Chef Massimo Bottura On Challenging Tradition And Combating Hunger Chef Massimo Bottura's restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy currently holds the top spot on the annual list of the world's 50 best restaurants. But his creative and contemporary take on Italian cuisine wasn't always a hit with the locals. Bottura joins Stretch and Bobbito to talk about the early days of his now-famous restaurant, the humble roots of Italian cuisine and how he's using his influence to advocate against food waste and hunger via his non-profit, Food For Soul. Plus, Jon Gray from the Bronx-based food collective Ghetto Gastro calls in to talk about their plans to collaborate on a community kitchen project.
NPR logo

Chef Massimo Bottura On Challenging Tradition And Combating Hunger

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/655618925/656024056" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Chef Massimo Bottura On Challenging Tradition And Combating Hunger

Chef Massimo Bottura On Challenging Tradition And Combating Hunger

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/655618925/656024056" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ADRIAN BARTOS, HOST:

Hey, everybody. Just to let you know, this podcast may contain some adult or possibly offensive language.

ROBERT GARCIA, HOST:

No nudity, though.

BARTOS: (Laughter) Unless you're thinking about naked people.

MASSIMO BOTTURA: It's not easy to break tradition, you know - or, like, evolve tradition in Italy. They want to burn me in the main piazza as a witch.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES BROWN'S "CHASE")

BARTOS: Hey, hey, hey, party people in the place to be. You're checking out WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO.

GARCIA: (In unison) STRETCH & BOBBITO.

BARTOS: I am Stretch Armstrong.

GARCIA: My name is Bobbito Garcia.

BARTOS: Indeed.

GARCIA: And I'm hungry right now.

BARTOS: Well, you're going to get hungrier...

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: ...Because we don't have food, and today's guest is the world-renowned chef and humanitarian, Massimo Bottura.

GARCIA: Now, Stretch, I have to admit that I'm not the jealous type.

BARTOS: Peanut butter and jelly?

GARCIA: But (speaking Spanish), you were able to go to his restaurant in Italy, in Modena, and experience the No. 1-rated restaurant, at this point, in the entire world. What was that like?

BARTOS: Yeah, well, of course, I got invited by Massimo. I was deejaying an event for our friend, Giorgio de Mitri (ph). It was a costume party. I'm deejaying in the booth, and I didn't really participate in the full grandeur of costume-ology. I was wearing a white suit with a white mask. That's it - because, you know, you're deejaying, right? You're getting hot and whatnot. And Massimo comes into the booth, and he puts his hand out and says, hello, are you Stretch?

GARCIA: Was he dressed as a lasagna? (Laughter).

BARTOS: (Laughter) He was dressed as the crunchy part of the lasagna. I have to admit, like, I had heard of him, but I didn't know what he looked like. And I guessed that it was him for some reason. And when he said, I hope you can come to my restaurant to eat, I was hoping that it was him...

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: ...Because that would mean we were going to go to Osteria Francescana. And the next day, sure enough, I was there.

GARCIA: Sitting at - and this...

BARTOS: At the chef's table.

GARCIA: ...Now, this is a restaurant that has a waiting list of - what? - months, maybe a year, to sit at. And you're just meeting him for the first time and then - like, how serendipitous.

BARTOS: It was incredible. It surpassed my expectations. Massimo was there for the whole meal. And in between explaining what each dish meant, he was telling just crazy stories about things that happened in New York with other chefs, about nightclubbing back in the day. It was just the most incredible experience, culinarily, that I've ever had. I probably will never experience something like that again, unless I can go to Osteria with you.

GARCIA: And he also has a nonprofit, Food for Soul, which he has been collaborating with other chefs and restaurants around the world. Our audience out there, you are in for a treat. Coming up next, Massimo, the grand chef.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES BROWN'S "CHASE")

BARTOS: And we are back in the studio with...

GARCIA: (Singing in Italian).

BOTTURA: Oh, God, this is - this is crazy. What's going on here?

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: ...With world-renowned...

GARCIA: (Laughter) He doesn't know what he's in - getting into.

BOTTURA: No, I don't know what...

BARTOS: Can we start this thing?

BOTTURA: Where am I?

