks like this, not cheap soda pop

                                     2010 Gutturnio "Vignamorello" from La Tosa

                              Memory of a Mortadella Sandwich...powdered pistachio and  
                              a garlic mayo of sorts

                              42 month Culatello di Zibello from Massimo Spigaroli

                              Leeks, shallot, black truffle

                              5 Ages of Parmigiano including 50 month aged
                              as foam

                              Tagliatelle al Ragù...ridiculous....

**Not pictured: an exquisite bowl of tortellini made with capon broth and 36 month FERMENTED Parmigiano made from the rare Bianca Modenese cow. I was too fascinated to photograph.

                                   A guinea most fowl...accented with roast guinea 
                                   fowl spray from the server...yes...SPRAY

                                   Foie gras popsicle with hazelnut and injected with
                                   25 year aceto balsamico tradizionale

                                   Broken lemon tart with caperberry and peperoncino

                              Hungry patrons at Osteria Francescana waiting
                              for their tables OR the train station lounge


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