CASA MARIA LUIGIA: a three-Michelin-star Experience !

In this article we’re going to put the theoretical study of Italian grammar and Italian culture aside to take you all with us in our three-Michelin-star experience! We have been to the countryside right outside the city of Modena (a city in the region of Emilia-Romagna, in the North of the Country), where Casa Maria Luigia is situated – this is the name of the villa that the Italian star chef Massimo Bottura and his wife Lara have bought and turned into a sort of hotel, a guest house to be precise.

The Experience at Casa Maria Luigia

Here at Casa Maria Luigia, you can try their tasting menu, consisting of 9 courses – they include Bottura’s most popular dishes, the ones that have made the history of his world-famous, very exclusive restaurant, Osteria Francescana (“Franciscan Tavern”). The tasting menu costs 310€ per person, and there’s also the option of adding a wine tasting for 140€ per person, to accompany each course.

Before telling you about all the delicious food, we absolutely must tell you about the Chef that has made all this possible: Massimo Bottura.

MASSIMO BOTTURA: chef, appassionato d’arte e filantropo

For those who do not know him, you must know that Massimo Bottura is a legend among foodies – he’s famous not only in Modena and Italy, of course, but probably in the whole wide world too.

He was born and raised in the city of Modena, and after several experiences around the world, in 1995 he has come back to his hometown, where he has opened Osteria Francescana – a restaurant located in the city center. His intent is to combine the local dishes and contemporary art, of which he is a great enthusiast. He has received a myriad of prizes and awards, such as his Michelin stars – he has received three stars (in 2002, 2006 and 2012). Among other things, he has been in the list of World’s 50 Best Restaurants both in of the first places and as a winner.

In Modena, he is highly esteemed because he has significantly helped the city, even in its worst moments, such as during of the aftermath of the 2012 earthquake: as he himself says in the Netflix series “Chef’s Table”, in the episode dedicated to him, after the disaster he has invented the “risotto cacio e pepe” (a risotto variation of the Roman pasta dish cacio e pepe) to ensure that the company producing Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese could sell their supply worldwide – said supplies would have otherwise been destroyed.

The VILLA: a “home away from home”

In May of 2019, Bottura and his wife decided to buy this property to guarantee their guests an extra experience: the one of a “home away from home“. This villa is completely at the guests’ disposal. It includes a total of 12 rooms – a kitchen, an entertainment room, a liquor room, and a music room; here guests can wander freely, eat, drink, and do whatever they please. On the outside, there is an incredible garden, as well as a vegetable garden, a tennis court, a swimming pool…and lots of greenery!

The DINNER: a FAMILY and DOMESTIC Experience

The idea of a family and domestic experience of the villa reappears even in the restaurant hall, where Massimo and Lara wanted to “break” the wall between kitchen and hall, so that the guests can see the cooks in action. Moreover, the tables are very big, allowing guests to share their table with other people, to make conversation and to have a social experience – as far as we’re concerned, this idea is great!

The DINNER: the Menu

The chef who has cooked for us, has also offered a story and an explanation for each dish – the whole thing was in English because most of the guests were foreigners, that day.

First courseMont Saint Michel

Massimo got the inspiration for this dish while he was (guess?) at Mont Saint Michel, in France, where oysters are exceptional, and he really liked them.

This first course consisted of an oyster, inside of which there were smoked salt, an emulsion with extra virgin olive oil, seaweed, and caviar, two drops of balsamic vinegar and some apple cider ice.

Second courseIf I am Wrong I am Right

This dish has a very peculiar origin: inspired by The Beatles’ album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, it was developed during the first Covid lockdown: obviously, when the restaurant was closed, they couldn’t cook all together, so they had to do it via video-call. Exactly like the four musicians did for their album, every single person has put something personal into this dish.

The main ingredient is codfish, a fish that travels on any boat, towards any destination, outside of its comfort zone – a luxury that they didn’t have at the time at the beginning of the pandemic. This fish has been paired with odd flavours, such as pumpkin, ginger, coconut…so we can say it’s a little bit wrong and right at the same time!

Third courseRiso Camouflage

The name says it all: this dish is a risotto with a camouflage “look”, like the military pattern. It’s inspired by a story on Pablo Picasso who, seeing the pattern for the first time, allegedly said: “I was the one to invent it! It’s cubism!”. The principal colours of this dish are brown, green, and black – they represent land (mushrooms), the planet (cabbage and aromatic herbs) and the sea (and its different fishes) respectively.

