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albiston

2004 Gambero Rosso Restaurants

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I'm sorry but I travel in Italy 10 to 15 days a year on business throughout the whole country. Almost all top end wine has dramatically appreciated in price. Specifically, Super Tuscans such as Solaia that were 120,000 lira for the '93-96 starting with the '97 went to almost 200 Euros. Evn lesser vintages afterwards didn't see much of a reduction with Solaia still over 150 Euros (300,000 lira) a bottle. You can follow this through with virtually every Super Tuscan. I'm not focusing on places like Alessi in Fierenze which has almost everything but rather smaller enotecas, say, in Bologna off of the Via Independenza which is quite good and use to have a lot of bargains. Enoteca Baldi in Panzano is quite good and more reasonable than either of these two. Still, at a certain level, wine has dramatically appreciated. CC's aren't as bad although I agree with your point here about certain produces such as Ama whose wines have gone up.

Since the late '80's I have carried as many as 12 or more bottles of wine back to the states with me on trips because of prices that were approximately half of the U. S. price. Today, I can find better prices in Costco for some of the same wines that I use to carry back from Italy. Last week 2000 Solaia was $119.95 at the Costco in Chantilly, VA. Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Tiganello were all similarly priced much less than Italy. In fact I was just in Bologna about six weeks ago shaking my head at how much prices have gone up.

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If I factor in the difference in the Euro vs the dollar the difference is even greater. I tend to think of the Euro as on par with the dollar.

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I'm sorry but I travel in Italy 10 to 15 days a year on business throughout the whole country.  Almost all top end wine has dramatically appreciated in price.  Specifically, Super Tuscans such as Solaia that were 120,000 lira for the '93-96 starting with the '97 went to almost 200 Euros.  Evn lesser vintages afterwards didn't see much of a reduction with Solaia still over 150 Euros (300,000 lira) a bottle.  You can follow this through with virtually every Super Tuscan.  I'm not focusing on places like Alessi in Fierenze which has almost everything but rather smaller enotecas, say, in Bologna off of the Via Independenza which is quite good and use to have a lot of bargains.  Enoteca Baldi in Panzano is quite good and more reasonable than either of these two.  Still, at a certain level, wine has dramatically appreciated.  CC's aren't as bad although I agree with your point here about certain produces such as Ama whose wines have gone up.

Since the late '80's I have carried as many as 12 or more bottles of wine back to the states with me on trips because of prices that were approximately half of the U. S. price.  Today, I can find better prices in Costco for some of the same wines that I use to carry back from Italy. Last week 2000 Solaia was $119.95 at the Costco in Chantilly, VA.  Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Tiganello were all similarly priced much less than Italy.  In fact I was just in Bologna about six weeks ago shaking my head at how much prices have gone up.

You are only looking at a very narrow and famously overpriced section of the Italian wine market. If you insist on buying "aia" wines you will certainly prove your point on Italian wine. The increase in the price for Solaia has little to do with the conversion to Euro or an overall increase in Italian wine pricing.

There is no reason to buy any of the Antinori related wines when there are so many other wines from that region that surpass them in quality at much lower prices. Tignanello has to be one of the worst values in Italy. If you insist on these wine you are paying for other things and must bear the cost - that is the price of the ticket.

I am sure you can find better prices at Costco because the stores in Toscana are priced based on what tourists will spend not on what Italians will buy.

One of the advantages of living in Lombardia is that we are not overwhelmed by tourists and the stores here price based on what Italians will buy. It is worth noting that wines like Tignanello and Solaia are 'export' wines that only show up on wine lists frequented by foreigners. There are just too many other outstanding wines in Italy today to be obsessed with the 'aia' wines.

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There is no reason to buy any of the Antinori related wines when there are so many other wines from that region that surpass them in quality at much lower prices. Tignanello has to be one of the worst values in Italy. If you insist on these wine you are paying for other things and must bear the cost - that is the price of the ticket.

Having drank, studied and collected Italian wines pretty extensively for almost ten years --- with an emphasis on Tuscan wines --- I couldn't agree more. Tignanello is the most glaring example of the "aia" pricing phenomenon to which you referred earlier.

Last year, my wife and I dined with another couple at Antinori's property near Tavernelle --- Osteria di Passignano. Because she has a sentimental fondness for Tignanello (her very 1st Super Tuscan taste in the early 1990s), I indulged her by ordering a 1990. Was it good? Yes. Was it great? No. Was it worth the price (actually a "deal" by US restaurant standards at around 150 Euros, but still a lot of money for a bottle of wine)? No, absolutely not given other options. I followed with a "comparable" choice, a 1990 Flaccianello from Fontodi (not exactly unknown, but certainly not marketed to legendary status in the US like an Antinori wine). This wine sold for about half the price of the Tignanello (still pricey, I admit), and blew it away. My wife now has a new favorite.

