Robert De Niro Teams With Massimo Bottura, World's No. 1 Restaurant Chef, to Launch Bronx Project

Robert De Niro and Massimo Bottura Split - H Getty 2016
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The two world-famous restaurateurs are on a mission to combat world hunger.

Massimo Bottura’s Modena restaurant, Osteria Francescana, shot to the top of San Pellegrino’s world’s best restaurants list this year, after two years in the No. 2 spot. What has been for years one of the most coveted tables in Europe has become even more coveted. The chef, who is heavily influenced by the worlds of art and music, is credited with revolutionizing the food scene in Italy and beyond.

While most chefs would capitalize on the exclusivity of the award, Bottura has done the opposite, looking for ways to make food more accessible through his revolving Refettorio Ambrosiano project. And now he's bringing in a major player to launch the cultural initiative stateside.


Planning the new Refettorio in the Bronx!!! 2017 with Bob

A photo posted by Massimo Bottura (@massimobottura) on

Bottura announced on Instagram that he’ll be opening a Refettorio Ambrosiano in the Bronx in 2017 with the help of Robert De Niro. “Planning the new Refettorio in the Bronx!!! 2017 with Bob,” he posted on Instagram, with a photo of the two restaurateurs looking over plans. 

The idea of the Refettorio Ambrosiano came out of the 2015 Milan Expo. Bottura developed a program to gather food from the Expo that would have been thrown out, and to have a rotating lineup of 60 top international chefs design a meal each night for the homeless in an abandoned theater.

It was a new type of soup kitchen, one designed at feeding the world’s poor with meals created by some of the biggest names in the food industry. The result was more than 15 tons of food saved, turning waste into Michelin-star worthy meals. Bottura developed a cultural nonprofit out of the initiative, Food for Soul, to raise awareness around issues surround food waste and hunger.

“At lunchtime, there are going to be students there; and the very best chefs in the world, the rock ‘n’ roll stars, will be cooking scraps for them,” said Bottura of the project at the time. “It’s like the Pope washing the feet of the people in the street.” The project even had the blessing of Pope Francis, who also inspired Bottura on his mission.

The Milan project was so successful that Bottura announced another Refettorio Ambrosiano to take place during the Rio Olympics this year, an effort that will serve more than 19,000 meals and recover 12 tons of food. Chefs who have already signed up for the Rio project include Albert Adria, Alain Ducasse, Virgilio Martinez, Mitsuharu Tsumura, Mauro Colagreco, Helena Rizzo, Enrique Olvera and Joan Roca.

Bottura announced in June that the Bronx was his next destination, and that the project will have the support of the Italian Consulate in New York. 

Plans are already underway. Bottura seems to have found the perfect partner in De Niro. The two-time Oscar winner is also one of New York’s most respected restaurateurs having opened hotspots including Nobu, Tribeca Grill and Locanda Verde.

Using innovation to combat food waste has long been a passion for Bottura. In 2012 after an earthquake destroyed stockpiles of more than 1,000 wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the cheesemakers of Northern Italy were at risk of going under. Bottura launched a new cheese and pepper risotto recipe for restaurants worldwide. The overwhelming influx of orders for parmesan kept the cheesemakers afloat, a story documented in the premiere episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.