Modena – lunch at Franceschetta58

Today I went to Franceschetta58, the second Modena location of the internationally renowned chef Massimo Bottura, who’s Francescana restaurant currently (in 2020) holds the #1 spot in the World’s Top 50 Restaurants list. Much as I would have loved to go to Francescana, the tasting menu there is around 500€ before wine, way out of my league, and it’s really hard to get in to, even in these Covid times. Thankfully Franceschetta58 is much cheaper, and still very enjoyable.

The space itself is modern but relaxed with lots of multi-coloured cushions on the banquettes and displays of antique plates on the walls. The tableware (plates, glasses) are all mis-matched (a style I really like), and the cutlery is kept in enamel jugs on the table rather than laid out around the plate. The soundtrack was non-stop classic 70s US funk, one of my favourite musical genres.

You can order à la carte or have one of two tasting menus. I went for the pricier 70€ seven-dish menu called ‘I ❤ Modena’ and added a wine-matching of seven wines for another 40€.

First to arrive was the breadbasket which was so tasty that I had to hold back from scoffing the lot! I especially liked the tomato grissini (A) and one of the two white breads which had poppy seeds in it I think (A). The other white bread was a classic spongy sourdough (B+) and the polenta crispbread was new to me but nice too (B).

An amuse bouche of kale with (I think) pumpkin puree and a square of polenta draped in lardo kicked things off (B). It needed salt (polenta usually needs a lot), but there was no seasoning on the table. Fortunately I always carry a small tin of Maldon with me for such situations.

‘Persico trota, sedano rapa, mela e pinoli’ (trout-perch, celeriac, apple and pine nuts) was nice but again needed a sprinkle of sea salt to send it to B+.

The first wine was a local red fizz which was fine (B).

Then came the ‘Risotto all’anguilla affumicata’ (smoked eel risotto). I wavered when choosing the menu because of this dish as I’m not a fan of eel (one of the very few things I baulk at) but I’m always ready to give things another try so I went for it and quite liked it. Under the rice was a pool of thick, black syrup which I think was carrying most of the eel flavour. Grated horse radish was sprinkled over the top.

With this a lovely natural wine, again local as I recall (B).

The ‘Cavolfiore fritto, cavolo rapa, rapa nera e friggitello’ (Deep fried cauliflower, kohlrabi, black turnip and friggitello bell pepper) was a revelation. Not sure what they’d done to the cauliflower but certain bites of it had an amazing flavour (A+).

It was paired with another natural wine, even nicer than the first. This was my favourite wine of the night. The vineyard was by the sea as I recall. Very floral but also mineral (A+). Must find it online.

After this, ‘Ravioli di topinambur, brodo di verza, Lapsang Souchong, burro bianco e tartufo’ (Jerusalem artichoke ravioli, cabbage broth, beurre blanc, Lapsang Souchong and truffle). Another nice dish but it was so well balanced that it was hard to pick out individual flavours (B).

Surprisingly this was paired with a sweet wine, my second most favourite of the night, but it worked really well (A).

The ‘Emilia Burger di Massimo Bottura’ didn’t look quite as nice as it does on the website but it was still very tasty. It was a mix of beef and pork but I don’t recall what the green sauce was sorry (B+).

The slightly effervescent rose with it was very nice (B+).

‘Petto d’anatra, fondo al vermouth rosso, daikon arrostito, polvere di arancia bruciata’ (duck breast, red vermouth sauce, roasted daikon, burnt orange powder). Loved the duck which was cooked to perfection, and enjoyed the unusual sauce but the daikon (aka mooli or giant radish) needed to be eaten together with the duck when all I wanted was the meat really (A and B).

The strong red worked really well with it, and was my third favourite (A).

Then a wonderful pre-dessert, the ingredients of which I don’t recall (other than olive oil and salt), but it was fab (A+).

‘Ananas, gelato alla crema, bergamotto candito, meringa all’erba cedrina, polline’ (pineapple, vanilla ice-cream, candied bergamot, lemon verbena meringue, pollen). This was absolutely stunning with the meringue bringing it all together (A+).

To drink I was offered a mocktail or this non-alcoholic wine with fermented honey whatever that is. Very intriguing, must look into it (B+).

With my espresso (B+), a shot of a Modenese amaro which I’d never come across before. It was a bit cough mixturey but interesting nonetheless (B). Some un-needed almond brittle (A) came with it which I secreted in my bag for later.

This was a very enjoyable meal with friendly, impeccable service from the young staff. Not cheap but still worth every penny. I’d go back for sure.

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