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: (Laughter) You did look a little discombobulated when you walked in. What happened?

BOTTURA: This is a zoo.

GARCIA: Did they prep you?

BARTOS: Where you taken...

BOTTURA: No, I don't know anything. You know, I just walk in.

BARTOS: (Laughter).

GARCIA: (Laughter) Well, welcome to our show. This is WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH...

BARTOS: That's right. And the voice you're hearing is none other than world-renowned chef Massimo Bottura. I think at this stage...

BOTTURA: Hi, guys.

BARTOS: ...You're reaching like...

GARCIA: Did he pronounce it - did he pronounce it OK?

BOTTURA: Yeah, perfect. Actually, one of the first one who pronounced Massimo Bottura very well.

GARCIA: Oh, cool.

BARTOS: You're reaching that level of status where, I think, we might even be able to just drop the Botturo. Like, when someone says Massimo, they know who they're talking about.

BOTTURA: Yeah.

BARTOS: Right?

BOTTURA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

BARTOS: Yeah, exactly.

BOTTURA: They all call me Massimo.

BARTOS: Yeah. You learned how to cook from your mother, your grandmother and your aunts. Is that correct?

BOTTURA: Yeah. I think my grandmother was extremely important in my life, first of all, because she convinced me to stop playing soccer as a profession, but keep studying. I was 17, and I was pretty good at playing soccer - as all Italians, you know, does. And she said, you know, if you want to play, you can play, but you're going to regret for the rest of your life. So keep studying, keep studying. It's very important.

And she convinved me, and that was a key moment in my life. Or my mom - she transferred the obsession about the quality of the ingredients, you know. And my mom was very important in a moment in which I start studying to become a - at law school. And then she saw me - that I wasn't happy at all.

I drop law school, and I - one week later, I was in the kitchen of a small place in the countryside of Modena. And I put all my self, all my strength because I had to show my father that my mom was right and he was wrong, you know. So if I think about my mom and my grandmother, you know, those two moments were, like, the most important moments of my life, you know.

BARTOS: I'm just curious about, you know, the role of women in the traditional Italian home, right? They're the ones in the kitchen, right?

BOTTURA: Yeah. They're - yeah.

BARTOS: Are they territorial, like men stay out or?

BOTTURA: No, no. It's like - it's been woman territory in which, you know, usually, in the countryside, they were taking care of the old even - the old economy, you know. They didn't lose one piece of bread crumbs because they know exactly what to do with everything. My grandmother was saying the 8 of December where we were killing the pigs was very special moment for us in a country. She was saying this pig is giving his life and is going to feed the family for all year, so we have to be very respectful. It's a very spiritual action. He's giving his life for us, so we have to use every single bone of the animal.

So that's the point that, for me, was like extremely important that - because I've learned not to waste anything. And around the table in the kitchen, you know, it's the way you put together the family. You know, all my brothers and sisters and aunts and, you know, parents and mother and grandmothers all together. And you play, you fight, you make peace. You dream together. You plan the future. You talk about business or soccer or whatever. But it's always in the kitchen table.

GARCIA: So I'm thinking, you know, World War II, right? Your grandmothers are coming of age in this era. And, you know, what was food like in Italy during these times and post-World War II? I'm imagining the cuisine and the food available had to have taken a shift.

BOTTURA: Yeah.

GARCIA: And what memories - not your own, of course. You're not old enough.

BOTTURA: No, no, no, no. It's - I have so many stories that Lidia - Lidia was my first chef in Trattoria del Campazzo. And she's like the woman that really gave me the opportunity to learn in a professional way how to prepare and to be ready for a big night, you know. And Lidia and my grandmother was - they were telling me all these stories about food and tradition that, you know, they disappear. You know, for example, countryside. No, there was nothing because, you know, the Germans and the fascists, they were like killing everything and steal everything. And that moment then that, you know, you didn't have anything to eat.

And farmers, they were chasing for wild potatoes that, at that time, they were called wild potatoes. And they were boiling them, and they were really bad. Those wild potatoes were truffles. The black truffles - the big black truffles - they were used as a potatoes. And they - I don't want to say they smell, but they taste like earth. But when you didn't have anything to eat and you didn't know what to do with that kind of stuff, you were boiling them and, you know, to survive.

