Osteria Francescana captures the perfect combination of authentic and innovative.

By Amy McKeever
June 17, 2016
Osteria Francescana
Credit: © Paolo Terzi

Everyone knows Italy is home to some of the world’s best food, and now it’s home to the best restaurant in the world.

Osteria Francescana, in Modena, has unseated Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca on the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. The honor is recognized by gastronomes around the globe.

While Osteria Francescana has been a perennial favorite on the list in years past — cracking the top three in 2013 — this year marks its very first time in the number one spot.

The restaurant is run by the whimsical and passionate Massimo Bottura, an Italian-born chef who opened the eatery in his hometown of Modena in 1995. Located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, Modena is best known among foodies for its production of balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese. Bottura draws on these elements, as well as other regional culinary traditions and his own creativity, to create a menu that is at once authentic and innovative.

Take, for example, the tortellini — an aged Parmesan explosion of a dish for which the chef is famous. Bottura was inspired by his mother’s cooking, and evolved the traditional pasta into a challenge. This tortellini aims to both honor traditional Italian homestyle cooking while lifting it to higher culinary grounds.

Osteria Francescana’s tasting menu explains it best: “We approach our gastronomic traditions from a critical point of view, not a nostalgic one, to bring the best of the past into the future.”

Bottura also plays with those traditions through dishes like “Memory of a mortadella sandwich,” “The crunchy part of the lasagna,” and “Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in different textures and temperatures.”

Osteria Francescana’s “Tradition in Evolution” 10-course tasting menu costs 180 euros, plus another 120 if you elect the wine pairing. The restaurant also offers a 13-course Sensations tasting menu — described as the “expression of our contemporary vision by looking at the world through the eyes of a child” — for 200 euros (and another 150 for the wine pairing).

There is an à la carte menu that includes dishes like the Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, Bottura’s tortellini, and suckling pig with Modenese balsamic vinegar.

Although Osteria Francescana struggled with criticism in its earlier years for its modern take on traditional Italian cuisine, Bottura and his Modena restaurant have earned international renown in recent years. Even before earning the title of top restaurant in the world, Osteria Francescana was anointed with three Michelin stars, and Bottura was featured on the Netflix documentary series “Chef’s Table” and as a speaker at the MAD Symposium, the Copenhagen-based culinary summit led by René Redzepi of Noma. Bottura has also taken his passion outside of the kitchen and into the community. This year, he founded a non-profit organization called Food For Soul that aims to fight food waste and hunger at once.

All of this is to say: Get your reservations now. Eater, which performed the great service of determining how to get reservations at the top 10 restaurants on this year’s World’s 50 Best list — suggests booking at least three-and-a-half months in advance of your desired dining date.