We are all connected... Massimo Bottura joins three continents in a bite

Pork belly dumpling on clam chowder. An X-ray of a super dish in the latest menu at Osteria Francescana

20-08-2020
We are all connected under one roof, that is to sa

We are all connected under one roof, that is to say Dumpling with smoked pork belly with clams from Goro on a clam chowder with herb oil, a magnificent dish from the latest menu at Osteria Francescana in Modena

We’ve already spent a lot of words on With a little help from my friends,Osteria Francescana’s post-reopening menu. Those lucky enough to dine multiple times here over the years, have found an admirable tasting menu, the result of a harmony between all the elements in the plot. Perhaps the most successful one in the last ten years.

But making lists, something so common these days, is a temptation one must escape: in general, because every ranking discourages reasoning; specifically, because, how can you say that “With a little help…” is better than “Viaggio in Italia” (2013, here the datails) or of last year’s menu, the one with the super Guinea fowl in three dishes?

There is, however, an element that struck us the most in the current menu: its range, so distant compared to the usual trajectories of Via Stella. It’s striking that, after 3 months of closure, the Modenese character passes over in silence. In the current menu there are only some small cameos of Emilia: a 50-year old Aceto Balsamico in the pigeon sauce of Who’s afraid of red, yellow, green and orange, a duronecherry from Vignola in Beppe Palmieri’s Sir Paul cocktail right before that, some Lambrusco di Sorbara in the Strawberry fields risotto and some more minimal details.

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One

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Has the food valley made famous around the world by Massimo Bottura beenreduced to an extra? Of course not, because it continues to silently be present the in the threads of the fabric in the background. But the concept that the cook expresses successfully in the menu dedicated to The Beatles is that terroir, a tyrant reference in the restaurant scene of the last ten years, should not become a prison. Even the strongest dogma must hold the possibility of being overcome, even more so now that the restaurant industry is asked to make unprecedented efforts. To leave behind the stagnant post-pandemic waters, it is clear one has to find some courage and escape the usual comforts, venturing on new paths with the torch of creativity. While Modena remains on the initial horizon, what does appear in front of us? Glimpses of the world, imagined in its vastness, though behind the darkness of the lockdown.

In our humble opinion, the most delicious and emblematic dish in the entire journey is We are all connected under one roof, an impulse to inter-racial brotherhood, a recurring topos in the latest menu. It’s worth analysing how the dish is made, with the help of Bottura’s guys, that is to say those friends without whom the little help could not be possible.

It’s made of dumpling with a filling of pork belly smoked in a wood oven and glazed with maple syrup from Jessica Rosval, the Canadian chef from Casa Maria Luigia. To the filling of each one of the 3 rich raviolis (28 grams each), the two cooks of Via Stella Davide Di Fabio and Taka Kondo add a part of fresh meat with a touch of cotechino gelatine which then melts with the heat. Before closing it, they place under the belly a small clam from Goro (Ferrara) which will add sapidity and an even stronger biteable texture.

Palmieri’s pairing: Sauternes, in contrast with the dish, following a well-established approach. «After years of pairing it with foie gras or cheeses», the maître explains, «it’s strangely been forgotten. We have now presented it in a fresh and contemporary interpretation»

Palmieri’s pairing: Sauternes, in contrast with the dish, following a well-established approach. «After years of pairing it with foie gras or cheeses», the maître explains, «it’s strangely been forgotten. We have now presented it in a fresh and contemporary interpretation»

Beppe Palmieri and Massimo Bottura, in September their professional liaison will celebrate its 20th anniversary 

Beppe Palmieri and Massimo Bottura, in September their professional liaison will celebrate its 20th anniversary 

Bottura has just received a visit from Alain Ducasse, his old maestro: «What a pity», the French chef said «that the dishes in this menu can be tasted only by a few dozen people each day» (photo instagram)

Bottura has just received a visit from Alain Ducasse, his old maestro: «What a pity», the French chef said «that the dishes in this menu can be tasted only by a few dozen people each day» (photo instagram)

Wrapped around all this, is a very thin, elastic, gummy dough, an alchemy traced by Choi Jongho, a Taiwanese magician in the brigade in Modena, who didn’t turn down corrupting the dough with a pinch of egg yolk. At the client’s table, over the perimeter of the dumplings they pour a reduced version of clam chowder, a popular soup from New England in the East Coast of the US. With an elegant element: on top of the jug of sauce they add some herb oil. Please note this is added on the surface, not emulsified, so that it won’t mix with the latter and you will notice it first, with its delicate note of tarragon and chives. These are details that make the difference. It’s all finished with some grated lime, without getting to the albedo, which is too bitter. The result: North America, Asia and Italy in the same bowl. 

A killer tasting, which closes a masterpiece triptych, after Strawberry Fields, a risotto that makes fun and upturns the Eighties’ version with strawberries and Champagne, and If I'm wrong I'm right, cod treated as if it were a fat fish, and served with a perfected curry drink sauce, so good one should keep a small just on the bedside table, as a source of comfort.

The dumplings are irresistible for us as well as for those who work there: the story goes that Beppe Palmieri himself - who is skilled in anticipating the dish with a Castelnau de Suduiraut «a Suaternes both elegant and vulgar» - will be there, spying during the break between services, watching if there’s something left in the pan. The maître must consider two pitfalls: the clients’ request of an encore, and the wild desires of the rest of the brigade.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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Gabriele Zanatta’s opinion: on establishments, chefs and trends in Italy and the world