Viewers of the recent Netflix documentary series "Chef’s Table" will recognise this restaurant, or more specifically its head chef, almost instantly. A man of passion and unpredictability, Massimo Bottura is the chef all chefs want to be, a pioneer in the food world and renowned owner of Modena’s three-Michelin starred restaurant, Osteria Francescana.
Situated on the city’s discreet back streets, its walls are adorned with contemporary art; its tables can seat only a handful of diners at a time — all contributing to a gallery style experience that leaves you eagerly anticipating the main exhibit. It’s minimal, stylish and subtle, but as expected, it’s what goes on behind the scenes, the sheer ingenuity of the chef and his team, that gives this restaurant its international reputation.
Each dish is an art piece inspired by one of Massimo’s past experiences or memories and is named accordingly. The "Tradition in Evolution" tasting menu features a series of 9 dishes exploring the local area’s traditions and reconstructing, not deconstructing, their entire personality. This is food that is so good it doesn’t need to take itself too seriously, "Oops! I dropped the lemon tart" is a desert inspired by an impromptu moment when Kondo Takahiko, the restaurant’s pastry chef, literally dropped a lemon tart and in a moment of brilliance was told by Massimo that the dish looked better that way. "Memories of Mortadella" transforms Bottura’s childhood pack lunch into a mousse, served with sweet garlic, pistachio and a mini skyscraper of bread; it’s magical to look at, let alone eat.
All of the dishes are firmly rooted in Italian food culture. They have an identity but are consistently evolving — the Caesar salad, for example, appears to be a lone piece of lettuce but actually contains over 22 different ingredients. The food may be controversial in these parts, but it is certainly eye-opening. There are two other menus, the "Sensations" and "Twelve Tables" both catering to diner’s willingness to experiment with their lunch or dinner with a combination of menus available, should that be your preference.
That’s the thing; you don’t have to be a connoisseur or a follower of food culture to enjoy this experience. It caters for all, each dish as electrifying as the one before it, in colour, inventiveness and above all, taste. It’s a bucket list destination, one to tell your friends about or, for the real Massimo’s of the world, to go home and reconstruct.
Please note that all reservations are available via the official website 10 a.m. Italian time on the first day of the month 3 months in advance of the booking.