Presenting I'm not there, the extraordinary new menu at Osteria Francescana in Modena

Massimo Bottura and his team reinterpret their most famous and iconic dishes and twist them, starting from the cultural biodiversity of the Via Stella brigade. The result is a contemporary, unprecedented and compelling reinterpretation

Il nuovo menu dell'Osteria Francescana, denomi

Il nuovo menu dell'Osteria Francescana, denominato I’m not there, è una nuova interpretazione di piatti classici del ristorante modenese. Tutte le foto sono di Paolo Terzi

I'm not there, the new menu by Massimo Bottura and the entire Francescana Family, is a free and poetic reinterpretation of Osteria Francescana’s historical dishes, filtered through the cultural biodiversity of the brigade. It is also the title of the main track and of the film on Bob Dylan's life, directed by Todd Haynes; it’s named after a song written by Dylan himself in 1956, but only released in 2007, on the occasion of the film's release.

Massimo started precisely from the film - which recounts such a complex character through multiple perspectives (a caption at the beginning specifies: "Inspired by the music and the many lives of Bob Dylan") - to present, in a contemporary key, the possible "many lives" of the dishes that have made the history of the restaurant. Today, they are completely revolutionised with respect to their original version, after a long work, almost six months of study involving the entire staff of Via Stella: details, textures and temperatures have been changed until Bottura found a new balance, an equal and different perfection.

With a precise interpretation: the Francescana Family is cosmopolitan. So the process of reinterpreting the dishes is linked to the international cultures of the young people who populate Modenese cuisine today. Massimo tells us: 'These are not cover versions, to borrow the musical term. Instead, these are new dishes to all intents and purposes that start from the ingredients used in the historical ones, but the interpretation is absolutely free. It's a game, we play like children. Picasso used to say: 'When I was a kid I drew like Raphael, it took me forever to learn to draw like a child'. We cook like children. And we have fun.’


Normandy (2002-2023)
Memory of a mortadella sandwich (2001-2023)
The eel going up the Po (2010-2023)

Normandy represents the chef's recollection of a trip - as a child - to Northern France, where he first ate oysters. Here we have raw lamb covered with oyster cream and, on the side, its cooking broth with mint and green apple marinated in cider (the chef recommends sipping it interspersed with the appetiser). The Eel going up the Po is instead a cylinder of polenta enclosing a fillet of eel marinated in saba and marasca cherries from Vignola, an explosion of flavour in the mouth. The Memory of a mortadella sandwich has become a fennel bread with 'caramelised' fennel cream, fresh fennel, fennel mousse and pepper. Pairing: Picolit Marco Sara 2021.


A potato that wants to become a truffle (2008-2023)

It is a dish that evokes fond memories for Bottura. The 2008 original was a vanilla and truffle potato soufflé baked in a crispy potato skin shell and served with a mousse of custard and white truffle. It is now transformed into a potato loaf served at the beginning of the meal: the potato is boiled and then dehydrated until it becomes flour, it is then kneaded like bread and filled with potato, hazelnut and black truffle cream, while white truffle is grated on top. The hazelnut and truffle are immediately noticeable in the bite and go very well together; the taste remains soft and airy. Pairing: Mareneve Federico Graziani 2020.


Compression of pasta and beans in Mediterranean camouflage (2004-2023)

Massimo says that to create this dish they started from two dishes, Mullet in camouflage/livornese and Compressione di pasta e fagioli. The mullet, from the Tyrrhenian area, was stuffed with raw scampi and then cooked on a very thin slab of bread and finished with a camouflage of tomato powder, capers and olives, all served on a cacciucco sauce. In the new dish, the aesthetics and composition are inspired by Compression of pasta and beans: the preparations are layered in a transparent glass, the mullet is opened and deboned, filled with langoustines and steamed, then finished with cacciucco powder and herbs in suspension. The idea of adding toasted bread, which provides the right crunch, is excellent. Very tasty but also well balanced. Pairing: Mareneve Federico Graziani 2020.


