Bottura's new menu in his words (and our tasting): a tribute to the great Italian cuisine

Dish after dish, the cultural biodiversity at Francescana & C. celebrates our great culinary history: «A way to consolidate ourselves in the world», because greatness is nothing without roots

30-07-2021
Photo by Carlo Passera

Photo by Carlo Passera

This is a piece that Carlo Passera and I have partly stolen. According to Leo Longanesi, who was many things, and not just a publisher, “an interview is a stolen article” because it is the answers that make the piece. We went beyond: at the table set in the cellar, next to the kitchen, with him standing like an orchestra director, Massimo Bottura was basically the only one to speak, so much so this piece should be signed by three people, us two plus him.

Carlo and I put a little order to the majestic flow of words, thoughts that originated from the chef when commenting a menu that is called like the previous one, With a little help from my friends. But while in the previous one, with the fil rouge of the Beatles as its storytelling, a free thought dominated that expressed the cultural biodiversity of the brigades of Massimo Bottura's various restaurants (all involved in designing the dishes), the same approach remains but with a different subject of research and main protagonist: Italian cuisine.

The dream team at Francescana who prepared the new menu. Left to right Stephanie Cemin, Alice Fasano, the newly promoted sous chef Allen Huynh, Lucas Mottek, Gabriele Curró, Doina Paulesco, Pasquale Iacobucci, Ettore Surdo, Siu Cheng, Alessio Spagnolo, the other newly promoted sous chef Matteo Zonarelli. Photo Carlo Passera

The dream team at Francescana who prepared the new menu. Left to right Stephanie Cemin, Alice Fasano, the newly promoted sous chef Allen Huynh, Lucas Mottek, Gabriele Curró, Doina Paulesco, Pasquale Iacobucci, Ettore Surdo, Siu Cheng, Alessio Spagnolo, the other newly promoted sous chef Matteo Zonarelli. Photo Carlo Passera

«We've dined many times in the restaurants of which I'm interpreting some recipes [a total of 18, including his Camouflage]. I remember, for instance a very specific day, the 30th of September 1970, my birthday. I was dining at the Cantarellis, at Peppino's and Mirella's, in Samboseto, close to Parma. Today we have forgotten this past, but the world must know this is where we come from, the world must know Bergese and TassaCorelli and Picchi, it must talk again about these great Italian chefs because they are our roots. We must tell this story; we must honour our origins, speak of others, make the great gourmets come back to Italy. Celebrating our origins is the best way to consolidate and represent our greatness», because without roots greatness is nothing, it's something aleatory, something fragile.

Memory is the keyword of this tasting. The much-abused quote from Andy Warhol about the quarter of an hour of celebrity certifies the mediocrity that an often-fortuitous circumstance can bestow some fame to anyone. Now, the chef from Modena works in the very opposite direction. He puts aside the uselessness that we find all around, and works so that even those who weren't born yet in 1970 can know about the Cantarellis.

«I believe this menu is, ironically, the perfect example of what it means to be contemporary. It's not enough to look at oneself, unless we are geniuses like Picasso to whom everything came natural. On the contrary, we must study, think, research, get the team involved. Offer cultural and philosophical stimuli, ideas that travel and someone will catch, someone will absorb, chew and then forget and re-elaborate with their creative mind».

The dishes from the new menu. Photo Paolo Terzi

The dishes from the new menu. Photo Paolo Terzi

«The menu goes on like an orchestra piece: ouverture, adagio, allegro, minuetto, gran finale (for me the adagio is the most important part because it's whispered, before the higher peaks). So first I thought about the composition, and then about the single dishes. In the same way, the team comes first, and then the rest: you must know how to build a team, which is the same as building the menu. Your team is your strength: by myself, I'm only Massimo; together with my collaborators we're Osteria Francescana, Casa Maria Luigia, il Cavallino, la Franceschetta, Torno Subito, Gucci Osteria and so on».

