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RESTAURANT

Italy has world’s third-best restaurant

For the second year running, Massimo Bottura's restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, northern Italy, has won third place on a list of the world's 50 best restaurants.

Italy has world's third-best restaurant
Massimo Bottura is praised for his ability to “balance the demands of heritage and modernity”. Photo: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP

Modena-based Osteria Francescana has once again clinched a top spot in the annual awards for the world’s 50 best restaurants.

The restaurant lost out only to Renè Redzepi’s Copenhagen-based Noma which reclaimed the number one slot and Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca which came in second.

Last year the four-time Danish winner lost out to the Spanish eatery, breaking its winning streak which it continued between 2010 and 2012.

First opened in 1995, Bottura’s Osteria Francescana was awarded its first Michelin star in 2002, a second four years later, and a third in 2011. Bottura also won the Chef’s Choice award in 2011.

In a review on the website for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Bottura is praised for his ability to “balance the demands of heritage and modernity” by creating a “restaurant where traditionalists and those seeking something entirely new are both amply catered for.”

According to the website, Bottura’s menu can be split into three categories: traditional, regional dishes that have “little or no edgy elements”, as well as modern classics and newly developed dishes.

“Anyone sampling Osteria Francescana for the first time would be advised to try one in each category to get a true sense of the team’s extraordinary range,” it says on the website.

Highlights on the menu include five ages of Parmesan and foie gras crunch, described as “a take on a Feast ice cream with a hunk of foie gras bound in hazelnuts and filled with balsamic vinegar”, and ‘camouflage’ – “a thin layer of foie gras decorated with powders (hare blood, chestnut and various herbs)”.

Bottura wasn’t the only Italian to clinch a spot in the top 50. Enrico Crippa’s Piazza Duomo di Alba in Cuneo made it into 39th place and the Alajmo brothers’ La Calandre in Padova was ranked 46th.

Organized by the British magazine ‘Restaurant Magazine’ in collaboration with San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, the awards showcase the 50 best restaurants which are selected by over 900 international jurors.

The world's top ten restaurants according to British magazine Restaurant:

1) Noma – Denmark
2) El Celler de Can Roca – Spain
3) Osteria Francescana – Italy
4) Eleven Madison Park – United States
5) Dinner – United Kingdom
6) Mugaritz – Spain
7) D.O.M. – Brazil
8) Arzak – Spain
9) Alinea – United States
10) The Ledbury – United Kingdom

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FOOD & DRINK

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

Michelin-starred food has its merits but it doesn't fit with the Italian tradition of cuisine, argues Silvia Marchetti and some frustrated Italian chefs. There's nothing better than a plate of steaming lasagne, she says.

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

I’ve never been a great fan of sophisticated dishes, twisted recipes and extravagant concoctions that leave you wondering what is it you’re actually eating. T-bone steak with melted dark chocolate as topping, burrata cheese with apples, spaghetti with blueberry sauce aren’t my thing.

Hence, I never eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s not because of the exorbitant bill – paying €200 for a salad simply because it was grown in the private garden of a chef which he personally sprinkles with mountain water each morning, is a bit over the top.

I just don’t think such fancy food has anything to do with the real Italian tradition.

The ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as the name suggests, was invented in France by chef Paul Bocuse. And it’s ‘nouvelle’ – new – not anchored to past traditions.

The philosophy of serving small morsels of chic food on humongous plates as if they were works of art is the exact opposite of what Italian culinary tradition is all about.

We love to indulge in platefuls of pasta or gnocchi (and often go for a second round), and there are normally three courses (first, second, side dish, dessert and/or coffee), never a 9 or 12-course menu as served at Michelin establishments (unless, perhaps, it’s a wedding).

Too many bites of too many foods messes with flavours and numbs palates, and at the end of a long meal during which you’ve tasted so many creative twists you can hardly remember one, I always leave still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

So back home, I often prepare myself a dishful of spaghetti because Michelin pasta servings often consist in just one fork portion artistically curled and laid on the dish. In fact, in my view Michelin starred cuisine feeds more the eye than the stomach.

The way plates are composed, with so much attention to detail, colour, and their visual impact, seems as if they’re made to show-off how great a chef is, than as succulent meals to devour. I used to look at my dish flabbergasted, trying to make out what those de-constructed ingredients were and are now meant to be, and then perplexed,

I look at the chef, and feel as if I’m talking to an eclectic painter who has created a ‘masterpiece’ with my dinner. I’m not saying Michelin starred food is not good, there are some great chefs in Italy who have heightened a revisited Italian cuisine to the Olympus of food, but I just don’t like it nor understand it.

There’s nothing greater than seeing a plate of steaming lasagne being brought to the table and knowing beforehand that my taste buds will also recognise it as such, and enjoy it, rather than finding out it’s actually a sweet pudding instead.

More than once, after a 4-hour Michelin meal with a 20-minute presentation of each dish by the chef, the elaborate food tasted has given me a few digestion problems which lasted all night long.

Michelin-starred food has started to raise eyebrows in Italy among traditional chefs, and is now the focus of a controversy on whether it embodies the authentic Italian culinary experience. 

A Milanese born and bred, Cesare Battisti is the owner of restaurant Ratanà, considered the ‘temple’ of the real risotto alla Milanese.

He has launched a crusade to defend traditional Milanese recipes from what he deems the extravagance and “contamination” of Michelin-starred cuisine. “Michelin-starred experiments are mere culinary pornography. Those chefs see their own ego reflected in their dishes. Their cooking is a narcissistic, snob act meant to confuse, intimidate and disorientate eaters”. 

Arrigo Cipriani, food expert and owner of historical trattoria Harry’s Bar in Venice, says Michelin-starred cuisine is destroying Italy’s real food tradition, the one served inside the many trattorias and historical osterias scattered across the boot where old recipes, and cooking techniques, survive.

“Tasting menus are made so that clients are forced to eat what the chef wants, and reflect the narcissistic nature of such chefs. Italian Michelin-starred cuisine is just a bad copy cat of the French one”, says Cipriani.

I believe we should leave French-style cuisine to the French, who are great at this, and stick to how our grannies cook and have taught us to prepare simple, abundant dishes. At least, you’ll never feel hungry after dinner.

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