I burnt a sardine (2008-2023)

In one of experiences in Tokyo at Jiro Ono's, read here, Bottura was struck by the emotion he felt in the presence of a humble sardine. From there he start to reflect on the fact that in the Romagna Riviera this poor fish was mistreated, often forgotten on the grill. The chef thus wanted to combine the two experiences and presented a dish of raw sardines in a black monochrome aesthetic in the shape of the sardine itself. In the new 2023 version, the monkfish has replaced the sardine and, conceptually, there are links with Homage to Thelonious Monk (which was presented, we recall, at Identità Milano in 2010, ed). The fish is cooked at a very low temperature, with crispy chips made from the scraps of the fish itself. The dish hides an explosion of different flavours in each bite: filtered tomato gel, sun-dried tomatoes, verbena, fennel, oregano and caviar. Pairing: Trebbiano d'Abruzzo Fonte Canale Cristiana Tiberio 2020.


Grey and Black Rice (2006-2023)

The 2006 Grey and Black Rice was born from a seafood interpretation of the evolution of rice – in terms of aesthetics, lightness and purity of flavour - that was first developed by Gualtiero Marchesi. It was cooked with cuttlefish and squid broth. The final mantecatura was completed off the heat with oyster puree and extra virgin olive oil. In this new version, the rice is toasted and becomes a cream with the addition of raw cuttlefish cut into brunoise, cooked cuttlefish with its ink (it becomes 'grey'), oysters, caviar and burnt lemon powder, all in a grey camouflage. It is certainly a disorienting dish (the rice is only in cream form), but truly splendid, balanced and harmonious in the mouth. Pairing: Trebbiano d'Abruzzo Fonte Canale Cristiana Tiberio 2020.


Caesar Salad in Emilia (2001-2023)

In the late 1990s, Bottura was invited by the father of his wife Lara Gilmore to dine at the Four Seasons in New York. At the time, it was renowned for its Caesar Salad prepared directly at the table. He appreciated the preparation but the salad was overpowered by the classic aromatic elements of the dressing (mustard, Parmigiano, egg and anchovies). Of the vegetables, only their crunchy texture was left. Back in Italy, he made a critical analysis and decided to reconstruct the dish with a greater respect for the salad: the result was a preparation composed of several mustard leaves, a few drops of anchovy colatura, crispy Parmigiano Reggiano, egg yolk as if it were bottarga, crispy pancetta and the addition of a few drops of traditional balsamic vinegar. The reinterpretation, after several evolutions, became a pasta: ditalini pasta by Pastificio dei Campi, first toasted and burnt almost like bread croutons, then cooked in water aromatised with Parmigiano Reggiano and anchovy colatura and mixed with a mustard-grass extraction. Finally, the egg yolk is whisked with a balsamic mayonnaise with the addition of crispy pancetta and two drops of balsamic vinegar from Modena. The crispy, toothsome bite of the pasta served cold is reminiscent of a salad. Pairing: I don't know, a cocktail made with chartreuse, gentian, Tassoni, soda and vanilla salt.


Tortellini walking on broth (2000-2023)

In 2000, this was the most talked-about dish at Osteria Francescana. Having just returned from elBulli in Roses, the chef came up with two preparations, Memory of a mortadella sandwich and this one, which consisted of a layering of hot capon broth jellies with six tortellini in the middle in single file, all finished at the table with hot broth. The tortellini were arranged as if they were crossing the Red Sea, and told the story of Modenese tortellini: of plains, hills, mountains. The head of the first courses in Via Stella, Korean Choi Jongho, has reinterpreted these tortellini in height using dumpling dough, like the Seoul skyline, steaming them with a classic filling (ham, mortadella and Parmigiano Reggiano), but with a touch of kimchi, cream of toasted nori seaweed, all finished at the table with an intense capon broth. Altogether, it is delicate, elegant and harmonious. Pairing: Riesling Kabinett Fritz Haag 2021


Between “La vie en rose“ and “Oh, deer” (2015/16-2023)

This is a particularly emotional dish for Massimo. It’s an ode to beauty and colours that evokes the great Édith Piaf and Enzo Ferrari and echoes Oh, deer, which was conceived to recover the deer and fallow deer shot in the Modenese hills by the Forest Guards. There’s a fillet of deer on a jus of deer with a powdered crust of rose and raspberries. Hazelnut cream, raspberry and rose cream and sea buckthorn complete the composition. It plays on acidic sensations, with balsamic notes, but also wants to send a clear message: sustainability is in our heads, we must find a way to express it. The deer is perfectly cooked and remains tender, juicy and tasty. Pairing: Nebbiolo Prunet Cantine Garrone 2020.