«We started by asking colleagues/friends or by recovering and then making 100 recipes, an anthological selection of the history of contemporary Italian cuisine from the Sixties on, excluding my generation, so stopping behind the one that preceded me. Chronologically, we went back in time: the first courses we recovered are from Pellegrino Artusi, but in the end they didn't make it in this menu. Instead, we start from Mirella Cantarelli and Nino Bergese. Perhaps we will present them in the future, because our intention is to continue this work, this homage to Italian cuisine, in chapters, perhaps arriving to our days, and so include, in the future, for instance, masters like Angelo Paracucchi or Massimiliano Alajmo, the Cerea brothers, Mauro Uliassi, Moreno Cedroni… Or perhaps we could develop other recipes from Gennaro Esposito or Corrado Assenza, who are only present in this menu as petit fours. These are and will be pages of history that will continue to increase. Because the problem is that we don't know our roots, but then perhaps we cook with foraging. We forget our history». And so we return to memory, which must be nourished constantly. Of course, we could argue there are universities, historians, websites, associations that are focused on what's behind us, but there are no cooks. Because the greatness of this work is in the person who started it. And don't you dare call it nostalgia. Massimo lives in the now, he doesn't regret the past. He wants people to know where we come from, but the tickets he sells are one way only.

Massimo Bottura

Massimo Bottura

And the work is far from being over: «At 4 a.m. on the day before the new 12-course menu began, I was already awake. I thought something was not working. So I decided to remove two dishes and only have 10 [on top of the amuse bouche and the petit fours, and the final Camouflage which will be the starting point in the next menu that Bottura already has in mind]. There were too many concepts. This way, instead, it's balanced».

A moving balance.

We start with the amuse bouche... Photo Paolo Terzi

We start with the amuse bouche... Photo Paolo Terzi

We start with the amuse bouche, three from as many Italian chefs.

Bottura's take on Giancarlo Perbellini's Il Wafer si Veste D’oro - 2003. Photo Carlo Passera

Bottura's take on Giancarlo Perbellini's Il Wafer si Veste D’oro - 2003. Photo Carlo Passera

Il Wafer si Veste D’oro by Giancarlo Perbellini (2003). Bottura: «This is the wafer by Perbellini that becomes ceviche. It's our welcome to our guests, with a "ciao", the emblem of Italian hospitality».

The tasting inspired by Ciccio Sultano's Volevo Essere Fritto – 2010. Photo Carlo Passera

The tasting inspired by Ciccio Sultano's Volevo Essere Fritto – 2010. Photo Carlo Passera

Ciccio Sultano's Volevo Essere Fritto (2010). The prawn in cannolo from Sultano, with powdered prawn heads and a sauce of the same heads. The essence of a pram, basically.

Francescana's take on Fabio Picchi's Minestra di Pane - 1979. Photo Carlo Passera

Francescana's take on Fabio Picchi's Minestra di Pane - 1979. Photo Carlo Passera

Fabio Picchi's Minestra di Pane (1979). Bottura: «A bread soup, as an emblem of our history». The tomato sauce wets the toasted dry bread as if it were dashi and bread were its katsuobushi, «very oriental idea, it warms up your stomach and puts you in a good mood».

A new take on Salvatore Tassa's La Cipolla Fondente - 1990. Photo Carlo Passera

A new take on Salvatore Tassa's La Cipolla Fondente - 1990. Photo Carlo Passera

Salvatore Tassa's La Cipolla Fondente (1990). The first "real" dish in the new, much awaited menu of the most important restaurant in the world? Bread and onion. Bottura: «Tassa learnt about this tribute to his recipe and came to visit me at Cavallino, on the day we opened, to hug me. It's the onion that becomes bread, with all its sweetness and acidity. With the powdered burnt onion skin in the pastry». And the Parmigiano pastry.

Gualtiero Marchesi's Insalata di Spaghetti al Caviale - 1985, according to Massimo Bottura. Photo Paolo Terzi

Gualtiero Marchesi's Insalata di Spaghetti al Caviale - 1985, according to Massimo Bottura. Photo Paolo Terzi

Gualtiero Marchesi's Insalata di Spaghetti al Caviale (1985). It's a new take on one of the most famous dishes from maestro Marchesi, which meets an idea of Bottura from some time ago, Chicken chicken chicken… where are youBottura: «But where are the spaghetti? There's no spaghetti, or rather, they are hidden. We cook the spaghetti in a delicate seabass broth, we blend them and thus make miso, a cream of pasta in a broth of seabass that makes the base of the dish. The aesthetics then include some fake spaghetti made of vegetables. Finally, squid pasta and caviar playing tris: depending on the spaghetti you're eating, the perception of flavour changes».

