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Osteria Francescana


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We were in Modena two months ago and had one of the most unforgettable meals. Here are some highlights:

A miniature Fish Market with fresh raw seafood on ice - oyster, prawn, lobster, and sea bream from Adriatic Sea with a flick of sea water emulsion. The surprising part was actually underneath the ice! We broke open the ice before eating and found ourselves surrounded by an intense charcoal smokiness from this "abstract grill"!

This is the only place you could have "grilled sashimi"!

Another superb course was Eel swimming up stream in the Po river:


Using eel from the main river in northern Italy, this is Massimo's version of Japanese barbeque eel but using Saba sauce instead! Served with an acidity distilled green apple on the left and a polenta cream on the right.

The menu was well thought out that each course had its point! Here, Massimo reinvented a traditional Modena dish, Cotechino.


Cotechino and Lentils in May

It was a menu full of outstanding courses, but the desserts took the spotlight! Before the meal, they did ask us how opened-minded we were with dessert.


It was foie gras with 40-year old balsamic vinegar spilling out, coated with crushed hazelnut and almond! The richness of the creamy foie, the deep flavour from the aged balsamic, the crunchiness from the roasted nuts, and the delicate sweetness from the Moscato...


Exceptional, truly exceptional! Chef Bottura really has guts to serve foie gras as a pre-dessert, but the manager said they usually serve it much earlier as it could be too shocking for many diners. Regardless when you have it, this is a spectacular snack anytime of the day!

Then, the most unforgettable dessert in my life! Not only was it impressive on the palate, but in my mind too. How could things that sounded so wrong for dessert be so right?!

The warm baked aroma coming out of this sweet potato was appealing, the seductive fragrance from the white truffle was arousing, and without a doubt, the crème anglaise did a brilliant job of marrying them together.


They first scooped out the baked sweet potato and then made a soufflé out of it. Even with the crème anglaise, this airy soufflé wasn't overwhelming at all and it did a good job of satisfying our sweet cravings. It was indeed a damn good dessert!

This meal definitely justifies a special trip to Modena!

For album of full meal, see HERE.

Fine Dining Explorer


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Yes, they have a Classic and a Contemporary tasting menu. I am sure they can do you a "mixed" version if you want to try a bit from both. Or if you have a particular course that you want from the menu that I had, do mention it when you confirm the booking. But even browsing through the a-la-carte, there were quite a few courses that I want to try as well. I mean, one meal there isn't enough. I will be going back soon.

I think it was around 160euro per menu but might change in different seasons.

There isn't a fixed wine pairing but the sommelier will sure do a good job depending on your preference and consumption.

Must go, you will enjoy it!

Fine Dining Explorer


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  • 5 weeks later...

Glad that you had a great meal, FDE! Some of those dishes look interesting indeed. Maybe I have to go back there - but I have to say that our first dinner at La Francescana in June 2009 was rather disappointing, all in all. The foie gras with 40-year old balsamic vinegar, coated with crushed hazelnut and almond was amazing - one of the best foie gras dishes I have ever had. The "5 different versions of parmeggiano reggiano" was very good as well.

But the rest of our 9 course meal was rather mediocre in hindsight - especially when compared to other top end avant garde restaurants, such as Amador in Langen/Germany or Alinea in Chicago. (I see you had the same pasta dish that we had - and I don't know how many other, more traditional restaurants you visited, but had way more interestng pasta dishes in some simple trattorias around Modena and Bolona.)

Service was extremely stiff, the manager being pretty arrogant (especially when talking about "all those stupid bloggers"...).

How long was your evening there? We were in and out in about 2 hours... it seemed like Mr. Bottura was not present that night and the staff wnated to get home early... (some diners arrived after us and even left before us). Not what you would expect in one of the worlds top 10 restaurants

Pictures (not very good at all) can be found here:


But maybe the only had a bad night and we need to go back there.



PS: regarding he different menus: we had the "classic's" menu. And it seems that the best dishes of that one (foie gras, parmegginao) are also part of the "Contemporary" menu.