Those kind of things is like unbelievable. Like passatelli, like one of my favorite meal is like bread crumbs with bread like four, five days old. You grate it, and you mix with some Parmigiano-Reggiano crust grated on top of that and one or two eggs - makes a very quick dough - some nutmeg and squeezing it into a potato squeezer into a broth like chicken broth maybe, and you eat as a noodle.

GARCIA: And this is something that was generated during the 1930s, '40s during wartime?

BOTTURA: Yeah. Italian cuisine comes from the people, you know. The Italians, they were like very poor. And they were like developing this cuisine with nothing. So that's what we are, you know. With a tomato, give me a tomato, a plate of - and, you know, a couple of, you know, one pound of pasta, and we're going to create something amazing and so enjoyable, you know.

GARCIA: Love it.

BARTOS: You hungry?

BOTTURA: I want to know why you asked me that. It's the first time they asked me something like that. But I'm very interested, you know.

GARCIA: My mother, she was raised in Puerto Rico, right? And, you know, there's a dish there called vianda. Basically, they take the yautia, they take the yucca, they take the patata and they mix it all together in like a stew. And it's really - it's not just about what would go well with each other, but it's also making the best out of what the earth provides. And we generally conceive of Italian cuisine as this, I mean, you know, your restaurant is ranked No. 1 in the world right now, so we think of it in - a very high level and similar way with French cuisine - couldn't have always been like that.

BOTTURA: This kind of mentality is exactly the mentality we approach at the Refettorio. We have...

GARCIA: What is the Refettorio?

BOTTURA: Refettorio is like my social project, is like - during the Universal Exposition 2015, the theme was feed the planet. We produce food for 12 billion people. We are 7 billion on earth. One billion people - they don't have anything to eat. And we waste 1.3 billion tons of food. This is unacceptable. So feed the planet means, for me, fight waste and not produce more. All the waste is going to be - is polluting the world. It's the first cause of pollution.

So this is crazy. We produce food. We use energy, water and human resources. And then we polluted the world because we burn it, we don't eat it. We set up the bar very high. We create our own pavilion outside the Universal Exposition. We regenerate this amazing 1930 theater, and we created beautiful place that revived the old neighborhood, welcoming people like migrants, refugees, homeless people, people in need, in a most amazing space.

So through beauty, you can rebuild dignity of the people. This, in three years, became a global movement. In 2018, the chef is much more than the sum of his recipes. That means you have a voice. You can use the spotlight that is on you as best restaurant in the world and help the other, you know. This is consciousness, you know.

BARTOS: When you talk about food, you often invoke the concept of family, sort of really and figuratively. Of course, you have your own family. And then Francescana is a family.

BOTTURA: Absolutely.

BARTOS: Seems like you've done this beautiful thing where you've kind of integrated the two. So if you could just maybe talk about the concept of family and how it relates to food.

BOTTURA: Of course. It's like - I dedicate, really, my life, the obsession of cooking and obsession of quality. And, you know, once you start, you know, you have this kind of mentality, you have to involve your family because otherwise, you're going to lose it. So I start involving Lara, Charlie and Alexa in the - in our everyday life.

GARCIA: Charlie and Alexa are your children?

BOTTURA: Yeah. And...

GARCIA: Our listeners don't know.

BOTTURA: I'm sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: Our listeners are like, who are these three people he's talking about?

BOTTURA: Yeah. It's like my wife and my daughter and my son. Of course, I speak like with my friends, you know, here. And we dedicate our life to the restaurant, to feed the people, to hospitality. And so we need to integrate this. And as Lara said many times, you know - my wife said, I marry Massimo, but I also marry the restaurant because it's like we treat them as a family, you know. We provide them a place to sleep, food, you know, everything, you know.

BOTTURA: I had the privilege of dining at the Osteria with our friend George Dimitri (ph) and his lovely wife.

BOTTURA: And I was not there.

BARTOS: And you were there.

BOTTURA: I was there. I'm always there. I'm always say hi to people, welcome people, you know, as I - always.

GARCIA: There's an intellectual component to your food.

BOTTURA: Yes.

GARCIA: And you walked us through everything.