Fourth courseFive ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, in different textures and temperatures

It stems from Massimo’s desire to keep himself close to the tradition of his region (using Parmiggiano-Reggiano a.k.a. Parmesan cheese) but in new and contemporary ways: this dish is the result of his experiments with the various consistencies of cheese, but also its different aging stages e.g., 24, 30, 36 and 50 months.

There’s only one other ingredient, water, which allows Massimo to manipulate and transform cheese – thanks to water, cheese can become a souffle, a foam, a cream, or a chip. Finally, air covers the whole dish like it was the fog of Emilia-Romagna.

Fifth course – The crunchy part of the lasagna

Originated from lasagna, this dish comes from Massimo’s past. Sometimes the past can be a very heavy luggage and we cannot bring it with us in the future, so we need to pick the elements that are important to us – this is the reason why he has chosen to recreate a part of his mother’s lasagna but only the best part, the one part that always started arguments with his brothers: the crunchy part of the lasagna.

The presentation consists of herbs, cheese, and tomato, recalling the Italian flag – the pasta is cooked so that it’s crunchy and it’s laid on béchamel sauce (one of the “main sauces” of the French cuisine, it’s a sauce made of butter, flour, and milk) and ragù (an Italian meat-based sauce).

Sixth courseBeautiful psychedelic, spin painted veal, charcoal grilled with glorious colors as a painting

We could almost consider this dish a piece of art: it was inspired by the famous artist Damien Hirst, and his series of “Spin paintings“, in particular. Massimo has actually been to one of Hirst’s exhibits in London, the one that was hold inside of a Burger King – it was his first and last time inside one of the famous fast-food restaurant.

This dish is a slow-cooked marinated veal, accompanied by several sauces, all with different colours and flavours. We were also given a slice of bread to “fare la scarpetta” (meaning that bread is used to ‘clean’ the plate) – yes, here in Italy we do this even in a 3-Michelin-star restaurant!

Seventh courseTiramizucca

The first dessert was a classic Italian one (tiramisu) but with a seasonal ingredient: pumpkin! Massimo has transformed tiramisu into a “tiramizucca” (tiramisu + zucca) making a cream with pumpkin and mascarpone cheese, laid on crumbs of amaretto biscuit (Italian almond biscuit) and coffee frosting, all covered by cocoa powder.

Eight courseOops! I dropped the lemon tart

As you might have understood from its name, this dish recreates a lemon tart that has fallen on the floor and has turned into mush…there’s even the broken plate! Yes, it’s based on a true story: while everyone was in a state of despair, Massimo was thinking “Why not recreating this? It’s so cool”!

Ninth courseSurprise surprise

…and what a surprise! The last course was a plate full of tortellini! What are you supposed to do, after having eaten all the other food and the dessert? You eat tortellini too, obviously!

To conclude the evening, we were served coffee, according to the Italian tradition (yes, even if it was 11 p.m.), served with pastries that symbolized the whole Italian peninsula: chocolate for the North, tiramisu for the Center and mini babàs ( small yeast cake saturated in syrup made with hard liquor, usually rum, and sometimes filled with whipped cream or pastry cream) for the South.

The Breakfast

After such a dinner, only 9 hours after all this delicious food, we ate again!

The breakfast offered at Casa Maria Luigia is based on the local (Modena) cuisine. The most typical foods were gnocco fritto (fried bread prepared with flour, water and lard) with mortadella (sliced meat, also known as “bologna”), ricotta and balsamic vinegar and cotechino (a large pork sausage, characterized by its gelatinous substance) with zabaione (a dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, and a sweet wine) and almond biscuits. It was all excellent, everything tasted divine! Among the non-typical foods -which were just as good- there were: focaccia bread with ricotta, walnuts and apple; frittatas with onions and aubergines; fruit roasted in a pan with maple syrup and cinnamon; lemon and chocolate muffins; biscuits. We ate everything with a side of orange juice, a coffee and a cappuccino

…then we went home rolling over! Jokes aside, we worked all the food off on our way back home, which included a taxi ride, a local train and then a fast train! This part of our experience is not as cool as the rest, though.

Now we want you to comment! What do you think of these dishes? Which one did you like the most? Who has already been to Osteria Francescana? If you’re tired of watching us eat, do not forget to wath the video in which we tried to cook a Florentine style beefsteak!

Leave a Reply