Edited by kai-m (log)
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i have to say kai, i have recently eaten there too on the classics menu and yes the foie gras dish and the parmesan 5 textures are very good, but i did feel a little deflated with the other courses, the pasta and beans dish with the foie royale to me was quite strange and in reflection the meal on the previous evening outshone it on the whole at rigoletto,which had lovely front of house, great wine list there with great bread and the best pasta i have tasted upto now in any restaurant just superb, i would try francescana again but not in the near future, hoping to make my way over to combal zero :smile:

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Reassuring to hear that Iam not the only one who felt a bit disappointed by the Osteria.

But Iam not sure about Combal.zero either - from what I saw and read the cuisine there seems to rely very much on culinary jokes and silly gimmicks.

Having eaten at 3 of italys most renowned restaurants by now (and some regular 1*-places), all of them very different (La Pergola in Rome, Il Duomo in Sicily, La Francescana) and all of them kind of disappointing, Iam not sure anymore if italian high end cuisine is really worth the time/journey/money...



Edited by kai-m (log)
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[quote name=kai-m' date='08 August 2010 - 11:58 AM'

timestamp='1281265097' post='1754686]

How long was your evening there? We were in and out in about 2 hours... it seemed like Mr. Bottura was not present that night and the staff wnated to get home early... (some diners arrived after us and even left before us). Not what you would expect in one of the worlds top 10 restaurants

Fine Dining Explorer


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  • 1 year later...
  • 4 months later...

Last Thursday my boyfriend and I made the trip from Florence to Modena, to lunch at Osteria Francescana. We went with the Traditional tasting menu, partly because nostalgia features large in any trip I make to Italy.

The Proust quotation referring to Madeleines appears at the top of the menu, and, although I felt like I should regard this as a bit contrived, the moment the amuse arrived, it kind of made sense (even if I still don't care for Proust).

Some pictures (sorry about the poor quality, but we essentially took them to reminisce over, and to be able to illustrate our enthusiastic descriptions to friends and family):

'Memory of a mortadella sandwich' amuse bouche; the mortadella is a mousse, and the pistachios and garlic appear separately at the right, ground and as a cream, respectively, so all the flavours stood out very cleanly and intensely

Memory Mortadella Sandwich 2012-04-05 at 19.54.25.png

Massimo Spigaroli Culatello (42 months), Modena Prosciutto (30 months) with a mostarda

Culatello:Prosciutto 2012-04-05 at 19.55.40.png

'Little finger' tortellini in capon broth

Tortellini Capon Broth 2012-04-05 at 19.56.58.png

Tagliatelle in ragù

Tagliatelle Ragù 2012-04-05 at 19.57.21.png

'Bollito misto non bollito' (a deconstructed bollito misto; clockwise from a bit past the 18.00 position are head [amazing gelatinous consistency, my favourite, I think], tongue, a bit I forget, trotter, tail, and cotechino; there was an incredibly evanescent parsley foam in the centre, and underneath it all was a reduction of red bell peppers)

Bollito Misto non Bollito 2012-04-05 at 19.58.21.png

Pre-desert consisting of a wafer sitting on a dab of yogurt, and topped by a disk of goat milk ice

Goat Milk Ice 2012-04-05 at 19.58.47.png

A deconstructed warm and chilled Zuppa Inglese

Warm:Cold Zuppa Inglese 2012-04-05 at 20.09.33.png

Array of small sweets, including a raspberry gel with rose crumbles (unless I'm very mistaken), some very glossy Madeleines (a nod to the Proust quotation?), and some tiny baba

Small Sweets 2012-04-05 at 20.56.08.png

Each course was accompanied by incredible bread, and we shared a bottle of 2009 La Stoppa Rosso, which we were too stuffed to finish.

We did manage to fit in coffee, then concluded that remaining seated would mean we'd lapse into a coma, so we paid up, then wandered about Modena until it was time to take the train back to Florence.

It's difficult to describe a largely visceral reaction that accurately evokes memories I'd believed were unduly rosy. I don't love dining experiences that verge on performance art, so I particularly appreciated the serene and evocative nature of this meal, but I do realize that for someone who did not got to school in Italy a few decades ago, the impact must be quite different. A moment that stands out clearly is when Mr. Bottura began discussing the amuse, as we began on it, and my spontaneously exclaiming 'Oh!', then briefly reminiscing with him about school merende, savouring a bit of a collective memory. It was remarkably personal.

