We’ve all heard of the great Massimo Bottura, we love his work, follow his charitable events and dream of dining in one of his restaurants during our next tour of Italy.
One of the latest creations in the Francescana Group is Ristorante Cavallino in Modena, spearheaded by a Chef whose style and finesse is packed with energy and gravitas; similar to the perceptions of Ferrari Group - a match made in heaven, perhaps.
The Chef in question, and the highlight of HORECA’s first international interview is Head Chef Riccardo Forapani; whose journey through the culinary world we will discover here.
What was the career and life path that brought you to be the Head Chef of Cavallino?
I was 20 years old when I joined the kitchen team of Osteria Francescana, Chef Massimo Bottura’s 3-MICHELIN restaurant in Modena. Traveling with Massimo and the team around Italy and the world, I learned about new culinary traditions and cultures that became an essential part of my approach to cooking.
Thirteen years later, I wanted to take a step back from the world of fine dining to follow my own path and devote myself to traditional local cuisine. When the Cavallino project began to take shape in 2020, Massimo chose me to lead the kitchen team. Two of my great passions converge here at Cavallino: the love for traditional cuisine absorbed from my mother, a great Modenese cook, and the love for motors inherited from my father, a mechanic who dreamed for his son a future in the world of Ferrari.
What is the concept behind Ristorante Cavallino? How does Bottura’s philosophy translate to the restaurant and how in turn does it impact you?
Ristorante Cavallino was born from the common intention of Ferrari and Massimo Bottura to give new life to the historic trattoria that Enzo Ferrari decided to open in the 1950s.
So, the restaurant was renovated and it re-opened in June 2021. Today, Cavallino can be defined as a classic restaurant, whose cuisine is based on the values that Francescana Group and Ferrari share: beauty, avant-garde concepts, aesthetics, tradition and innovation. We live in an age characterized by an incessant need of racing forward which often makes us feel the lack of reference points and values in which to recognize ourselves.
So, we inevitably feel the need to recover some of those values and, in gastronomy, this for us means recovering classicism, intended as what is an integral part of the collective imagination, what is recognizable: the classics. Just as Massimo transformed the great classics of Emilian cuisine into avant-garde dishes, we also try to recover the dishes we all know and in which we identify something familiar, the great traditional classics, adapting them to our contemporary vision and to the new needs of a public that has inevitably evolved over time.
How does the Emilian culinary way differ from the in-depth and hard-paced life of fine dining?
I think they do not necessarily have to differ; at Cavallino we try to make them go hand in hand, we aspire to make them co-exist. Traditional Emilian cuisine inspires our work every day. In Emilia, but also in Italy in general, many people become passionate about cooking as children, by watching their mother or grandmother cook at home. My mom was a great Modenese cook, so food, and especially traditional Emilian cuisine, has always held a special place in my life.
From tradition comes inspiration. The approach of a fine dining restaurant is that which allows you to carry on tradition, innovating it to bring it to the future. As I said before, we are a classic restaurant that wants to leave a memory, an emotion, and this is why we have chosen the classics that warm the heart, but that are always supported alongside technique and aesthetics, to make memories indelible and make people want to come back.
How was the menu built? The crème caramel al Parmigiano Reggiano sounds like a showstopper, what is the inspiration behind this innovative dish?
To create Cavallino’s menu, we started from traditional Emilian dishes, those that all of us in Emilia eat at home with the family or in traditional trattorias. We studied them and then recreated them according to our style, innovating them and making them more elegant and contemporary. The Parmigiano Reggiano crème caramel is probably the dish that best represents what we are trying to do. In this dish, crème caramel meets onion frittata, two of the most typical dishes of traditional Emilian trattorias and Italian home cooking in general.
We take the onion frittata and rethink its shape and taste through aesthetics. The texture and appearance become that of a crème caramel but made of Parmesan cheese, with clean and elegant lines. The usually coarsely chopped onion becomes an onion gel reminiscent of the caramel that coats the dessert, bordering on burnt, reminiscent of that taste of the onion frittata that at home almost always comes out of the oven browned, right where the onion bits come out of the dough.