BOTTURA: Yeah.

GARCIA: I never really contemplated the amount of thought that went into a dish.

BOTTURA: It's crazy, yeah.

GARCIA: So - and one of the main takeaways for me was that the tradition of not just Italian cooking but the cooking from your area is very strong. But you said it's not holy, right?

BOTTURA: No. No, no. Absolutely. To me, one of the most important thing is like - it's like, look at the past in a very critic way, not in a nostalgic one. Because if you look at the past in a nostalgic manner, you don't change anything. You don't evolve. But in a critic way, you can get the best from the past into the future. When The New York Times gave me the honor to be one of the greats, you know, and I showed a video with Yuri (ph) - an artist - about just the sound of the crunchy part of the lasagna. The crunchy part of the lasagna is the most interesting part of the big pan of the lasagna that the grandmother usually bring out in the middle of the table for Sunday lunch. Me and my brothers, we were fighting over the crunchy part of the lasagna.

So when I am rebuilding, you know, and I'm cooking something like that, you know, I don't care about eating like this big pan of lasagna or serving like an enormous amount of food. I want to serve emotions. And to serve emotion, I have to rebuild the crunchy part of the lasagna and share with everyone who comes to Osteria just that corner - crunchy corner - with the perfect Bolognese sauce and an amazing, you know, bechamel. That's the point.

You know, you don't come to Osteria Francescana, travel 24 hours by plane and to eat good food. Of course it's good food. It's a three Michelin star. But you come to eat the culture expression of the chef. If you ask me, what do you do every day? I answer, I compress into edible bites my passion. But sitting on centuries of history, so it's super Italian and - but filtered by a contemporary mind.

BARTOS: I read, though, that the first year, you were feeding friends constantly, right?

BOTTURA: You know, friends because no one was showing up at the restaurant.

BARTOS: So you had to get people - you had to get asses in seats.

BOTTURA: Yeah. There was like years by years by years, like, you know, no one was showing up. I had to sell everything, you know. Now, it's very easy to see, oh, my God, so successful - No. 1 restaurant in the world. But for seven years, you know, it was like struggling and struggling because we were cooking exactly same things now. The five different age Parmigiano in five different texture and temperature, the ice cream bar, foie gras with balsamic vinegar and, you know, crunchy almond and hazelnuts.

You know, but people didn't want that. They didn't understand. It was too avant-garde for them. And then, you know, when the first stars arrived, when, you know, I receive all the prizes and the things, it became, you know, they became icon for the contemporary cuisine. It's not easy to break tradition, you know or like evolve tradition in Italy. They want to burn me in the main piazza as a witch, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: You know, but the key point was the moment in which we were showing all these guys, the locals, that we can cook better than their grandmothers, you know. That was the moment. That was the moment in which we would make pasta better than the grandmothers. They understood that I could paint also in abstract. You know, Picasso was always saying, you know, I was drawing as Raphael since I was 13. And then he took - whole life to paint like a kid, exactly like us, you know.

Like, you couldn't - you have to do step-by-step. You can't pass. You can't (unintelligible) people if they don't understand. You have to show them step-by-step what you can do, and then you take with them - you take, you know, by hand and say, come with me. I'll show you also what we can do.

BARTOS: So we are in New York City, some place that you return to frequently.

BOTTURA: Yeah.

BARTOS: You live in New York in '93, but you already have the restaurant back at home, right?

BOTTURA: Yes. yes.

BARTOS: How does that work? How do you just get up and go?

BOTTURA: I don't know. I don't know. I was - I was ready to leave. And New York was my place. I fell in love since the first time I came in...

GARCIA: Oh, so you came in 1982?

BOTTURA: In '82, yeah.

GARCIA: And what did you experience then?

BARTOS: What a time.

BOTTURA: Yeah, that was - you know, that was very different.

GARCIA: Were you into breaking at all?

BOTTURA: No, we were - we were here with a team of people. We were all young kids learning English. It was insane.

BARTOS: Were you unsupervised for some of that time?

BOTTURA: Yeah.

BARTOS: His face - his eyes.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: You look like a devil right now. What's going on?

BOTTURA: Yeah - no, no, no.

BARTOS: What happened?