I'd do this all again in a heartbeat.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums

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  • 2 years later...

Modena is not the kind of city in Italy that I ever plan to stay overnight, let alone for 2 nights. During our trip to Italy last month, my wife would like to visit Venice and Milan – I’ve been to both. When I worked out the plan, I saw what’s ‘available’ in between these 2 major cities? Initially (and logically), Florence will be the next option. I loved the museum there, the city was beautiful and I’ve never been to Enoteca Pinchiorri. But then, Enoteca was not attractive enough and I really want to visit a new city this time. When I looked the map of Italy, I observed with gastronomy restaurants in mind – that’s when I laid my eyes on Modena, the home of the avant-garde restaurant – Osteria Francescana. In addition, I felt I would need a ‘base’ to visit another top restaurant in the smaller city the next day. So, staying over in Modena was not a bad choice.


In recent years, there’s an Italian Chef that has become the central attention among food journalists and foodies alike – his name is Massimo Bottura. Besides Michelin 3-star, Massimo received numerous other awards for himself and his dearest restaurant, Osteria Francescana. Yes, this establishment was my main attraction to visit the city famous for its balsamic vinegar and Ferrari. I reserved the restaurant in September for Friday evening and it’s not a problem at all. Osteria is located in the old city of Modena. We arrived almost 30 min later from our initial booking and surprisingly we’re still the first guests reaching there. At 8:45 PM or so, our dining room with 6 tables were all filled up – Italians happened to eat very late too, furthermore we’re the only table that didn’t know how speak the local language. The setting was modern with widely spaced large tables and leather chair. The dining room is windowless with modern & minimalist decor and the wall painted in some kind of light blue color. As I perused the menu, the staff brought in amuse-bouche (mortadella sandwich – smooth & fragrant) to tease our palate and bread (white, wheat and croissant).


There were 2 tasting menus offered: Sensations and Tradition in evolution. My habit when visiting the restaurant for the 1st time will be to order its classic dishes, so menu Tradition was an obvious choice – we also added Modenese tortellini in Parmigiano cream to share. The first half of our degustation menu (excluding desserts) were inspired by ancient and recent stories/incidents happening around the region; the dishes were generally clever, provocative and attractive but not too profound.

-the saba lacquered eel was soft and sweet, similar to top quality unagi one can get in Japan. The twist was that the kitchen put sour and salty variations to balance the eel sweetness from the apple jelly, polenta cream and burnt onions

-cotechino (salty pork sausage, a kind of Italian charcuterie product) was covered with zabaglione (versatile and tasty yellow custard). At the very bottom, there was crisp & sweet biscuit – a nice contrast in taste and temperatures

-caesar salad in Emilia had 22 distinct ingredients inside the lettuce. I wasn’t really impressed with it; it was just alright

-5 Parmesan reggiano cheese tasting in different temperatures, textures, ages/maturities and flavors. I can taste cheese that was intensive, velvety and crisp – a sublime, creative and complex dish.


The second half of the meal was my favorite; the desserts were of high quality as well – pleasing to both eye and palate

-tagliatelle in right texture and temperature was well-mixed with tender and delicious no-butter ragu made of pork, veal and bone morrow – excellent

-an iconic pasta dish from the region & Bologna: traditional tortellini filled with various meat (veal and different parts of pork); the pasta was delicate and light but flavorful while the reggiano cream (coming from local cows) was fresh and intense yet balanced. Any great chef always possesses strong fundamental techniques when executing & elevating ‘regular’ traditional dishes to fine dining levels.

I enjoyed these 2 pasta dishes very much

-for the main course, we had Piedmontese beef coated with charcoal ash. Massimo spread the colorful sauce (beet root, potato and vinegar) on the plate like a master painter brush his stroke on a canvas – a beautiful presentation! If you’re a fan of juicy beef with lots of fat, then you would be disappointed. This lean and tender Italian beef was different. It was perfectly cooked with great texture and subtle flavor. The sauces were interesting but the taste was unusual for my palate. Don’t expect any grilled steak smell here

-the pre-dessert was the famous creamy & intense foie gras lollipop; it supposedly was balanced by strong balsamic vinegar inside. This was a bit too much for me in spite of the almonds & hazelnuts – simply too rich


For the desserts, the kitchen was generous to give us an extra dish to share

-according to the menu, we had vignola. Apparently, it was fresh dark cherries ice cream seated on good chocolate ‘soil’ and mild coffee jelly. The overall flavor was tasty and refreshing

-we would not leave without having this extra dish: the broken lemon tart, creating perfection from imperfection. A superb and creative dessert with great attention to details, it’s also really flavorful – an excellent display of sweet and sour taste as well as texture & temperature contrast. One of the best things I ate for this dinner.

