Here’s my story of Francescana

Grignaffini remembers the years that transformed cuisine: «In 1996 there was a genius in Via Stella»

27-06-2016 | 12:00
Massimo Bottura in the car with Andrea Grignaffini

Massimo Bottura in the car with Andrea Grignaffini – chef and food expert share a passion for speed – and at the first participation in Identità Golose in the winter of 2006 in Milan. Since then, the chef from Modena has always returned

Andrea Grignaffini is one of the few who have really dined at Osteria Francescana in Modena some twenty years ago. We asked him to recall those days for Identità. He did so in the shape of a letter to Paolo Marchi. We’re grateful to him for this (and much more).

«We were more than four, we were close friends visiting restaurants. Twenty years ago exactly, it feels like a century, dear Paolo. Discovering the talents in that extraordinary generation of chefs who have marked an era and always will was one of the most fascinating things that could happen to us. Time was less than a hard master at the time and we could travel as a group too. I’d like to remember the dearest departed Renato Fiorentini, a master in life and taste, Allan Bay, Andrea Vincenzi, Aldo Nenzi, and as our dear Gino Veronelli would say: and so on, and on.

«An exceptional generation of chefs was being born. We said so at the time. Now finally everyone has realised it. Pietro Leemann at Joia presented a high interpretation of the vegetal world with the archaeological-Egyptian geometry of the Pyramid of roasted wild rice with a saffron and porcini sauce. Carlo Cracco in

Over ten years have gone by since this photo. It was the 31st of January 2006, second edition of Identità Golose at Palazzo della Borsa in Milan. On stage with Paolo Marchi, various protagonists in the New Italian Cuisine. Left to right Moreno Cedroni, Davide Scabin, Massimo Bottura, Mauro Uliassi, the creator of Identità, Carlo Cracco and Pietro Leemann. Funny fact: neither Bottura, nor Marchi or Cracco had a beard then

Over ten years have gone by since this photo. It was the 31st of January 2006, second edition of Identità Golose at Palazzo della Borsa in Milan. On stage with Paolo Marchi, various protagonists in the New Italian Cuisine. Left to right Moreno Cedroni, Davide Scabin, Massimo Bottura, Mauro Uliassi, the creator of Identità, Carlo Cracco and Pietro Leemann. Funny fact: neither Bottura, nor Marchi or Cracco had a beard then

Piobesi d’Alba tested himself with signature cuisine as assertively as his deep gaze: for instance with a neoclassic dish such as the Duck tuna with star anise, celeriac and mashed apples or his even more emblematic “ice” interpretation of truffle in the acacia honey semifreddo.

«Massimiliano Alajmo, who’s still young today, let alone twenty years ago, was already brave enough to make a signature dish out of asparagus and eggs. Davide Scabin at the old Combal in Almese, together with the rehearsals of the Cyber egg, would stimulate our ego as cigar smokers (few know about your adventure in our Torpedo group, the magazine on the world of puros that had Gabriele Zanatta’sCigarstyle as its online competition) with the extraordinary ergonomic-taste dynamic of the Boite à fumer. And at Albereta in Franciacorta, Gualtiero Marchesi launched a “one table” impossible to erase from our memory, with the extraordinary performance of a genius-inspired Paolo Lopriore.

«And it was exactly in 1996, that with another friend and colleague, Alessandro Masnaghetti, an iconic wine writer, I visited Francescana for the first time. We sat on the left, among the many cookbooks on the shelves that made us get an idea of the refined standards of the chef. The dishes were already following his philosophy. There was extra virgin olive oil (not butter) served with bread, the glass was softened by Pinot Nero, the ham was slightly smoked. Then there were the “cooked” dishes with the linguine, a homage to taste and France mixed with butter with lobster coral

A souvenir photo for Massimo Bottura on 1st June 2015 in London: he smiles happily having reached the second place in the World’s 50 Best. The Roca brothers from Celler de Can Roca in Gerona were first. Copyright Edition Photography

A souvenir photo for Massimo Bottura on 1st June 2015 in London: he smiles happily having reached the second place in the World’s 50 Best. The Roca brothers from Celler de Can Roca in Gerona were first. Copyright Edition Photography

innervated with steamed jowl bacon and one of the first interpolations of fish and meat in Italy (prawns and a little Iranian caviar, a little showing off in a richer Italy that made us happier). Then back to “classics” with the Angus tenderloin wrapped in lard and cooked in a casserole and then finished with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, which brought us back to the piazza nearby. The Crème brûlèe finished the à la carte lunch, with Jivara chocolate and the Italian touch of basil syrup, just like the coffee made with the moka machine which we chose in the Jamaica Blue Montain version because it had to be the case at that time.

«We enjoyed the cellar even in itself, what with important and refined bottles, given that Massimo Bottura – for those who know his family DNA well – has a global palate and in his youth would visit Italian starred restaurants with his brothers (Marco, a lover of Bourgogne above all) and friends. We noted down everything on pen and paper or on a Psion 5Mx and – since photography was then only meant for photographers – we tried to fix an image of the dishes in our memory, as if they were imaginary plates crystallising on the palate.

«Then it was the turn of the Crispy mullet with polenta and tomato distillate; the Squid egg cake with lemon zest and sautéed potatoes with salt crystals; the Tuna with beans and onions; the Sole filets with Recioto di Capitelli and mashed potatoes with wasabi; the Simmered rock octopus in white wine

One year and 12 days later, on Monday 13th June in New York, no longer in London, he moved ahead of the Roca brothers too. Osteria Francescana in Modena is the first restaurant in the world based on the votes of almost one thousand experts. Massimo Bottura can finally wave the Italian flag. Copyright The World’s 50 Best Restaurants

One year and 12 days later, on Monday 13th June in New York, no longer in London, he moved ahead of the Roca brothers too. Osteria Francescana in Modena is the first restaurant in the world based on the votes of almost one thousand experts. Massimo Bottura can finally wave the Italian flag. Copyright The World’s 50 Best Restaurants

with a cake of potatoes in two textures with cooking salt and a Mediterranean brunoise. Meanwhile Beppe Palmieri arrived in the dining room with his beating of wings.

«Dishes became piazzas and as a consequence the research on the proxemic connections between ingredients made us understand the intellectual potential of Massimo Bottura: Tortellini walking on broth (in which he got to use agar agar thanks to his brother Paolo an amateur interpreter – though with great results - of macrobiotic cuisine) and the cubist trifle led us to think we were experiencing a change in history. There was a chef in Modena who would influence global cuisine together with that fantastic series of stars whom we followed with our articles and your visionary projects, Paolo, until the moment we would see him celebrated in New York as the best chef in the world. Now everyone knows Via Stella. Twenty years ago, however, there was no such thing as a crowd, there was no bandwagon on which to jump and boast about someone else’s work».

born in Parma in 1963, he directs the Guida Vini dell'Espresso and is the author of various books, the latest of which is "Il Cuoco universale. La cultura del piatto" (Marsilio)


Sections

Primo piano

The events you cannot miss and all the news of topical interest from the food planet