Dinner at Osteria Francescana
I'm in a taxi on the way to Osteria Francescana with my husband and our two friends. My friend asks, "What do you think is the difference between one and three Michelin stars?" Between the four of us, none of us have been to a three-star restaurant. In the Michelin system, one-star warrants a stop, two stars are worth a detour, but three stars mean the meal is "worth a special journey." It has also topped San Pelligrino's The World's 50 Best Restaurants list and now sits among the Best of the Best category. Osteria Francescana sits inside a dusty pink building, its door denoted by gold plaques; one of which reads 'Les Grandes Tables du Monde.'
At 8 pm, the door opens, the staff greets you and ushers you to your table. The restaurant is three rooms with 12 tables. We are seated at one of the four tables in the room and handed an a la carte menu, a tasting menu, and a 177-page wine list. The room is some shade of cerulean blue accented with mauve curtains, and tan carpeted floors. It's quiet, which is surprising to me. Massimo exhibits so much passion, and the vibe at Casa Maria Luigia reflects that spirit, but Osteria Francescana noticeably does not. The service is professional, but it is evident that the staff is not there to make you feel at home. Is this the difference between one and three stars?
With the choice between à la carte and a tasting menu, we choose the tasting menu. Tasting menus tend to tell a story, so choosing à la carte feels like telling Shakespeare how to write a sonnet. The amuse-bouche comes out, admittedly my favorite part of these kinds of meals, and seconds later, what looks like a Nestle Drumstick but is actually foie gras with balsamic and nuts completely ruins my ability ever to have a Nestle Drumstick again and not it be foie gras.
From here on out it is one beautiful dish after the next. Each plate is balanced and perfectly executed. At a one-star meal, some dishes hit and some dishes miss, but here, each dish seduced you into the next one. Mid-meal, we all look at each other and laugh because it's good, really good, and it feels like we've all stumbled upon a closely held secret.
Since that night, people have asked about the meal. They want to know if it was worth it. They want to know what it was like. The truth is that I feel like I want to go three more times to see what I missed, and when I feel like I haven't missed anything, I want to return to see what else I can find.