We didn’t remember we’re given any petit fours.


There was a “bizarre” and unique experience during this dinner. In the middle of our meal, Massimo Bottura walked into the dining room and greeted diners, which was very normal these days where Chef-owner showed respect and entertained his/her clients. Then, Massimo came to our table ... I didn’t exactly remember what I told him, but it’s something like this: “I saw your cuisine to be modern and creative/experimental, yet you also were able to produce very good classic dishes. Do you plan to pursue and progress in both styles in the future?” I just skimmed through about Chef Bottura and his cooking prior to this visit. I expected this to be just a casual conversation between guests and the Chef, but suddenly from his face expression, Massimo seemed to be bothered. On the one hand, he looked ‘angry & troubled’, on the other hand, I sensed that he wanted to explain or said something but could not or did not know how. He replied us with some short phrases and ended with (in rather serious tone): “I want to see both of you after the meal”. Oh dear ... did we violate something? I saw my wife, and we were both perplexed. The staffs were smile. What’s happened?” I asked them and they simply shrugged off


After having finished the vignola and lemon tart desserts, sure enough my maitre d’ said that the Chef would like to invite us to the kitchen. Oh oh, were we in trouble? As we entered the kitchen, almost everyone looked at us ... with friendly smiles thankfully. Then, Massimo passionately explained his cooking and some of his dishes – a fun ‘lecture’ from a talented chef. In short, every dish he made, there was a story and inspiration behind it; he didn’t like to simply mix some ‘random’ ingredients to find good taste, it’s meaningless. After that, Taka, the pastry/sous chef, brought a dish freshly prepared for us. It’s beautiful – seems like an artistic painting of forests/woods. Chef Bottura said it’s one of his latest inventions: the camouflage of “hare royale” – inspired from Stein and Picasso. I pondered: besides the foie gras and some herbs, the rest of the ingredients were more suitable for desserts – chestnut, chocolate, biscuit, coffee etc. Well, at the end I learned it’s in a fact a dessert. We were given a tea spoon and swiped horizontally to taste it; we did it 3x – top, middle and bottom part. And after every byte, we ate the sweets at the sides and sipped a plain black coffee to clean the palate. True enough, each byte generated slightly different flavor, but the duck liver and hare flavors were apparent and quite strong actually. During this process, Massimo never stopped talking (in a genial spirit) about his cuisine. It became obvious from this experience that Chef Bottura is an eloquent person and he had an excellent command of English. His other trusted lieutenant Yoji was also Japanese.  At the end, we got better understanding of him and his cooking; Massimo looked happier, more relaxed and relieved after being able to bring forth what had been inside him since the middle of our meal. A sigh of relief for me and my wife; we laughed a lot during that time and ended by taking pictures together in the kitchen.


The service was polite and a bit formal throughout the meal; my maitre d’ in particular was professional, fluent in English and knew the dishes very well. I had 2 glasses of wine: a fresh and aromatic (young) wine from Sicilia and Barbera La locomotiva. It’s a very satisfying meal. While I could not say every dish was delicious, most of them were interesting, eye-opening, thought provoking and creative. The traditional Italian dishes and desserts were top notch; they’re worth for a detour. Given Massimo’s philosophy, I know that Osteria Francescana is still a work in progress albeit now is already performing at a very high level. It’s not the best Italian restaurant I’ve been ... yet, but I look forward to returning here for more interesting culinary adventure in the future should I have the opportunity. I hope Massimo would still be in the kitchen as often as he can and not fell into trap of quickly capitalizing on his fame by opening new restaurants everywhere. I bestowed 95/100 for this meal (equivalent to 2 ¾* by Michelin standard)


Here are the pictures from my dinner: https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/OsteriaFrancescanaModenaItaly#    

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