A tiny restaurant in Italy quietly tops the world’s 50 best restaurants list.
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Believe the hype: Massimo Bottura may be a big personality with high-profile international projects, but Osteria Francescana remains a small, discreet restaurant in the relatively modest Italian town of Modena. It also happens to deliver one of the very finest dining experiences in the world, combining nods to tradition with fierce modernity, philosophical conceptions with old-fashioned flavour, warmth with daring.
At the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, announced last month in New York City, a tiny, 20-year-old spot in Modena, Italy, claimed the number one spot for the first time. Clocking in at number two last year, chef-owner Massimo Bottura is known for his whimsical takes on traditional Italian ingredients, with dishes like Five Stages of Parmigiano Reggiano, honouring the region’s culinary heritage while displaying a notable artistic bent.
El Celler de Can Roca, last year’s winner, slipped a notch to second place, and the vaunted Noma, which hadn’t been ranked below third since 2009, fell all the way to the fifth slot. New York’s Eleven Madison Park rose to number three, also winning the Art of Hospitality Award. Central, in Lima, Peru, maintained its number four position from last year.
On the menu: Bottura weaves a range of narratives through his dishes, playing with ingredients from the surrounding Emilia-Romagna region. Courses include the now-famous (and equally delicious) Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, which takes the diner through the region’s esteemed cheese in different temperatures, textures and tastes, as well as Adriatic Chowder. The latter takes the form of pie crust ‘pirate ship’ filled with sea snails, razor clams, blue lobster and truffle clam chowder as a representation of travel, seasonality and the local coastline.
Food meets art: The kitchen’s creations are heavily influenced by art and music (in particular, jazz), and the dining space is made up of three elegant rooms that are adorned with high-quality contemporary artwork.
Back on top: Osteria Francescana topped The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2016, was named No.2 in 2017 and returns to the summit in the 2018 edition as winner of The World’s Best Restaurant award, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna.
Bookings are usually one or two months in advanced through their website and are frequently sold out.