Dining in Italy: Le Calandre***

Le Calandre of chef Massimiliano Alajmo is one of Italy’s most famous restaurants, has three Michelin stars and is listed as number 34 on the World’s 50 best restaurants. It is located just outside of Padova. There are three tasting menus (11 courses) for 225 euros each: Classico (with classic dishes from the restaurant), Max, and Raf. “Carpe Diem” is a special rate (382 euros for two instead of 450) if you book (and pay) ahead for a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. As this was our first time at Le Calandre, we opted for the Classico menu with wine pairings (100 euros). It is possible to reduce the number of course of a degustation menu.

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No table cloths in this three-star restaurant, but the natural look of wood instead with an indentation in the center of each table. Upon arrival, there is a ball of wool in the indentation on each table, which is soon replaced by the bread.

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Upon arrival these cheesy snacks are already there. We chose a sparkling Nebbiolo as aperitif, which was original and very nice.

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The amuses bouches were very nice. I remember beetroot with yellow curry and something delicious with octopus.

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A nice palate cleanser before the degustazione begins: water melon sorbet with fennel.

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First course: “Al-aimo”. Different types of tomato tartare with buffalo ricotta, green beans, and fava beans. Amazingly flavorful for such a simple dish and a joy to eat. 10/10

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Second course: “Pjzza di mare”. The crust of the ‘pizza’ was steamed and some green herbs (basil?) were mixed into the dough. The topping was raw seafood like scampi and caviar. Delicious.

The wine pairing: the sommelier told us that according to him (or the restaurant) 11 glasses of wine is too much, so he pairs one wine with every two dishes. This is quite challenging, but he did OK with the first pairing, a Viognier from the Rhone valley. A more ‘unctuous’ wine would have been better with the raw scampi, but it didn’t clash. 9/10 (A better wine pairing would have elevated this dish to 10/10 for sure.)

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Third course: Cappuccino of squid with ink. Ink instead of coffee and potato mousse instead of milk foam, with slow-cooked very tender and flavorful squid on the bottom. Did OK with the same Viognier. 9/10

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Fourth course: crispy cannellone with buffalo ricotta and mozzarella, and tomato puree. A very simple dish, executed perfectly with great flavor. Paired nicely with a Malvasia from Friuli. 9/10

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Fifth course: cappelli with beetroot and roquefort sauce and beetroot foam. The chef clearly loves beetroot, which was used in many dishes. Beetroot works nicely with blue cheese. The beetroot filling of the cappelli was liquid and had great beetroot flavor. This dish worked well with the Malvasia. 9/10

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Sixth course: risotto with saffron, juniper berries, and licorice powder. This was served twice, first in the ‘classic way’…

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and second with the addition of a flavorful broth. This changed the character of the dish. The risotto was perfectly cooked and flavorful. 9/10

Paired nicely with an aged Soave. For fun, the sommelier also served a bit of Savignin from Jura (even more oxidised in style than the Soave).

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Seventh course: tartare of Piemontese beef with black truffle and a crouton, served on a piece of tree bark. We were instructed to eat this with our fingers, and an aniseed-perfumed napkin was provided for cleaning your fingers afterwards. A very nice dish, paired very well with a Dolcetto. This was the best wine pairing of the meal, because the Dolcetto really brought out the truffle and worked well with the beef (a stronger red would have overpowered it).

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Eighth course: bone with herbs. The herbs (mostly thyme) was still smoldering when it was served. The bone marrow was topped with crunchy breadcrumbs. Wine pairing with a Bordeaux blend from Tuscany was OK. Although the way of serving this dish was very nice, we thought it was not as delicious as the other dishes. 8/10

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Ninth course: lamb “alla Milanese”. Very tender and perfectly cooked lamb loin coated with crispy crumbs. Nice sauce with yogurt and herbs (and fenugreek?) that seemed more Middle Eastern than Milanese to me. More beetroot foam, and some salad leaves. A very nice dish, that worked well with the red from Tuscany. 9/10

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Some fruit to move into dessert territory: grape, cherry, pineapple, and peach, all lightly marinated and very flavorful.

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Tenth course: floating egg.

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The waiter slashed the cling film…

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…so that the yellow part fell on the white part. This dish seemed to be more about the presentation than the flavor, although it was tasty. 8/10

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Because the bread had been cleared away, the ball of wool returned to the table. Kees being Kees started to use the skewers that were used to serve the fruit as knitting needles. The waitress saw this, asked “would you like some knitting needles”, and immediately brought them.

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To the joy of both serving staff and other guests, Kees actually started knitting 🙂 They said nobody had knitted that much so far.

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Eleventh and final course: chocolate, coffee and hazelnut. A nice dessert paired with a black muscat. 8/10

The food of chef Alajmo is delicious, presented in a beautiful way, and perfectly executed. This ‘classico’ menu has mostly ‘classic’ flavor combinations; I would like to try the other degustation menus to see if they are more original. But then again, delicious is more important than original and delicious it certainly was. 9.5/10 for the food

Good wines and acceptable wine pairings. I would prefer a different wine for each dish; the sommelier seems to be talented enough to make much better pairings that way. I do not agree that with 11 courses that would lead to too much wine, as other restaurants (like Can Roca) manage to serve even more different wines without serving too much wine. 8/10 for the wine.

The service was very friendly. Especially in the beginning, the dishes were coming a bit too fast. So fast, that it was impossible for the sommelier to keep up. A very nice touch was that the chef came into the dining room several times to check personally whether everyone was having a good time. 8/10 for the service.

Altogether we had a very nice evening at Calandre.

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5 thoughts on “Dining in Italy: Le Calandre***

  1. A totally irreverent comment when talking about a three-star restaurant, but would you please tell Kees that with my sense of ‘humour’ I would have started knitting also . . . what a very occasion-balancing thing to do. Hmm: very much liked the look of the first three courses, especially the ‘cappucino’ , , , , but the beef, tho’ praised by you, did not visually appeal . . .and . . . desserts did not thrill . . . Wine: very much depends on the size of the glass, does it not? Altho’ I do possess the proverbial ‘hollow leg’ from my business days . . . methinks eleven glasses would kill my ability to seriously marry food and wine . . .

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  2. Pingback: Beetroot Ravioli with Gorgonzola Sauce | Stefan's Gourmet Blog

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