BOTTURA: No, it's like - we had like - you know, it was amazing.

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: It was amazing. I fell in love with New York, you know. And, like, in '93, I left everything to come here. Then I rent a small apartment in the Upper West Side. That day was - I was walking in SoHo - I remember the exact day. It was the 7 of October - of April, 1993. I was walking in this - the area in SoHo between Grand and Mercer, checking, you know, Jeffrey Deitch Gallery...

GARCIA: Nice.

BOTTURA: ...On Grand. And then I see a sign of an important coffee brand - Italian coffee brand. I said, I'm going to have a cappuccino. And I walk in, and I ask for a cappuccino. It took, like, 25 minutes to have a cappuccino. So I said, my God, these guys - they have problems.

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: So I said, I'm not doing anything, you know, right now. I will maybe help them. And so I left my number, blah, blah, blah. And I went back home. And I receive a message on the answering machine, saying, can you come tomorrow? And this same day, Lara applied for a job in that same place as a bartender. She was acting at Wooster Theater on the other side of the street, and she received the same message.

So we start the 9 of April. And in one week, we had the key of the restaurant. I decide the menu. I kept the restaurant open for dinner too - because they were, like, serving just the breakfast, lunch. And became pretty successful. And this was going on until September, end of September. So I went back home because I had to go back home. And I left everything, you know, again.

BARTOS: What were you exposed to in New York City that you carry with you to this day?

BOTTURA: Actually, I met my wife there, you know.

BARTOS: You still carry her, yes (laughter).

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BOTTURA: But no, Lara was extremely, extremely helpful. She really makes visible the invisible for me. There was a before and after New York, you know? So I start really getting deep into art and stealing idea from the artist and putting them in edible ideas, you know? Like, these all new generation of British artists, like Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Jake and Dinos Chapman - all these guys, you know? The first one that she introduced me were, like, the wild American - like, beginning of the '80s - like, Robert Longo, Schnabel, you know, Christopher Wool, Peter Halley, Ross Bleckner - you know, all these guys. That was something that really inspired me and evolved my way of thinking and my way of cooking. So when I open Osteria Francescana in '95, I was already on another planet, you know, with my mind.

GARCIA: You mentioned your nonprofit, Food for Soul, earlier. You've collabed with other chefs and restaurants worldwide, and it includes a Bronx native, one of the cofounders of Ghetto Gastro, by the name of Jon Gray. And we actually have him on the phone.

BOTTURA: Really?

BARTOS: Live from London.

BOTTURA: Oh, Jon. Where are you?

JON GRAY: I'm a London, man. I'm in the Ends out here.

GARCIA: I'm in London, man.

(LAUGHTER)

GRAY: What's up, baby?

BOTTURA: Ciao, ciao.

GRAY: Ciao, Massimo. Ciao, Bobbito. Ciao, Stretch. What's good?

BARTOS: What up, my man?

GARCIA: You don't sound Italian at all.

(LAUGHTER)

GRAY: That's the north south Bronx accent, you know? The real Little Italy, off the ave, you dig?

GARCIA: (Laughter) Word up.

BARTOS: Hey, Jon. Just to make this dummy-proof for those that don't know, can you briefly describe what Ghetto Gastro is?

GRAY: Sure, sure. You know, it's a culinary collective. Me and three of my comrades kind of got together - wanted to express, like, the essence of our childhood, which is like hip-hop, growing up on shows like STRETCH & BOBBITO, you know?

GARCIA: Woo-eee (ph).

GRAY: With those vibes. Like, and distilling that feeling into food, and food events, and products around food, and just taking the aesthetic of, like, postmodernism, aka hip-hop, and bringing that to the game.

GARCIA: It's so funny because we could - we could extract the words hip-hop and the Bronx out of what you just said, and it completely reflects exactly what Massimo has been sharing with us about his approach towards cooking and cuisine.

BARTOS: True, true.

GRAY: And just for the record, I'm the one - I'm the one member of Ghetto Gastro that's not a chef. They call me the dishwasher.

BARTOS: (Laughter).

GARCIA: Oh, man.

