Osteria Francescana is the #1 restaurant in the world

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Regular subscribers to my newsletter may recall that I published a note in June about the newly released list of top restaurants around the world. Modena’s Osteria Francescana took the #1 spot.

(Don’t sign up for the newsletter). It’s simple to do. Just sign in to the right-hand column. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

Anyway, after the email was sent, I received a note stating that a reader had been able to eat at Osteria Francescana back in May before the new list was published. At #2. He was gracious enough to share the experience with us and sent photos.

Thank you Kurt Strawhecker, for sharing this wonderful experience with Italy Explained!

The #1 Restaurant in the World

Kurt Strawhecker

My son and I have been trying to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant for over a decade. My son is a chef/owner at an upscale Italian restaurant and has been a long-time fan of Osteria Francescana. Recently, voted the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine.

What does it take to eat at the best restaurants in the world? You need patience, great timing, and excellent contacts to make it happen.

When planning our recent trip to Italy we were particularly interested in the Emilia Romagna region, which is home to many of the most famous Italian cooking ingredients, such as Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto and traditional aged balsamic vinaigrette. Modena is the home of Francescana chef Massimo Bottura.

Our search began more than six months before we arrived. We learned quickly that reservations are not available months ahead and are often sold out as soon as a new date becomes available. We tried multiple contact methods, including email and phone calls, but were told that all reservations had been sold.

We were running out options as our trip approached. My son met a winemaker from the area whose wine he sells at my restaurant. In his typical Italian style, he agreed to write a letter of introduction to Chef Massimo.

Amazingly, Osteria Francescana staff responded immediately and negotiations began. They were able to squeeze us in for lunch during the stay. Our entire trip was planned around this lunch. Once we arrived in Italy, we received instructions about how to confirm our reservation.

Osteria Francescana can be found in a quiet back street close to central Modena. There is only one sign to identify this famous restaurant. We arrived early, and waited patiently outside while we waited with other diners from all over the world. At noon, the doors opened and the staff lined the entrance to welcome us. After a brief panic, when they didn’t recognize our name first, we were taken to one of 12 tables.

Then, the lunch became a five-hour gastronomic adventure with six courses and eight wines pairings.

Massimo’s childhood memories of home-cooked traditional Italian cuisine inspired us to choose the “Classics” traditional menu. Every dish was a modern twist on Italian tradition. Each course was a sensory delight both in taste and visual.

The Emilia Romagna region is celebrated in the menu. There are creations like ‘Eel swimming on the Po River’, ‘Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano (with five textures and temperatures), and ‘Caesar Salad’ (with 22 different salad dressings hidden inside the heart), and even a Foie Gras Lollipop that’s coated with hazelnuts, and has a balsamic vinegar center.

The world-famous dessert, “Oops!” was the final course. I broke the lemon Tart’ – this dish was carefully deconstructed, making it look like someone dropped it (which was the inspiration of the dish), and served on a specially-designed plate.

They were professional and amazing, even though they sometimes exuded an unspoken air that they knew they were working with a famous culinary celebrity.

Was it worth it? One word: Absolutely.

This video is fascinating and beautiful, and it explains Massimo Bottura as well as Osteria Francescana. You can also see some of the dishes Kurt’s family ate at the restaurant.

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2 Responses to “Dining At Osteria Francescana: World’s #1 Restaurant”

  • Jen Tonnelli says:

    I appreciate your review and the differing opinions. However, my experience was disappointing. The food was beautiful on the plates and displayed with well-lit tables but the flavors were not as good as other Michelin-rated restaurants in the area (Antica Moka). Massimo’s vision was something I would have loved to experience. I wish I had tried the Discovery menu, which offers a variety of new and exciting dishes. Service was cold, condescending, and sometimes even rude. The atmosphere was dull and uninspiring. Laura’s art provided the only light relief. Although I won’t be returning, I will definitely try El Cellar de Can Roca next year. I will return to Emilia-Romagna and I’ll eat at Antica Moka or Amerigo Dal 1934 again. It is 1/3 the price, has more flavor, and takes only 2-3 hours.

    • Jess has the following:

      Jen, thanks for your comment. It’s a shame that your meal was not as delicious as you had hoped. A side note: I had the opportunity to taste some El Cellar de Can Roca’s delicious treats the year before they were named world’s best restaurant. The food was absolutely stunning and utterly breathtaking.

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