We decided to stay in Verona as our base for visiting Le Calandre, mainly so we could also spend time with Fiancee’s grandparents who were in town at the same time as us however also so we could do a day trip to Venice and of course Le Calandre. Having looked up the instructions to get there on Google Maps it looked relatively simple. Fiancee was put in charge of directions.
We got a little, actually, a lot, lost and therefore were incredibly late, hot, flustered and frustrated when we got there. The least smooth arrival of any of the restaurants!! Thankfully the staff were very accommodating and quickly took us to our table. In our fluster we walked in via the Bistrot, of course, we were nicely taken to the right spot.
Very quickly the welcome snacks come out, parmesan two ways, it’s a parmesan cone and a cracker which is fluffy like a rice crisp parmesan cloud. We’re also offered an aperitif and opt for a sparkling wine, interestingly the menu is on an iPad! I’d seen the layout online, however, didn’t expect them to have them in the restaurant. They still take orders on paper though!
In the middle of our table is a ball of wool, this is soon replaced by a parcel. I’m dying to open it however fiancee tells me I have to wait. We’re also given a case for our phone so it’s not intrusive on the table, I kind of like this. The parcel is given to us with the following card, initially it was in Italian however they replace it with an English version when they realise we don’t speak fluent Italian.
There are three menus you can choose from or you can do a la carte 3, 4 or 5 courses with a selection of anything from the three tasting menus. Being the foodies that we are we’d already done our research and decided on the a la carte and knew what we wanted already. The tasting menu looks equally as delicious though!
Three more snacks come out I didn’t get the full description of them all, however, the first contains lobster and has a creamy, sweet flavour. The second is a sophisticated Caprese salad and delightful. The final is avocado and celery and we’re told to have it in one bite or it will explode, thanks for the tip! All of the snacks packed that certain punch really good but different to Tim Raue, more Italian but that’s what you want from an Italian restaurant right?
The chef Max and maitre’d Andrea come out to greet all diners in the restaurant, super friendly touch and we notice that there are a lot of smiles in this restaurant, both from the family and from the staff. The iPad wine lists comes back and I’m able to choose our wine for the afternoon, you can sort by price, varietal or region etc. I appreciate this. There’s a little bit of that buzzing service atmosphere however it’s not over the top. I’m complimented on my wine choice, I also appreciate this.
Our first course is the Venetian focaccia with a soft boiled egg. I’d insisted on this dish when doing our ordering and it was not at all like I expected. Imagine the best-toasted egg sandwich/roll you’ve ever had then times it by about 50. It was gooey and soft, the bread soft yet crunchy and toasted, egg melted everywhere and you just wanted to try some more!
Up next was the crispy buffalo ricotta and mozzarella cannelloni with tomato sauce. There were impressive. My kiwi readers will know what I mean when I say it was like a fancy cheese roll with fancy tomato sauce. It was incredibly well done and probably one of my favourite courses. The tomato sauce was super authentic and came out with an additional Le Creuset cocotte.
That parcel in the middle of our table mentioned earlier turned out to be our bread. We’re told to dip the bread in the leftover sauce. It would have been nice to have the bread brought out just a little bit later so it was still warm. That said, it’s nice and dense while still being fluffy. A little butter or olive oil wouldn’t have gone astray and we got crumbs all over the table! These were quickly cleaned up.
We notice at this point that they have a rather young team underneath the brothers. A copy of their cookbook is brought out and we’re shown the recipe for the cannelloni and offered to peruse the book. The chef will also sign it for us if we’d like to purchase a copy. Unfortunately, due to us still being on the road for quite some time we had to decline. We also ask for a copy of the menu for today, they only provide this with a donation to their charity, this makes me happy.
Our next course comes out and as the chef had seen us sharing our dishes he’d half portioned them for us. I think this is the first time this has happened (we share a lot!) and we were a little bit blown away. Two flavours/foods I really don’t like are liquorice and risotto. The reason we ordered the saffron and liquorice risotto with a cherry on top was because a. Fiancee really wanted it and b. It was the standout dish on the World 50 Best Restaurants website.
This one could turn me! It had a subtle liquorice flavour but was strong on the saffron. It was warm and comforting. Then comes out a present from the chef. The risotto pot with two spoons!! I felt like a kid cooking at home licking the bowl when you’re baking. It’s these nice touches that make Le Calandre fun, it’s playful yet sophisticated.
The mixed pasta with bottarga carbonara and cuttlefish eggs is our second halved dish, thank you, chef! It’s all cooked in the same pot with a selection of seafood, we had squid, prawn, mussels and cod. The sauce was delectable. Very rustic but oh so good. Then another gift from the chef a little ravioli is put into fiancees mouth!
We have the cornmeal coated turbot with extra virgin olive oil and red wine bearnaise sauce next. It almost looks liked fried halloumi when it comes out it’s so wonderfully cooked. The rhubarb has a slight bitterness however overall a well-balanced dish. We notice the music is a classical take on modern music, all things we recognise.
We seem to have a thing for tartare so of course got the hand-chopped Piemontese raw beef with black truffles. It was good and exactly what it said on the menu, the truffles are appreciated. I can’t say it was our favourite dish of the afternoon though. Our waiter has an excellent sense of humour and lots of little funny things come up throughout the afternoon!
I go to the bathroom and there is a heel on the door for the ladies and a shoe for the men. I think this is cute. We also notice we get fresh napkins each time one of us gets up. The hand lotion for those following my hand lotion journey is Molten Brown. Soon come out our knives and we notice they’re imprinted with their logo, nice.
Another pot comes out from the kitchen! This is a completely vegetarian risotto with cauliflower sorbet. At this point, we’re starting to get full and our mains come out so we can’t quite finish it. First up we have the roast squab with thyme, kumquat and black pepper marmalade. It’s rustic yet complicated and has a nice mix of flavours. I particularly appreciate the mandarin.
Our final main is the roast suckling pig with Mora Romagnola pork ribs and tomato colatura. This comes with an olive sorbet which should be right up my alley and it totally is but it didn’t quite match with the pork in my opinion. There’s lots of sauce and the sharpness of it helps cut through the fattiness of the pork. The olive sorbet gives that hot and cold mouthfeel. With the richness of the sauce and the pork, it was a little over the top for us.
Of course, there are dessert snacks! Each one held their own. For our official dessert, we’d ordered the tiramisu cloud and the lavender puff pastry with strawberries in sambuco. With my disdain for coffee, you’re always going to be hardpressed to win me over on a coffee dish. This was no different, one bite and I was done. Fiancee said it was lovely though. The lavender puff pastry dish was outstanding! Layered, textured and sweet. Just a damn good dessert.
On our way out we were stopped by Andrea who asked us how our meal was, he took great interest in the blog. He then insisted we see the kitchen and meet Max Alajmo before we leave. I’m impressed at how involved the team are here, they really want to make sure you’re having a good time and you can feel that family vibe. Andrea tells us to email him and we will, of course, be sending him a copy of this blog. You can feel their passion.
Overall while a short lunch (2hrs) it was surprising and fun. I like the playful nature of the team and the chef. Also, the dishes were different to what you expected and I love this play on things. It’s these little quirks that you remember long after you’ve left the restaurant. Would I go again? For sure.
- Tim Raue
- Piazza Duomo
- Le Calandre and The Ledbury
- The Clove Club
- Dinner by Heston
- Restaurant Steirereck
Next up, Reale, Castel Di Sangro, Italy.