BOTTURA: You are. You are. But you have to be proud of being that. I always say each role is very important. Like, yeah, you have the chef. But if the dishwashers screw up, you know, the whole service goes bad. So it's - the team is the team. Doesn't matter if you are the chef or the dishwasher. And Jon.

GRAY: You already know.

BARTOS: Tell us how Massimo Bottura and Ghetto Gastro link up.

GARCIA: Yeah, because that's two worlds apart.

BARTOS: Can I tell this story, Max (ph)?

BOTTURA: Yeah, yeah, of course.

GRAY: So check it. We - like, four years ago, we in Copenhagen at this, I guess, symposium called MAD. And we kind of mob out...

GARCIA: Is that an acronym for something?

GRAY: Is it an acronym, Massimo?

GARCIA: Is MAD an acronym for something?

GRAY: I think mad just means food in Danish.

BOTTURA: Yeah.

GARCIA: Oh, okay.

GRAY: So I think it's like...

BARTOS: Yeah (laughter).

GRAY: I think it's like a little double entendre. They try to, you know, get on they Shawn Carter, I guess, with this thing. So we up there at MAD Symposium. And me and the homies, we mobbing through there. And we had on the GG merch. And we at, like, one of the after-parties. And we meet Massimo his wife Lara at our friend Matt Orlando's restaurant Amass. We had dinner the night before.

And then we went to the party. And we mobbing. I guess Massimo might have had a few drinks. We were overdrinking (ph). And we had the GG shirts on. And Massimo ran down on my partner Les like - yo, where the fuck is my - can I curse on this? Is this like - what's the...

BOTTURA: Yeah, do whatever you want.

BARTOS: Too late now.

(LAUGHTER)

BARTOS: It's already out there.

GRAY: Massimo's like, like, yo, where's my GG shirt? I'm Ghetto Gastro. Where's my shirt? And he put pressure on the homie, and so he had to give him a shirt. And ever since then, I feel like we've been mobbing. You know?

BOTTURA: That's true. That's what happened. And then, you know, we became friends. And you know, they came and visit Mas (ph) and Osteria many times. Actually, they sleep in my house. So...

GRAY: That's...

BOTTURA: That's how we treat people in Modena, you know? And people - Jon, like, is part of the family now.

BARTOS: Beautiful.

GARCIA: So how how does Food for Soul, the nonprofit, and Ghetto Gastro act on a human level to create food for the objective of providing for those who may not have?

GRAY: So I first learned about Food for Soul when I think it was still - it was still a work in progress. And it's when Massimo and Lara had come to New York. They did a book signing at the 92nd Street Y, which ironically is where I used to go to summer camp and after-school when I was living in El Barrio, Spanish Harlem.

So we went there for that. And they kind of gave us, like, the little teaser. Like - yo, we working on something real important. It's going to be good at some point. We want to, like, involve you if it makes sense. And then when they launched in Milan at the expo, I had the privilege of going out there. Then I was able to spend a day kind of observing. It was just really inspiring to kind of see people really treated - people that might have been down on some hard times or going through something at a time, like, being able to be in a space that was beautiful and treated like human beings and served world-class cuisine. And using the waste - that piece also struck a chord.

But also just like the elders from the community come and end the violence here and having a place and something to do - so it's like that multi-generational immersion really touched me. And just being from the Bronx, which is like - the people of the community are very food insecure. We don't have a lot of access to good food options. So I was like, yo, when you're thinking about New York, let's think about the Bronx and how we can make it happen. So I think that's what we're still trying to figure out, locking the right partners to get that going in New York at some point.

BARTOS: Well, if you need help...

GARCIA: Yes.

BARTOS: ...Once the Bronx gets going, please...

BOTTURA: Of course. Of course we will.

BARTOS: Lean on us. We'd love to help you.

BOTTURA: We will need all the help from everyone - you know? - because it's extremely important. The more you involve community, the more important we became because it's like - it's all about, you are welcome - come; walk in; be part of our community.

GARCIA: Hey, Jon - appreciate you reaching out, my brother. And I look forward to meeting you and crossing paths at some point, although I...

BOTTURA: Ciao, Jon.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

GRAY: No question - let's build.

BOTTURA: Ciao, Jon.

BARTOS: Later, man.

BOTTURA: Ciao.

GARCIA: Peace.

