Al Gatto Verde in Modena is a celebration of woodfire cooking.
Massimo Bottura has no hobbies. Instead, he has projects. Namely, fiddling with his menus at his Modena-based restaurants Osteria Francescana, Franceschetta58, and Il Cavallino (not that they weren't perfect already). However, one thing on his figurative plate marries his personal and professional passions — Casa Maria Luigia, the bed and breakfast he runs with his wife, Lara, which is home to his brand-new restaurant, Al Gatto Verde.
At Al Gatto VerdeBottura blends his fascination with American barbecue and woodfire cooking with local ingredients and Italian techniques. Don’t be fooled, though, by the meat smoker bellowing meaty aromas outside the restaurant; this is no brown-paper rib joint with sauce in squeeze bottles (though I do love those). This is barbecue the Bottura way, where the flavors of over-the-fire cooking are displayed in the most elegant fine-dining presentations.
After dining at a few of Bottura's restaurants in Emilia Romagna, an exclusive experience I had with American Express Platinum’s By Invitation Only program for Platinum and Centurion members, I can attest that his food is always soulful, no matter how formally it is presented. It’s no surprise that his cooking style, which is so imbued with Italian generosity, jives well with the plentiful nature of barbecue traditions.
“Tóla Dólza!” take it easy, is written on the menu at Al Gatto Verde. For someone who thinks a mile a minute, Bottura appreciates that some of the best things take time. “Parmigiana starts with 550 liters of fresh milk in the morning and turns into 40 kilos of cheese by night, and you need to wait another 24 months before selling it,” he says. “Selling the milk might be better business, [but the wait] is what has saved Parmigiana tradition.”
Bottura’s reverence for slow food is on display at Al Gatto Verde, where he and Jessica Rosval, the executive chef for Casa Maria Luigia’s culinary program, collaborate on dishes like “Short Ribs Forever,” a perfect cube of beef short rib cooked for over 24 hours that defies physics by magically staying together while remaining fantastically tender. There’s also delicate candy-shaped caramelle pastas filled with ricotta that are charred in a wood-burning oven for good measure.
Despite his global acclaim and Michelin stars, Bottura sees his team here at Al Gatto Verde as the future.
“This is not about me. This is about Jessica and what she’s done here with the barbecue and how she’s developed all these techniques with the different wood-burning ovens at different temperatures,” Bottura says, beaming with pride. “Al Gatto Verde is an incredible project that feels completely new.”
If you’re traveling through Modena, a meal at Al Gatto Verde is a must, but if you’re short on time, you can always check out the epic breakfast buffet at Casa Maria Luigia. Looking for more Massimo? His new book Slow Food, Fast Cars shares stories, photos, and recipes from the estate, and one read will surely inspire you to book a plane ticket.
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