Le Calandre (PD)

by Lavinia Colonna Preti
Le Calandre (PD) — Veneto Secrets

In Rubano, in the province of Padua, 3 Michelin stars since 2003 and the only Italian in the 50 Best since 2006, Le Calandre is one of the most renowned restaurants in the world, where Massimiliano and Raffaele Alajmo, respectively chef and maître des lieux of the Group, never stopped having fun and keeping us entertained. Welcome to a legend.

It is difficult to describe genius, perhaps because it, precisely by definition, explores the unknown and then rethinks it from scratch once the goal has been achieved, it does not follow rules other than those dictated by absolute passion and discipline, but above all it does not fit into any category.

This is why we will not try to describe Massimiliano Alajmo‘s cuisine, limiting ourselves to narrating the refined environment that, together with his brother Raf, he shaped in the image and likeness of his art in the middle of the quiet Paduan countryside.

Le Calandre (PD) — Veneto Secrets
Le Calandre (PD) — Veneto Secrets

Cooking is like a needle pulling thread through a series of successive holes to create a delicate but sturdy seam, cuisine binds us together without us even realizing it.

(Max Alajmo)

Massimiliano is, in fact, a son of art, and it was his parents, Erminio Alajmo and Rita Chimetto who took over the management of the place in 1981, which was initially called Aurora and was little more than a simple bar, after having fallen in love at work. In 1992 they received their first Michelin star and in 1994 they passed the baton to their sons Massimiliano and Raffaele.

Over the years the name Aurora was replaced with Le Calandre, a migratory bird from the area to symbolize the link with the territory, a change suggested by the then communication agency and which seemed to be a good omen so that “the customer would always return like a calandra”.

Le Calandre (PD) — Veneto Secrets
Le Calandre (PD) — Veneto Secrets

In 2003 the restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars, making Max the youngest chef in the world to have received this recognition and since 2006 it has entered the ranking of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, always remaining in the ranking of the top 50 and reaching, in 2022, tenth place.

If nothing suggests what awaits us inside the restaurant once we arrive in the parking lot of what, from the outside, appears like one of the many buildings on the outskirts of small Rubano, upon entering we are immediately surrounded by a “black canvas” which Massimiliano tears apart at times with colours, suggestions and flavors of skillful theatricality.

Le Calandre (PD) — Veneto Secrets

A small lounge, with many cookbooks and design objects by Alajmo, introduces us to the reception desk which overlooks the large kitchen where a team of around 20 people work together, including the trusted sous chef Michele Cremasco. On the right, along a corridor with soft lights and the spectacular wine “vault” on two floors, you reach the room, where nothing is left to chance, making the experience absolutely multi-sensory.

Starting from the tables, all made from a single 300-year-old ash tree that comes from Normandy. Massimiliano was, in fact, the first chef in Italy to remove the tablecloths precisely to amplify the tactile sensation.

Le Calandre (PD) — Veneto Secrets
Le Calandre (PD) — Veneto Secrets

The link with local artisans and artists is a common thread of all Alajmo restaurants, pioneers also in dictating a link between cuisine and art in all its forms. The Ovo lamps were designed by Davide Groppi specifically for the restaurant, the glasses are handmade by the glass master Massimo Lunardon with the imprint of Massimiliano’s finger, while Rosenthal plates were designed by the two brothers to follow the shapes of the recipes.

At the center of each table a “nest” houses balls of wool, the emblem of Massimiliano’s motto “Cooking is like a needle pulling thread through a series of successive holes to create a delicate but sturdy seam, cuisine binds us together without us even realizing it“.

Le Calandre (PD) — Veneto Secrets
Le Calandre (PD) — Veneto Secrets

Accompanying the guest through the culinary experience are, in particular, the maître d’ Giandomenico Ruggiero supported by the sommelier Matteo Bernardi, skilled narrators capable of enhancing Massimiliano’s dishes and their combinations with absolute perfection. They will introduce you to the different tasting menus and make you choose whether to focus on the chef’s “signatures” or his new gastronomic explorations.

And here we return to the beginning of our story because Massimiliano’s cuisine is everything and the opposite of everything. Of course, there are his great classics, so classic that, like the Cappuccino, they have themselves become the generic definition of a dish in the world (it would be like saying gnocchi, even if everyone makes them in their own way). But he loves to change them, as if they were a continually evolving work, and so the Cappuccino di seppie al nero (ink cuttlefish) becomes the Murrina Cappuccino inspired by the thousand shades of Murano murrine.

Le Calandre (PD) — Veneto Secrets
Le Calandre (PD) — Veneto Secrets

Or his Passi d’Oro, the famous saffron and liquorice risotto, which he offers in a new version dedicated to the work of Roberto Barni exhibited at the Uffizi to which he has added chilli pepper and lime to pair with a glass with essences created in synergy with the perfumer Lorenzo Dante Ferro to enhance the sensorial experience.

What is certain is that at Alajmo everything is in motion, because the spirit of Massimiliano and Raffaele has remained, today more than ever, that of two curious boys who in 1994 asked their father if they could “transform the place into the best restaurant in Italy“. The rest is history.

The Secret

As soon as you enter on the left, you will find the heart of the whole Alajmo world; this is the Sala dei Cavalieri (Knights’ Room), a small room with a chef’s table (in fact, it overlooks the kitchen thanks to a small window) where all the important decisions of the group are made. A place where there is an air of “great things”, full of photographs, awards and family heirlooms.

Useful Info

Le Calandre
Via Liguria 1
35030 Rubano, Padova
Tel. +39 049 630303

Tasting menu: from 280 euro
or 3 courses à la carte 180 euro, 4 courses 220 euro, 5 courses 250 euro

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