BOTTURA: Ciao, Jon.

GRAY: All right, ciao. Peace, everybody.

GARCIA: We're going to take a quick break. Massimo, we'll be right back...

BOTTURA: Yep.

GARCIA: ...All Right?

BOTTURA: Yes, of course.

GARCIA: All right.

BOTTURA: Of course.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOBBITO GARCIA'S "ROCK RUBBER 45S")

BARTOS: And we're back with Massimo Bottura.

GARCIA: Word up. And it's time for their Impression Session. It's pretty simple. Massimo, we're going to do something that you love to do, which is listen to music.

BOTTURA: Oh.

GARCIA: We're each going to play you a track. You react, and it's simple as that. All right?

BARTOS: (Laughter).

BOTTURA: I'm here. I'm here. I'm here.

GARCIA: All right. Cool.

BARTOS: Who's going first?

GARCIA: I kind of feel like you always go first. So why don't I go first?

BARTOS: You go first.

GARCIA: Yeah? OK, cool. All right. So we're going to play you a track. Enjoy.

BOTTURA: All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEESECAKE (FEAT. BILLY KYLE)")

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: My girl loves cheesecake. (Singing) Oh, cheesecake, munching on a cheesecake, munching on a cheesecake...

BARTOS: Post-modern music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEESECAKE (FEAT. BILLY KYLE)")

ARMSTRONG: (Singing) Cheesecake. Cheesecake, munching on a cheesecake, munching on a cheesecake. Cheesecake. Cheesecake - gobble, gobble - cheesecake - gobble, gobble - cheesecake. Cheesecake. Cheesecake - gobble, gobble - cheesecake - gobble, gobble - cheesecake.

BOTTURA: This is so good.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEESECAKE (FEAT. BILLY KYLE)")

ARMSTRONG: (Singing) Cheesecake. Cheesecake, munching on a cheesecake, munching on a cheesecake. Cheesecake. Oh, cheesecake - munching on a cheesecake, munching on a cheesecake. Cheesecake. Cheesecake - gobble, gobble, cheesecake - gobble, gobble - cheesecake.

GARCIA: So the artist was Louis Armstrong...

BOTTURA: Yeah.

GARCIA: ...As you might imagine. And the title of the track, as you might imagine as well...

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: ...Is "Cheesecake."

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: So what'd you think of it?

BOTTURA: About cheesecake or about Armstrong...

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: ...Or about this song?

GARCIA: All three.

BOTTURA: Not crazy about New Orleans jazz. Of course, it was, like, beginning. And everything start from there. I don't want to be a music critic, you know? Like - I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it.

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: I love it, you know. And about cheesecake - you know, it's not so easy as you think. You know, you need really knowledge to create the perfect cheesecake.

GARCIA: Gobble, gobble.

BOTTURA: And the song - the gobble-gobble, yeah...

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: ...It's OK. What are Massimo and his family - his personal family, not your restaurant family - what are your guilty pleasures in terms of food?

BOTTURA: My guilty pleasure is, like, eating late at night, you know? When you finish, sometimes, you know, I have a decompression room. That is my music room. In there, sometimes I could get some chocolate cream and get some toast and, you know, eat...

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: ...Something I usually don't have to do - yeah - if you want to keep, like, you know, perfect fit...

GARCIA: Yeah, yeah.

BOTTURA: ...You know? That is what I like, you know? It's like - oh, pizza, pizza - ooh.

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: I love simple pizza, you know? That's very...

BARTOS: (Singing) Gobble, gobble, pizza?

BOTTURA: No - gobble, gobble pizza, you know? Yeah, don't...

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: ...You know, no pineapple, please - no way on pizza.

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: Sometimes, you know, I meet people - like, crazy people. You know, there was this professor from Boston University. I don't remember what kind of reader. But he was trying to convince me that pizza was invented in Chicago.

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: And I was like, are you sure? You know, are you sure you're real? What the hell are you talking about, you know? And you know, pizza is, like, something that sounds or looks very simple. But to eat the right pizza, it's extremely, extremely difficult.

