Le Calandre

Via Liguria

1 35030 Sarmeola di Rubano (PD)

tel +39 049 630303

fax +39 049 633000

December 2006

The Alajmo family has built a small empire around Le Calandre, one of only five restaurants in Italy with three Michelin stars. The complex also includes the informal Le Calandrine café, the Maccaroni Hotel and a specialty food shop selling everything from an enticing array of aged cheeses to a selection of high-end wines. Located in one of the industrial neighborhoods on the outskirts of Padova, Le Calandre is a bit of a destination restaurant, but it is well worth the drive. Our lunch was phenomenal. Chef Massimiliano Alajmo and Le Calandre are fully deserving of their three stars, in fact, three stars may not be enough for this temple of gastronomy.

The dining room is quite modern, open and bright in its design, with an atmosphere that blends formality with an almost child-like aura of exuberance, a spirit embodied by everyone on the staff. I found the lack of stuffiness and pretense refreshing. From the moment we sat down it was clear this was going to be a memorable meal. Every detail has been carefully thought through at Le Calandre and it showed. The breads, which were still warm, were hard to resist. I found the curry scented grissini particularly delicious. Several tasting menus are offered along with a la carte dining. We chose the “Classics of Le Calandre” tasting menu. The wine list was extraordinary for its depth, particularly in its selections of French wines, something very rarely encountered in Italy.

We started with the 1990 Philipponat Clos de Goisses. It perhaps lacked the opulence of the 1989 that I had enjoyed recently, but was remarkable nonetheless, showing its characteristic aromatics along with beguiling notes of caramel, roasted nuts, brioche and licorice. Finely textured and long on the palate, it was the perfect accompaniment to our first few dishes. A very delicate involtino of scampi was wrapped with fried spaghetti and served atop a delicious lettuce sauce. Although I am not a huge fan of foam creations, the cappuccino of seppia cooked in its own ink was noteworthy for its intensity of flavor and tenderness of the meat. A dollop of mashed potatoes that formed the base of the presentation gave the dish a generous, luxurious quality. It was worth the price admission alone and was phenomenal with my last glass of the Clos de Goisses.

Raveneau’s 2002 Chablis Valmur was breathtaking for its precision. Delicate yet profoundly intense, it showed layers of white peaches, mint, licorice and minerals on a silky-textured frame of extraordinary length. My only regret is not having given this wine a little more air. Nonetheless it was profound. The crispy cannelloni filled with ricotta and mozzarella di bufala was another lesson in the highest expression of simplicity. The cannelloni itself were perfect, the cheeses fully flavored yet delicate, the tomato intensely flavored and the oregano seasoning unlike any I have ever had.

Chef Alajmo served a very unusual risotto with finely ground coffee beans and capers. The risotto was perfectly cooked and the sweetness of the coffee nicely balanced by the saltiness of the capers, although this combination of flavors was not as successful as I had hoped. Our sommelier thought we needed a richer white to accompany our risotto and suggested the 1996 Smith Haut-Lafitte Blanc. Although it is a wine I usually enjoy, this bottle was slightly oxidized and an odd pairing with the risotto. It also didn’t bridge the gap between the other wines we had chosen. If there was any misstep during the lunch, this was it.

Chef Alajmo wants his diners to physically experience the quality of his raw ingredients. The carne cruda (raw chopped beef) was generously topped with shaved white truffles and served in four small mounds designed to be eaten with the hands. It was another combination of extraordinary simplicity that worked brilliantly. One of my friends asked about a similar fresh pork sausage dish he had enjoyed on a previous visit. A few minutes later the kitchen sent out small portions for the table, which was a very classy touch. The pork sausage was remarkably pure and expressive in its flavor and texture. It was a treat to taste. Domaine Leroy’s 1996 Corton Renardes was simply stunning. Expressive in its aromatics, it was soft and generous on the palate where it revealed plenty of fruit, with superb length, a long, pure finish and an irresistibly sublime personality. It was more accessible than recent bottles of the 1990 and 1993, both of which have been firmer and fresher. The gallina (hen) and manzo (beef) course could be best described as a deconstructed bollito misto, with all of its components presented separately and accompanied by a series of sauces and garnishes.

The cheese selection was phenomenal in its breadth and quality. The “play on chocolate,” inspired by Alajmo’s daughter Adele, consisted of a series of desserts that trace the arc of life. The presentation started with a baby’s pacifier dipped in chocolate and ended with a chocolate-dipped pipe filled with grappa. It was the creative work of a virtuoso and one of the most unforgettable dishes I have ever had. Barbeito’s 1978 Sercial wafted onto the palate with gorgeous etherealness, lovely definition and an eternal finish which was the perfect conclusion to this fabulous lunch.


Scampi wrapped with fried spaghetti over a lettuce sauce

Seppia cappuccino

Crispy cannelloni filled with ricotta and mozzarella di bufala

Risotto with coffee shavings and Pantelleria capers

Carne cruda with white truffles from Alba

Fresh pork sausage

Hen and beef bollito with accompanying sauces and condiments

Cheese selection

 “Adele’s play on chocolate”



Philiponnat Clos de Goisses



Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Valmur



Smith Haut-Lafitte Blanc



Domaine Leroy Corton-Renardes



Barbeito Sercial


 --Antonio Galloni