This little piggy went to the market (2014-2023)

The original dish was dedicated to the work of Damien Hirst and his pig dissected in formaldehyde that inspired Bottura to take a gastronomic journey around the world through the sauces and flavours of five continents. The 2023 version is certainly more disorienting. In the centre there’s a single layered piglet, at the base of which there’s a toasted, almost salty corn crumble, while a Neapolitan black pudding on top. It is accompanied by an Original Beans chocolate criolla sauce that is poured directly at the table. On the palate there are bitter, animal and roasted hints, but also sweetness. Truly surprising. Pairing: Nebbiolo Prunet Cantine Garrone 2020.


Five maturations of Parmigiano Reggiano in different textures and temperatures (1993-2023)

The original dish, perhaps the chef's most iconic, tells the secret of Parmigiano Reggiano, namely the land, the feeding of the animals, the milk, the knowledge of the cheesemakers, the fog and humidity and the slow passage of time in Emilia Romagna, read here. It was not immediately understood, but later it was awarded as the dish of the decade. In this new interpretation, they’ve taken a step backwards so to speak, starting with the freshly cut grass, then recovering the whey and arriving at the milk. We find whey ice cream, crunchy milk, rennet and hay mousse, milk and sugar caramel, aromatic chlorophyll cream and finally the extraction of cut grass sprayed on the table, for the emotional part. The original dish is then completely overturned and becomes an exceptional pre-dessert, a pleasure for eyes, nose and palate: a masterpiece. Pairing: Ribolla Gialla Damijan Podversic 2019.


Bread is Gold (2015-2023)

The dish was born from Bottura's cultural project during Expo 2015 in Milan where the theme was Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life. This project aimed to fight food waste and social isolation through beauty and led to the foundation of Food for Soul and 14 Refectories around the world. Bread is Gold was a symbolic preparation. Massimo wanted to recover from memory a dish he grew up with as a child: bread, milk and sugar (bread and milk are among the most wasted foods on the planet). Now the dish has evolved, intertwining with the many projects of the Francescana Family, first and foremost Casa Maria Luigia, where they serve cotechino cooked under the ashes, as the chef's grandmother used to prepare it, for breakfast, together with zabaglione. Bread is gold version 2023 replaces bread with panettone (the concept is to offer panettone all year round, imagining it to be recovered the day after Christmas). They serve what seems a humble slice of bread in the centre of the plate, but lacquered in gold; it is actually a soft panettone mousse with cotechino, lentils (instead of candied fruit) and zabaglione. For us, this dish is worth the trip alone. It’s truly extraordinary, with a perfect balance of sweet and savoury. Pairing: Chardonnay Indio Negretti 2021.


Capri Battery (2015-2023)
Better than popcorn as crunch (1999-2023)
Oops! I dropped my lemon tart (2011-2023)

We end with three mini-desserts. Capri Battery is inspired by Joseph Beuys and is a baba infused with filtered tomato water, buffalo cream and lemon zest. Croccantino is aesthetically the same as the historic foie gras croccantino, but becomes Better than popcorn with a popcorn mousse inside and topped with a hazelnut praline and caramelised popcorn. Oops! I dropped my lemon tart is Massimo's famous dessert born from a mistake that in this case becomes a mini portion to be eaten in one bite.

The price of the tasting menu is 325 euros. The wine pairing is 210 euros.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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Alan Jones


Alan Jones

British-Slovenian, born in 1971, he was raised in Ticino, in Italian Switzerland, and has been working in a bank for almost two decades. His passions are good food, wines and travelling. He became a food enthusiast ten years ago, after watching Gordon Ramsay’s first TV shows and started to travel first around Italy and the Europe and elsewhere in the world in search of the best restaurants. A good dish must always thrill him, because cooking, like many other forms of art, is about emotionsBritish-Slovenian, born in 1971, he was raised in Ticino, in Italian Switzerland, and has been working in a bank for almost two decades. His passions are good food, wines and travelling. He became a food enthusiast ten years ago, after watching Gordon Ramsay’s first TV shows and started to travel first around Italy and the Europe and elsewhere in the world in search of the best restaurants. A good dish must always thrill him, because cooking, like many other forms of art, is about emotions

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