BARTOS: My song - here we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SARDINES")

JUNK YARD BAND: (Singing) Sardines - hey - and pork and beans. We eat sardines - hey - and pork and beans. We eat sardines - hey - and pork and beans. Every morning, about a quarter to 1 - sardines - the people start having some fun - sardines. Mama, what should do? Sardines. Do the go-go and have some fun, too.

BARTOS: Massimo just whispered, who is this?

(LAUGHTER)

BARTOS: I'll tell you. That is the Junk Yard Band. And the song is called "Sardines." And it was actually - it's a...

BOTTURA: The Junk Yard Band?

BARTOS: The Junk Yard Band. They're a - back then, they were a group of young men, or teenagers, aged between, like, 12 and 16.

GARCIA: Really? I didn't know that.

BARTOS: And that's one of the earliest records on Def Jam. It was an anomaly because it was not a hip-hop record. That's a go-go record. I don't know if you are familiar with go-go music. But it's one of the most local genres of music in the United States. It's from Washington, D.C. And I guess the easiest way to describe it would be hip-hop but with a live band. But they still - the parties are called go-gos. They still have them to this day. Briefly in the '80s, go-go records were crossing over. Like Trouble Funk, they were sampled a lot in hip-hop.

GARCIA: E.U. had a big hit...

BOTTURA: Wow.

GARCIA: ..."Doin' It In Da Butt" (ph).

BOTTURA: Wow. That's...

GARCIA: I don't know if you know that song.

BARTOS: "Doin' Da Butt" (ph).

GARCIA: "Doin' Da Butt" - oh, "Doin' Da Butt."

BARTOS: Anyway, I love that record.

GARCIA: (Laughter) Whoops.

BARTOS: And we both played you songs (laughter) that are about food, which is kind of silly. It just worked out like that. But anyway, I'm talking too much.

BOTTURA: No, no. I love it. I loved your explanation. You know, I love that kind of stuff because I'm not familiar with that. So I was very interesting to understand what are you talking about. I have another thing that - you know, a story about food involving a guy from New York. This guy was Lou Reed. He wasn't crazy about food. An artist, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, made a reservation for him and his band because they were playing Modena. I was like wow, Lou Reed is coming. Wow.

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: You know? And I was so excited. And at the end of the meal, he said, you have a table for tomorrow for lunch? Of course. So he came back, and I set a new tasting menu, you know, for him. And he said, OK. I have to go. But I'm coming back tonight, if you have a table, of course. I said, yes. I'm going to have a table for you. But you're going to sign all my records. He said, of course I'll do. For you, I'll do it. He didn't realize that I had, like, 75 vinyl...

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: ...you know, and all these things. And he did it. He did it. And he said...

GARCIA: You brought all 75 of Lou Reed's albums.

BOTTURA: All...

BARTOS: Of course he did.

BOTTURA: ...The albums. And I have all signed by him...

GARCIA: Yeah.

BOTTURA: ...From The Velvet to his albums...

GARCIA: Amazing.

BOTTURA: ...And all the booklets. You know, in that moment, I was very struggling because people didn't understand what I was doing because it's much more easy to stay nostalgia and keep going like that and not asking yourself questions and doubt, you know.

GARCIA: Well, the world is grateful for the risks that you have taken.

BARTOS: Thank you.

GARCIA: Ci vediamo.

BOTTURA: Thank you.

BARTOS: Thank you so much.

BOTTURA: Ci vediamo next time or in Modena.

BARTOS: Yes.

GARCIA: Grazie, grazie.

BOTTURA: Grazie a tutti. Grazie a tutti, ragazzi.

(LAUGHTER)

BOTTURA: We love music and food.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: That is our show. This podcast was produced by Michelle Lanz, edited by Jordana Hochman and N'Jeri Eaton. And our executive producer is Abby O'Neill. Music by composer Eli Escobar and our own (imitating Italian accent) Robertino Garcia.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

If you liked the show, you can find more at npr.org or wherever you get your podcasts, including bonus video content on Spotify on Fridays. Thanks to Spotify for their support.

While you're at it, please go to Apple Podcasts and rate, review and subscribe. And that's how we know you are listening.

BARTOS: You can follow us on Twitter @stretchandbob or Instagram @stretchandbobbito.

GARCIA: Word up.

BARTOS: Peace.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.