(Note: the copy editor strike at KrikorianWrites continues in its 29th day)

Eigtheen minutes before five Californians were to arrive at the highest rated restaurant in Italy for their 12:30 lunch,  they ordered a plate of mortadella and pancetta, and rocks glasses of red wines from a stall in a covered market less than 400 meters away from their revered destination, Osteria Franscescana.  

The co-owner of this food stall, Sara, proclaimed the mortadella and pancetta "a good order" and started slicing. On this much anticipated gastronomic day, this food would be the fivesome's only order that was delivered.

By 1 p.m., Nancy Silverton, Liz "Go Go" Hong, Matt Molina, Bobby Silverstein and Michael Krikorian had ordered at Osteria Francecana, the three Michelin-starred Modena jewel of Massimo Bottura that is the highest rated restaurant in the prestigious L'Expresso Guide to Italy with a 19.75 rating, tied for highest in the Gambero Rosso guide at 95 (with Vassani, in Umbria)  and currently listed as the 3rd best restaurant in the world according to the curious San Pellegrino list. 

The five ordered three courses each, 15 different dishes for this special gathering. Rumors swirled throughout Emilia Romagna that the Three Tenors"Pass the Plate" record could be shattered today.  However, and somewhat stunningly, these five salavating diners woud get none of their order. 

Ten minutes after their request went into the kitchen. Chef Massimo Bottura appeared at the table holding the paper order and squinting at it like it was either a badly scribbled ransom note or, at the very least, a recipe for culinary disaster.

 "This order of yours,"  he said, then didn't finish the sentence. . A grimace ensued. He had something painful to say and was having difficulty saying it. The Californiansstared in silence for about three, maybe even four seconds. That can be a long time.    

 "I'm thinking it would be better if |I just made you a menu of some of the things I want you to have,"

Krikorian jumped ship first, abandoning his fellow diners faster than a former Kadifi aide at a Misrata spring BBQ.  "I agree, That would be fine. That's what I wanted." 

But, backup didn't come quickly. Go Go sat speechless. Nancy seemed perplexed, Matty looked insulted and Bobby put on a poker face. 

Massimo continued, "I'd like to prepare some dishes that represent what I do here andwhat my family traditions are. It would be a tribute to the land, to the farmers. It would be an honoring of the soil, of the animal. A meal of this land, of our people."

"I'm thinking "Is this guy a chef or is he running for the 52nd State Assembly seat in the San Joaquin Valley," Krikorian said later.   

Massimo continued with her fervent appeal to agree to his order. Soon Bobby Silverstein was converted, later admitting that was what he wanted all along..

But Molina, continued with his efforts to keep some of the original order, "Well, you seen what we've ordered. You have an idea of what we like, Can you make a meal around some of those dishes?"

Massimo, about as low key and charming as a famous chef can be, was starting to leak exasperation. "Look, you can order whatever you like," he said and started to walk away.

Bobby Silverstein  later said it was his very polite way of saying "Order whatever the fuck you want."

Matt Molina later said , "His kitchen probably couldn't handle our order."

A Japanese Francescana sous chef in the kitchen, listening in on a dining room surveilance camera that feeds to the kitchen, said to the staff, "Americans ordering like this is Chinese restaurant. 'I'll have one from column. A,., two column b..."   

Nancy swayed Massimo back and he went on more about what he wanted to cook. She asked how many courses. Seven, he said and made a major point in saying the dessert would be the best ham in Italy, Massimo Spigaroli's 42-month aged culatello.  

Go Go was profoundly moved by that. "He had me with his "ham for dessert" line", she later said.  By then, everyone was in agreeement. We would have the menu Massimo Bottura wanted to cook for us. 

A report on the meal will appear here later.

But, a brief report of the reviews follows now.

After the meal Matt Molina, not a gusher of praise, had this to say "Chef's food tasted like what you would want allMIchelin three stars and San Pelligrino top rated places to taste like. It had soul."

Bobby Silverstein, notorious for finding fault in higly rated places and even more so for complaining about the often-long drive to get to them,  simply said "This place was worth the journey."

Go Go Hong was in a state of rapture. "Culatello for dessert."

Shortly after the lunch, Nancy Silverton was walking near one of her favorite churches. the not grand, nearly rustic Duomo of Modena.  (Yes, Nancy has some favorites churches) when Krikorian asked her how she would rate this lunch with her all time restaurant meals. She started to list her alltime dining out experiences.   

 "Fredy Girardet. Umm, the first time I went to El Buli. The first time I went to Chez Panisse. Pierre Gagnaire. A vegetable lunch at Arpege. The first time I went to French Laundry."

Nancy continued, switching to why there was no Italian restaurants on the elite list. "Usually for Italian restaurants, I like the more traditional, the rustic. But, Osteria Francescana? It was great. It makes my all time list."

The lunch was traditional. The tradition of the life of Massimo Bottura and his family.