Le Calandre, how I travelled to taste THE risotto

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I first time heard of Le Calandre (Via Liguria, 1, 35030 Sarmeola di Rubano, Padova, Italy ; tel. +39 049 633000) and it’s risotto from Andy Hayler’s  FT.com interview, where he mentioned that there he had the best saffron risotto ever. If someone, who’s been to all the 3 Michelin around the world says that, it can’t be wrong. Here I was, on a fast train (my favorite means of transportation, well, partly, because I don’t have a driving license!) from Venice to Padova with only one objective – to taste THE risotto. I have been to quite a few world’s best restaurants ( El Bulli, Michel Bras, Manresa, El Celler de Can Roca to name just a few..) that are located far from big cities, and it always amazes me how these chefs are able to create such unique islands of gastronomy and luxury in the middle of nowhere.

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Cave canem!

Rubano municipality is maybe not in the middle of nowhere, but it’s not a megapolis neither. The Alajmo brothers’ little empire, 3 Michelin starred restaurant, a casual snack and pastry place nearby and a gourmet shop are all located on the side of a road going from Padova to Verona. Here you definitely don’t go for the breathtaking views through the window,but for the stellar food,which, I must say, was worth every hour of my trip.

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The gourmet shop where I bought a seriously good, deep, dark chocolate cake. I don’t think you can buy it online, but some of the products sold at the shop, you can.

The lunch was started with Massimiliano Alajmo’s interpretation of Venetian bar snacks cicchetti, which were soon followed by steamed pizza with black truffles and vegetables.

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Luscious squid ink cappuccino, made of slowly cooked squid and rich and smooth potatoes cream was one of the most memorable Le Calandre’s dishes.

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Another signature dish, crispy ricotta and buffalo mozzarella cannelloni were served with tomato sauce. The flavors were crisp and clean, but that was the whole beauty of this dish.

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Red shrimps with rose scented radicchio pistachio sauce and melted orange sorbet were refreshing. Plump and perfectly cooked shrimps went well with bitter radicchio and orange flavors.

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Then came one the main reasons of my trip, risotto with saffron and liquorice powder. Like for Andy Hayler and many others before me, it was the best risotto I’ve ever had. Actually I love cooking saffron risotto at home and it is always a challenge to achieve the right balance between the “creamy” and al dente. It’s not only about the recipe, but the technique, which has been obviously mastered by Massimiliano Alajmo perfectly.

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“Bone and herbs” was as expected, grilled bone marrow with various smoked herbs…

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The slowly roasted suckling pig with mustard sauce and coffee powder was a celebration of great products and brilliant techniques. Very good dish.

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The cheese trolley contained an impressive collection of very old (up to 90 months) Parmigiano Reggiano and a beautiful selection of mainly Italian cheeses.

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As one might guess, the green celery sorbet with orange salad was very light and fresh…

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…while “chocolate, hazelnut and coffee” had deep and rich flavors of coffee and chocolate, a brilliant interpretation of classic affogato

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