Uncovering Italy’s Superlatives in people, places and things

La Mia Padova by Max Alajmo

Artist, philosopher and chef Max Alajmo is a superstar. He’s the creative force behind he kitchens of the Alajmo family’s five fine-dining restaurants – Le Calandre (Padova), La Montecchia (Padova) and Quadri (Venice), Caffè Stern (Paris), Sesamo (Royal Mansour Marrakech) plus four café/bistros. He’s a painter- in the kitchen, on the walls, and on your palette and is recognised as being the youngest chef to have received three Michelin stars (Le Calandre). Born and raised in Padova, Max shares his city.

Max Alajmo at his restaurant Le Calandre, photo courtesy of Lido Vannucchi

What makes Padova unique?

The city centre is what us Italians refer to as misura d’uomo, meaning very manageable and easy to get around. Plus, within an hour’s drive you can be in the mountains, at the seaside or at a lake.

What are the places and /or experiences you always suggest to friends when visiting?

Il Bo, the main building of the University of Padua, Giotto’s Cappella degli Scrovegni, St Anthony’s church and the Orto Botanico, the oldest botanical garden in the world!

Palazzo Bo, historical building home of the Padova University from 1539

What about your favourite galleries, museums and sites?

Palazzo della Ragione, Palazzo Zabarella, Battisero del Duomo

What is Padova’s signature dish?

I would say canevera, an old preparation in which meats are cooked inside a pig’s bladder into which a bamboo straw is inserted to let out air. We prepare this dish in the colder months. And I would also say the Pazientina made with chocolate, rum and sponge cake. My mom’s recipe for this cake is the gold standard and was actually registered by the city. For the Veneto region, I would have to say baccalà mantecato (creamed cod).

What about street food?

Boiled octopus or folpetto served from directly from a cart. It is pulled out of the water, cut into pieces and topped with olive oil, lemon, parsley and salt. And eaten with a toothpick.

Folpetto is a traditional street food dish from Padua.

Favourite restaurants?

Al Sasso in Teolo, Enotavola Pino, Boccadoro in Noventa Padovana and Al Bosco in Saonara

Where would you go out of your way to travel for a meal in Italy?

Caffè Sicilia in Noto

Favourite bars from coffee to aperitivo time?

Caffè Pedrocchi, a historic coffeeshop for the beauty of the building, Valbruna in nearby Limena for cocktails and honestly the only place I drink coffee is at Calandrino, our casual restaurant next to Le Calandre. We serve a special blend made exclusively for our restaurants by what I believe is the best coffee roaster in Italy.

Valbruna Limena

So what’s your aperitivo?

A Bellini when peaches are in season, otherwise an Americano made with a quality vermouth, or a Martini cocktail.

Let’s get out- what’s your favourite day trip or weekend getaway?

The Colli Euganei or the spas at Abano Terme, or Venice, or Jesolo, or Asiago, or Garda. The list goes on and on.

What do you miss most when you’re away?

Walking or strolling around the city centre while soaking in all the beauty. In certain parts of the town, it seems like time is standing still.

What’s your favourite saying in your local dialetto?

El saòn no’l sa gnente, l’inteligente el sa poco, l’ignorante el sa tanto, el mona el sa tuto!
The wise man knows nothing, the intelligent man a little, the ignore knows some and the imbecile knows all.

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