The dish inspired by Fulvio Pierangelini's Capesante Ripiene di Mortadella - 2005. Photo Paolo Terzi

The dish inspired by Fulvio Pierangelini's Capesante Ripiene di Mortadella - 2005. Photo Paolo Terzi

Capesante Ripiene di Mortadella by Fulvio Pierangelini (2005), become Ravioli of scallops and mortadella, fennel chowder, marinated apple. There's the rich component of the ravioli, then the fennel and herb chowder «and the disks of sour apple, with elderberry vinegar that clean the ravioli. I imagine this dish in the future, I think it could become a dessert».

The take on Nino Bergese's Controfiletto del San Domenico - 1975. Photo Paolo Terzi

The take on Nino Bergese's Controfiletto del San Domenico - 1975. Photo Paolo Terzi

Nino Bergese's Controfiletto del San Domenico (1975) becomes Aubergine, fumée glaze and herb sauce. «We use this vegetable as if it were sirloin. And we "forget it" inside a green egg that's being smoked, so it acquires some burnt notes. So now we need a fat component: Bergese would add bacon, we add a glaze and an almost classic herb sauce. In the end the aubergine has a superb texture». True.

Mirella Cantarelli's Savarin di Riso – 1963, according to Bottura. Photo Paolo Terzi

Mirella Cantarelli's Savarin di Riso – 1963, according to Bottura. Photo Paolo Terzi

Mirella Cantarelli's Savarin di Riso (1963) becomes Chawanmushi of Parmigiano, tongue, spugnole mushrooms, snowpeas, asparagus and mushroom jusBottura: «The idea came while I was in Japan, hence this is Cantarelli's Savarin in a Japanese style, as a part of our cultural biodiversity». The chef uses the water of parmigiano (which he also uses for Risotto cacio e pepe) and thickens it with rice flour, «it's basically a risotto alla parmigiana already. Then we add egg white and put it in the oven to make a sort of chawanmushi». And then? «We make the Savarin travel in time, in two ways. First, we bring it from 1965 to our days. Second: we bring it from autumn to spring: no longer seasoned with sausage and porcini, but with peas, snowpeas, broadbeans, asparagus and spugnole. In other words, we add the contemporary concept of seasonality, which in the days of Cantarelli was not taken into account». There's also, the chef points out, a touch of Joël Robuchon, in the classic aesthetics. «And the shoulder of San Secondo Parmense from the original recipe becomes a boiled meat mix; the part I like the most of this is the tongue». Hence disks of boiled tongue.

In one dish, Mirella Cantarelli's Faraona alla Creta – 1963 &  Nino Bergese's Risotto alla Bergese  - 1974. Photo Paolo Terzi

In one dish, Mirella Cantarelli's Faraona alla Creta – 1963 &  Nino Bergese's Risotto alla Bergese  - 1974. Photo Paolo Terzi

Mirella Cantarelli's Faraona alla Creta (1963) & Nino Bergese's Risotto alla Bergese  (1974) become Guinea fowl filled with bread and sweetbreads with a jus filtered and infused with toasted riceBottura: «Picasso said that copying others is necessary, while copying oneself is despicable. I make an idea my own while adding new elements. I start from the filling I saw at NoMad in New York, which they used for their roast chicken, and use it to "protect" my guinea fowl, instead of the clay. And then comes the Risotto alla Bergese, which is... a rice jus! That is to say I toast the rice and then put it in the filters of a coffee machine: so I make, without meat, a sort of slightly lighter jus, with which I change the texture (I don't use butter, so the flavours are guaranteed to be clean)».

 

Francescana's take on Igles Corelli's Germano Ripieno di Anguilla - 1985. Photo Paolo Terzi

Francescana's take on Igles Corelli's Germano Ripieno di Anguilla - 1985. Photo Paolo Terzi

Igles Corelli's Germano Ripieno di Anguilla (1985) becomes Eel, crispy skin, spinach, horseradish, blueberries and Villa Manodori balsamic vinegarBottura: «A perfect section: the crispy skin of the duck, then the eel, then the entrails of the duck, with its bones and meat becoming the jus, all this paired with the intense blueberries of the Apennines. We serve it in a Ginori plate» made especially for Francescana, it's not available on sale. «It's a summa of the Po valley, eels and ducks». Bottura recalls when, after participating in Identità Golose in 2011 (with a video focused on memory, following the notes of Bob Dylan) Regione Emilia-Romagna took the task of requalifying the Park of the Po Delta, with an investment of 14 million euros. «It was our third social project: first there was the recovery of the Bianca modenese breed and the post-earthquake charity projects; then came Food for Soul's Refettori».

