CateyLou and I like to go out to eat. A lot. This may come as no surprise to loyal readers of the blog but our recent trip to Modena was the first time we actually picked a travel destination based on a restaurant. In our defense, we’re not just talking about any restaurant. Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy is by all accounts one of the best restaurants in the world. It has three Michelin Stars and in 2013 was ranked as the #3 restaurant in the world by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Its chef and proprietor, Massimo Bottura, has won various domestic and international chef of the year awards. Our experience at Osteria Francescana was truly memorable and definitely worth a special trip to Modena.
There are several ways to eat at Osteria Francescana. There are three separate tasting menus and diners can also order a la carte. Both CateyLou and I chose the “Traditions” menu, although CateyLou, as she’s wont to do, made some substitutions. The Traditions menu focuses heavily on regional specialties and local ingredients. Although we’ll discuss more in our post on Modena, what makes the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy so fantastic is that it is home to many world renowned foods. Parmeggiano Reggiano, real Balsamic Vinegar, and Prosciutto di Parma (just to name a few), can only be produced in this small region of Italy.
My first two dishes revolved around cured meats – which is, of course, how any good Italian dinner should begin. The “Memory of a Mortadella” sandwich was an interesting (and delicious) play on a classic Modenese sandwich. Next was a Prosciutto di Parma and Culatello course, which was also exceptional. It’s a simple dish that showcases two styles of cured meats from the region. I had never eaten Culatello before, but according to Proscuittopedia.com (yes, I know, greatest website ever), Culatello is “considered the king of charcuterie, unique in its sophistication and exclusivity.”
CateyLou subbed out the cured meats for a Francescana special – Parmigiano Reggiano served 5 ways. This unique dish is one of the most complex dishes we’ve ever eaten and contains parmesan cheese prepared five separate ways – ranging from liquid to mousse to wafer. On the top there’s even a layer of parmesan “air.”
On to the pasta. The Traditions menu comes with two pasta courses – a tagliatelle with bolognese ragu and tortellini in an aged Parmigiano Reggiano sauce. We both felt that the bolognese fell short of our (unrealistically) high expectations. Though the pasta itself was great, the sauce wasn’t flavorful enough. The tortellini however, was one of the best pasta dishes we’ve ever eaten. The tortellini are hand rolled and filled with a variety of meats from the area. The tortellini are then topped tableside with an emulsified Parmigiano Reggiano cream. It’s an incredibly delicious (and decadent) play on the Modenese staple tortellini in brodo.
Our main course was a romagnola rib that was lacquered with the Bottura family’s 50 year aged balsamic vinegar. The meat was very tender but the star was the balsamic vinegar. We had never had “real” Modenese balsamic vinegar before and the flavor of these ribs was fantastic.
As if the food wasn’t enough, another thing that made our night at Osteria Francescana special was that Chef Massimo was at the restaurant cooking and socializing with the patrons. He spent time with each table and seemed genuinely humbled by the success of his restaurant. It was a nice touch by a great chef. Also, we left with a signed copy of his cookbook. Naturally, it’s called Parmeggiano Reggiano.
Via Stella 22 | Fatemi le Recensioni, 41121 Modena, Italy