Second episode of the second season of Master of None has one of the best “natural fit” product placement in recent years. It’s not a product or a brand, it’s a restaurant: the famous Osteria Francescana, a three-Michelin-star restaurant based in Modena, Italy, which was rated the best restaurant in the world in 2016. The restaurant is owned and run by chef Massimo Bottura.
For those of you who are not familiar with Master of None: it’s about a 30-year-old Dev (Aziz Ansari), an actor from New York who in the last episode of the first season ended the relationship with his girlfriend and decided to pursue his dreams. He flew to Italy and started to learn how to make pasta and essentially how to cook.
In the beginning of the second season we saw that Dev has made new friends and has improved his culinary skills, but hasn’t really got over his ex-girlfriend. In the second episode Dev gets a visit from his friend Arnold from New York. When they stroll around Modena, they stumble upon Osteria Francescana.
Dev: “Ah, there it is. Osteria Francescana, the number-one restaurant in the world.”
Arnold: “Dude, we got to check this place out while we’re in town.”
Dev: “Pfft. Believe me, I’ve been trying. They’re booked up for, like, the next ten years.”
Arnold: “That’s why it’s crazy… I got you a resy as a birthday gift.”
Dev: “Wait, what?”
Arnold: “Yeah, tomorrow night.”
Dev: “How? How? How?”
Arnold: “You know my Aunt Edeltraud supplies the meat slicers here. Baumheiser Slicers are the best in the biz, baby, and she knows Chef Massimo. She hooked it up.”
Dev: “You’re serious?”
Dev: “Big bud and little bud are eating here?”
Dev: “I’m freaking out. We’re in! We’re in!”
Both: “We’re in! We’re in! We’re in!”
So the guys had a dinner at one of the most famous restaurants in the world. And that’s not everything they experienced. Some of the food was served and presented by Mr. Bottura himself.
“So first course…lentils, almost better than caviar.
Next course… autumn in New York. I gave the shape of an apple, like the Big Apple…with an extraction of mushroom and truffle.
Next is my plate. It’s tortellini. One is very small, and this is a little bit bigger.”
Eric Wareheim who played Arnold said in an interview for AV Club that the trip to Osteria Francescana was a last minute addition to the episode. It happened only because Bottura heard that Master Of None had filmed at Hosteria Giusti, where Dev eats with an impromptu date in the season premiere. Wareheim also said that Mr. Bottura got a little bit jealous and when they were out drinking he came to them and said, ‘What are you doing, why aren’t you shooting in my restaurant?’
Wareheim described the rest of the conversation: “We were like, ‘We don’t want to bother you, you’ve got the number one restaurant in the world we didn’t want to impose on you.’ And he’s like, ‘No, tomorrow you are coming in for lunch in the private room. You are going to eat the full thing, drink real prosecco, drink real wine and we’ll shoot it.’ We were like, ‘Holy shit, this is our lives right now?’
In the show we can see that Ansari and Wareheim’s expressions are real, they were freaking out. Wareheim also admitted that it was one of the greatest meals of his life.
Having a lunch/dinner at Osteria Francescana must be an amazing experience. A 9-course tasting menu costs 220 euro, while wine pairing will cost you additional 130 euros. The full 12-course tasting menu with wine pairing is 420 euros.
Here are some of the names of the dishes: An eel swimming up the Po River, Cod Mare Nostrum, Autumn in New York, Suckling pig tender and crunchy, Caesar salad in bloom, Yellow is bello, Oops! I dropped the lemon tart, Camouflage: a hare in the woods…
There are several reasons why this product placement is such a great (natural) fit:
1. CHARACTER: The main character Dev is a foodie, so it is natural that he’d love to eat at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
2. LOCATION: Dev is currently in Modena, just finishing his pasta-making course, so visiting the nearby restaurant makes more sense than for example flying to Copenhagen to Noma or some other Rene Redzepi pop-up restaurant.
3. STORY: Dev has birthday, so it is not surprising that he got a dinner at a fancy restaurant.
4. EXECUTION: It’s perfect. The joy of two friends who are about the get the best meals of their lives seems genuine. The appearance of Massimo Bottura adds to the excitement.
Never mind the background story about how the whole deal happened; the whole placement looks and feels natural. I have covered Master of None before and these parts make me want to see season three (and maybe even four or five). I would also like to eat at Osteria Francescana. Well, miracles happen all the time. ;)