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Piazza San Marco, 121
30124 Venice, Italy
Tel. +39 041 522 2105
Involtini di scampi fritti con salsa di bottarga, merluzzo e mandorle (involtini of fried scampi with dried mullet roe, cod and almonds)
Cappuccino di laguna con schie, granciporri, e cannocchie (“Cappuccino” with baby shrimps, local crab and mantis prawns)
Spaghetti aglio, olio, peperoncino e cannolicchi (Spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, chili pepper, and razor clams)
Risotto di gò e povere di menta (gò-fish risotto with mint powder)
Carré di agnello alle erbe con cavolfiori, broccoli, crema di carote all’arancia e curry (Herbed rack of lamb with cauliflower, broccoli, and orange curried carrot puré)
Soufflé al cioccolato con gelato alla fava di Tonka e Whisky (Chocolate soufflé with Tonka bean gelato and Whisky)
My favorite food hangouts in Venice (which I’ll be writing about
shortly in Vinous: I’m there every one or two months), are the smaller bacari (the Venetian “osterie”) or the
city’s many tried-and-true if somewhat less fashionable restaurants. However,
as I had been meaning to try the new Ristorante Quadri for some time, I was happy
to devote a recent Saturday night to the Alajmo family’s newest high end creation.
Massimiliano and Raffaele Alajmo are famous over the world for running the
three Michelin star Le Calandre restaurant in Rubano near Padova (and if memory
doesn’t fail me, Massimiliano was the youngest chef ever to have been awarded the
three stars). Although the cuisine at Quadri aims to be “Venetian” in spirit,
savvy restaurant goers will have no trouble recognizing more than just a trace
of Le Calandre’s most famous dishes at Quadri (if cleverly revisited to stay in
tune with Venice’s very specific bounty of ingredients and foodstuffs).
“Cappuccino” with baby shrimps, local crab and mantis prawns
There are four different tasting menus to choose from at Quadri, but on this particular evening, after a very long day of tasting, I opted to create my own food and wine journey. The scampi involtini are a Le Calandre classic, though on this day the portion was so huge I had trouble finishing it; to my taste, I would have liked the sauce accompanying the scampi to have a slightly fresher, perhaps citrusy, nuance for added lift (back when I first tasted this dish in the early 2000s at Le Calandre, Alajmo then used to match the involtini with a lettuce sauce that I remember fondly). The “cappuccino” remains a spectacular invention, and here it has been revisited to recall Venice’s maritime and trading origins that looked to the Orient, with shrimp and a dash of curry thrown in the mix. Lovely to look at, and even better to taste.
Chocolate soufflé with Tonka bean gelato and Whisky
I also loved the salty, very marine aromas and flavours of the spaghetti and the perfectly cooked creamy risotto featuring the “Gò-fish”, a fish more precisely known as the black goby typical of lagoon environments and of Venice’s in particular. A bottom dweller rarely exceeding 15 cm in length (30 cm specimens are considered huge), it has become an integral part of many Venetian fish recipes. I was impressed to see the Alajmos do their homework in this manner at Quadri, but of course one would have expected nothing less from the talented duo. The rack of lamb was perfectly cooked, and the soufflé a marvellous ending to the meal.
To pair with Alajmo’s sneakily concentrated, rather rich cuisine, I opted to begin with the 2007 André Peret Condrieu, rich and rewarding and holding up beautifully, with precise honeyed stone fruit and tropical fruit aromas and flavors. In retrospect, I should have opted for something a little fresher with the involtini and cappuccino, but the Condrieu did provide nice textural support to the risotto and the spaghetti. Much like my colleague Antonio Galloni, I am a sucker for Nebbiolo in all forms, and so readers won’t be surprised to know I zeroed in on the delicious 1985 Tenuta Monolo Bramaterra Riserva next. It’s a wine that is aging gracefully (though the fruit is starting to dry up slightly) offering the red cherry, tar and faded rose petal aromas and flavors you’d expect an aged Nebbiolo-based wine (this also has small percentages of Croatina, Uva Rara and Vespolina, as is typical of the specific production zone) to showcase. Though I wouldn’t hold on to this wine anymore as there is nothing to gain by doing so, it certainly paired well with the rack of lamb.
You might be surprised to know that the Quadri is the only restaurant in Venice to have its windows open onto piazza San Marco, one of the most beautiful squares in the world. Inside, the restaurant itself is also beautiful enough, though in an effort to create a reserved, romantic atmosphere it’s really a little too dark with the lights seemingly set on “super-low”. That quibble aside, I imagine Quadri’s current one Michelin star rating is bound to increase in the years to come.
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Vinous Table: Il Calandrino, Padova, Italy
-- Ian D'Agata