The "Ferrari" chef on underestimated ingredients and the most difficult dish of his life
Riccardo Forapani studied for over a decade with the legendary Massimo Bottura. In this interview, the charismatic chef talks about the most underrated ingredient in the kitchen, his most difficult dish and shares his gastronomic insider tips.
In the realm of upscale gastronomy, flavors and ingredients dance and harmonize with each other to transform into flavorful works of art on the plate. In this realm, there are some extraordinary chefs who have the ability to cross borders and create culinary masterpieces. One such visionary is Chef de Cuisine Riccardo Forapani of the renowned "Ristorante Cavallino" in Maranello - Ferrari's hometown in Emilia-Romagna. With his innovative culinary approach and relentless passion for gastronomy, Forapani has established himself as a trailblazer in the culinary world, cooking his way out of the shadow of one of the best chefs in the world.
Pupil Massimo BotturasBorn and raised in Mirandola, about 20 km from Modena, Riccardo Forapani studied at the "Istituto Alberghiero" before starting his career in a small local restaurant. A long-time admirer of Massimo Bottura, Forapani joined his team at the legendary "Osteria Francescana" at the age of 24. The three-star restaurant has steadily ranked among the world's best and was named "World's Best Restaurant" in 2016 and 2018. In the following 13 years, Forapani worked at the "Osteria Francescana" on the perfection and modernization of traditional Italian dishes.
When the "Cavallino" project slowly came to its current form in 2020, Bottura chose Riccardo Forapani in the role of new chef. This is where two of his great passions come together: the love for traditional cuisine, which he carries in his genes from his mother—a great cook from Modena—and that love for engines, which he inherited from his father—a mechanic who dreamed of a future in the "Ferrari" world for his son.
The spirit of the founderThe "Ristorante Cavallino" is located just a few meters away from the "Ferrari" factories. The spirit of Enzo Ferrari is in every detail of the historic farmhouse with ivory terracotta floors and oak-paneled walls: from the first Formula 1 trophy won by "Ferrari" in 1952, to original sketches by the founder of the first sports cars on the walls, to the curtain lace with the finely embroidered "Ferrari" emblem. Enzo Ferrari himself ate here twice a day until he died in 1988. Even after the death of its most famous regular, the restaurant continued to operate—in 2019, "Cavallino" was closed by its previous owners and remained closed until its grand reopening with Chef Bottura in 2021.
Underdog, genius or both?In the kitchen of the restaurant you enter the realm of Riccardo Forapani. Here, the lively chef works his magic, transforming the finest regional ingredients into epicurean delicacies based on reinterpreted recipes from Emilia-Romagna.
Falstaff met the young, talented chef for an interview and talked to him about "Ferrari's" influence at "Ristorante Cavallino", his gastronomic insider tips in the region and dishes with culinary childhood memories: a flying visit to the remarkable world of this gastronomic virtuoso.
Falstaff: In your opinion, what is the most underrated ingredient in the kitchen?
Riccardo Forapani: In Emilia, of course, Parmigiano Reggiano is our best ingredient, which we use everywhere. But the most underrated ingredient? I would say in our tradition we have the cotechino sausages. And I think people usually don't like them because they're so fat. In our restaurant we take cotechino to a new level by transforming it into a kind of Filetto Rossini.
If you had to eat a dish for the rest of your life. Only one dish. Which one would that be?
What kind of tortellini?
My mother's tortellini.
What are they made of?
Tortellini alla Panna, that is handmade tortellini in ham and cream sauce. When we are born, the first thing our mothers put in our mouths is a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano. The second is tortellini.
Your three gastronomic insider tips in the region?
"Franceschetta58" of course. "Ahimè" in Bologna is very interesting. And for me the "Dalla Gioconda" of my good friend Davide di Fabio, with whom I worked for 13 years in the "Osteria Francescana".
What role does "Ferrari" play in "Ristorante Cavallino"? In daily life, in the kitchen, in the dishes?
It is inspired by "Ferrari". From the old style "Ferraris". We are inspired by the look, the whole style. Taking that old style and modernizing it. Much like the "Ferrari Daytona". If you take the "Daytona" from the sixties, the '62 "Ferrari Daytona" and next to it the latest "Daytona", you will notice: the two share the same line. And the look, the imagination of it is so important for us. And that's what we try to conjure up on the plates in the kitchen as well.
What was the most difficult dish you have ever prepared? And why was it so difficult?
Zuppa Inglese. Mothers and grandmothers make Zuppa Inglese for the children. But Zuppa Inglese is not beautiful. Never. It's a big cake, a lot of cream, a lot of chocolate or a lot of Alchermes (Italian herbal liqueur, editor's note), too alcoholic. I don't like that. But I changed the idea and the shape and created this beautiful new dessert from it. And when you eat this dessert, you travel back to your childhood home, where Mamma prepares this nostalgic dessert for the whole family.
What's the most unusual food combination you've cooked that worked unexpectedly well?
Eel with pigeon grilled in a Josper charcoal oven. We make this glazed eel, first roasted in a charcoal oven and then we stuff the eel with pigeon meat and serve it with an onion cream and giardiniera. This is a wonderful dish for me and the two best ingredients: Eel and pigeon.
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