Layers of Duck filled with Eel. Photo Paolo Terzi

Layers of Duck filled with Eel. Photo Paolo Terzi

 

The dish inspired by Igles Corelli's Budino di Cipolla - 1983. Photo Paolo Terzi

The dish inspired by Igles Corelli's Budino di Cipolla - 1983. Photo Paolo Terzi

Igles Corelli's Budino di Cipolla (1983) becomes a Crème caramel of foie gras and lapsang souchong, caramelised onion, ginger chantilly and meringueBottura: «We took Corelli's dish, gave it a new take, did it again: we've moved the ginger, the onion is now in another place, the pudding becomes a crème caramel with an infusion of foie gras escalope toasted in milk with vanilla and burnt onion. We filtered everything and cooked it slowly». Then there's a chantilly cream with ginger. The result is an almost savoury dessert, the only sweet part is the herb meringue. We notice: onions open the tasting menu, after the amuse bouche; onions end it, before the desserts: in other words, it's not just bread, onions are gold too.

 

Gianfranco Vissani's Zuppa fredda di Carbonara - 2020, according to Massimo Bottura. Photo Paolo Terzi

Gianfranco Vissani's Zuppa fredda di Carbonara - 2020, according to Massimo Bottura. Photo Paolo Terzi

Gianfranco Vissani's Zuppa fredda di Carbonara (2020) becomes Custard with pepper, jowl bacon, banana, pecorino gelato, caviar. A crazy, impossible, extraordinary dish. Bottura: «When we opened Refettorio in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, we had basically nothing. So I prepared carbonara on the go... with banana peel!». The chef goes back to that idea and applies it to Vissani's recipe, which he changes substantially: «We transform carbonara into a dessert. We take the banana peel, toast it so it becomes a crispy cone. Then we put a base of banana cream with pecorino gelato and custard with vanilla and pecorino – which hints at pasta carbonara – with cubes of toasted jowl bacon [crazy good!] that show all their sapidity. The cone looks like the ones made by ceramic artisan Giorgio Di Palma at Casa Maria Luigia». And finally, Vissani's touch: a spoonful of caviar at the bottom of the banana cone, as if it were the chocolate you always find at the bottom of industrial ice creams. And of course some pepper to season.

Bottura's take on the Santinis' Tortelli di Zucca, “since forever”. Photo Paolo Terzi

Bottura's take on the Santinis' Tortelli di Zucca, “since forever”. Photo Paolo Terzi

The Santinis' Tortelli di Zucca , “since forever”, become Wood oven baked sweet potato, mostarda, lemon, vanilla, butter, aroma of coffeeBottura: «It's the Santinis' pumpkin tortelli but without pumpkin. I also use the concept hidden in what my grandmother Ancella would make, a classic of Mantua – she was from Villa Poma, near Poggio Rusco» [but in the town of Borgo Mantovano]. «So those tortelli were in fact a dessert, not a first course… I use the idea and add all the depth and the history of Italian filled pasta in a beautiful classic plate from Ginori». The resulting tasting strikes the heart and looks like a sculpture.

Gennaro Esposito's Babà - 1994; Corrado Assenza's Cannolo x- 1985; Gualtiero Marchesi's Riso oro e zafferano - 1981. Photo Carlo Passera

Gennaro Esposito's Babà - 1994; Corrado Assenza's Cannolo x- 1985; Gualtiero Marchesi's Riso oro e zafferano - 1981. Photo Carlo Passera

Petit fours:  Gennaro Esposito's Babà (1994); Corrado Assenza's Cannolo (1985) and Gualtiero Marchesi's Riso oro e zafferano (1981). The tribute to Assenza is a crispy cannolo with mulberry cream, cassis and dehydrated strawberries. The one to Marchesi is a macaron with saffron risotto, without sugar. The one to Esposito is a mini babà soaked in rum, chantilly cream with yuzu and a caper on top.

Massimo Bottura's Camouflage - 2012. Photo Carlo Passera

Massimo Bottura's Camouflage - 2012. Photo Carlo Passera

We finish with a classic from BotturaCamouflage (2012), but it's a new beginning: it's from the same Camouflage with which the future menu at Osteria Francescana will begin.

READ HERE THE STORY OF TRATTORIA CANTARELLI

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso 

 


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