Starred restaurants are only part of the story. Bars, gourmet bistros, foodie venues: they are all top quality spin-offs which, when grouped together, amount to authentic catering empires under the banner of one single chef and food philosophy. You may be wondering how such complex yet perfectly oiled mechanisms actually work.
One of the most interesting cases is that of the Italian Alajmo brothers, whose Le Calandre restaurant of Rubano (Padova province – pictured above) has earned itself a place in the exclusive group of Italy’s eight three Michelin-starred establishments and occupies the 19th place in the rating of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017. The stars rise from three to five if we add those attributed to the Quadri restaurant in Venice and that of the Montecchia in Padua.
“Fine dining is part of our DNA, this being what we do best: in everything we take on, from the simplest of venues, we use the same ingredients as any 3 Michelin-starred restaurant”, explains big brother Raffaele when questioned about the Alajmo brand. The credit for this success goes to his management – his father decided to leave him the restaurant in 1994 – and to his brother Massimiliano who, at the young age of 28, obtained the third star in 2002.
The Alajmo’s Story
Their family has always been based in Rubano and this is where their parents Erminio and Rita started to run the restaurant; their mother Rita was already renowned for having earned a star for all the Veneto restaurants in which she had worked. In 1994, they decided to hand down the business to their sons and to move on a few kilometres to the Montecchia (1 Michelin star), a restaurant whose cuisine now tends towards vegetarianism, even though one of its most famous dishes is an express tartare prepared at the table by Erminio.
Quadri (pictured above), on the other hand, is patronised by the café society: the location is Piazza San Marco in Venice, where a café and bistro share the ground floor space while the first floor houses a restaurant with one of the most exclusive views over the Serenissima. Without leaving Venice, we can drop in at the Amo, whose style is casual yet endowed with design appeal, exactly like the Parisian experience of Caffé Stern signed by Philippe Starck, without forgetting the two Calandrino bistros and Ingredienti, a store selling ingredients in front of Le Calandre.
The Alajmo Brand must appear on Everything
In the past, there has also been a foray into Tokyo: an experience lasting three years with the Il Calandrino brand, which convinced the Alajmo brothers not to accept compromises in the building of their “empire” but rather to run the show directly. And so it was: Massimiliano coordinates and creates the menus, 4 times a year with each change of season and for all venues; Raffaele handles the entire organization from a managerial viewpoint. In brief, the Alajmo brand must appear on everything: from cuisine to tableware, designed by Max and Raf themselves for all venues.
The 10 Alajmo-branded establishments represent very different price ranges: from more affordable solutions such as breakfasts and intermediary proposals like bistro dinners to exclusive three-star restaurants. “Such is the philosophy of the great fashion brands: anyone entering your store can buy something, from a key ring to the most exclusive bag”, explains Raffaele. He goes on to say: “Gourmet restaurants do not necessarily have to be costly, but of course their high quality must be guaranteed”.
Massimiliano: the Creative Genius
The first to have his say must be Massimiliano: he is the creative genius behind one of the most famous dishes in the world – the best according to Andy Haley the gourmet who visits all the three-starred restaurants in the world – the saffron and liquorice risotto. From afar, the chef studies all the dishes on the 10 menus, speaks with the executive chef and then plans to spend a couple of days in each of the 10 venues which, when all is said and done, means 20 days’ work every 3 months just to change the menu.
“Having many different restaurants keeps you on your toes: you have to think about breakfast, snacks and cakes and everything becomes complementary to the gourmet restaurant activity”. In fact, Massimiliano leaves his mark on everything, from croissants to first courses: not only does this apply to the creation of dishes, but also to the perfection of special preparations which, in some cases, may even be patented. For now, the one patent carrying their signature is that of the Steamed Pizza, an ultra light focaccia served in all of the venues and made with a very small quantity of yeast and the power of steam to create a soft pizza base that is easy to digest.
Restaurants, recipes and ideas but also, and above all, a great sprawling family built up around the Alajmo Brothers based on mutual confidence. It is no coincidence that, when asked how they recognise a trustworthy partner, Massimiliano’s answer is spontaneous and sincere: “In a kitchen, we have such close contacts with confidence that you can feel it instinctively. All of my closest collaborators have chosen to work with us and have been with us for a long time. At the end of the day, I believe they are the ones who have to put their trust in us”.
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