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Last year, my wife and I dined with another couple at Antinori's property near Tavernelle --- Osteria di Passignano.  Because she has a sentimental fondness for Tignanello (her very 1st Super Tuscan taste in the early 1990s), I indulged her by ordering a 1990. Was it good? Yes.  Was it great? No.  Was it worth the price (actually a "deal" by US restaurant standards at around 150 Euros, but still a lot of money for a bottle of wine)? No, absolutely not given other options.  I followed with a "comparable" choice, a 1990 Flaccianello from Fontodi (not exactly unknown, but certainly not marketed to legendary status in the US like an Antinori wine).  This wine sold for about half the price of the Tignanello (still pricey, I admit), and blew it away. My wife now has a new favorite.

This is exactly the point. You don't even have to find some obscure label. Fontodi Flaccianello, a famous label - is half the price - and is an equal (if not better) wine than over-marketed status symbols like Tignanello.

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Bologna is not exactly a town frequented by a lot of American tourists. Also, I've found that I can buy Fontodi and Felsina in the U. S. for about $20 or 21 a bottle which is about the same with the current exchange as in Italy. Further Allegrini has a very good less expensive wine called Palazza Della Torre which I can buy on sale here for about $13 a bottle. This is the same as in Verona.

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OK- all prices in US Dollars with today's exchange rate:

1999 Fontodi Flaccianello

Sam's Chicago 75.99

Enoteca San Domenico Siena 44.26

1999 Sassicaia

Enoteca Parenti Bologna 148.98

PJ's Manhattan 160.00

1999 Siepi Fonterutoli

Enoteca Parenti Bologna 68.12

The Wine Specialist Washington DC 92.99

1999 Ornellaia

Enoteca Parenti Bolgona 145.98

Sam's Chicago 145.99

2000 Felsina Fontalloro

Wine Exchange LA (Orange County) 49.99

Parma Grocery, Parma 32.77

What can we deduce from this? That Ornellaia is expensive everywhere.

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Further Allegrini has a very good less expensive wine called Palazza Della Torre which I can buy on sale here for about $13 a bottle.  .

A very tasty wine - a great value - here and there.

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To really put this on the next level, 2000 Lafite was $299.99 per bottle at Costco selling out twice in two stores in several hours each times. In Paris at Hediard I noted 650 Euros or about $750 at the current rate of exchange. I saw a bottle in Reims a a Carrefour and it was still 450 or so Euros. The Costco price is because they are selling it for an earlier futures price and passing along the savings. The Carrefour price-even at dollar for Euro-is approximately the same as at many stores in the U. S. Even lesser bordeaux are expensive in smaller towns in France now. Years ago, like Italy, I would bring back a lot of wine. Now I rarely do unless it's something that I can't get here.

Some wines are an investment of sorts. I have a case of the 2000 Lafite and in ten years I may sell it or I may drink some of it. It's a decision I'll make then but I feel comfortable that despite the cost I bought it at a low enough price that I'll be OK.

Same with '97 Solaia and others depending on the price paid. I'm also now looking at Romano Dal Forno and what that might be worth in ten years depending on what I can buy it for. The problem with this wine is that it seems to be over 200 Euros everywhere and in America you can only occasionally find it and then, it's close to $400.

But for everyday wine I'm probably around $10-13 a bottle with most of that bought on sale. I actually agree with you about a top bottle of wine being almost wasted with a meal but I still think there is a place for a better bottle. For example the '99 Giramonte is really delicious. It also needs a couple of hours to open up. I've served this before a meal at home and, say, a Querciabella CCR with the meal. I think the Giramonte would have been lost with it but for the Chianti it worked really well. In restaurants I tend to stay away from expensive bottles because of markup as much as any other reason focusing on wines like Querciabella or even a Sammarco. But to come full circle in this, Le Calandre has a small markup on many bottles whether Ama's CC or even Dal Forno's Amarone which is still expensive. Il Postale has a small markup. Restaurants like da Fiore are through the roof and the previously mentioned EP which I have not been to I understand is almost obscene. Aimo y Nadia, a personal disappointment, was very high also.

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Very good points - a few questions:

Why is it so hard to find Dal Forno in the USA. Not that there is a lot here, but you can find it at any serious enoteca - and some not so serious.

When did EP change the pricing policy on their wine list. It used to be reasonable, but went through the roof at some point. I have not been back in years because of the food so I am not clear when this change occured.

Aimo y Nadia has been a personal disappointment for many lately and they certainly have used the change to Euros to jack up their wine list prices. Did you go recently?

You brought up Il Desco before - I have asked this question over and over without an answer. I have eaten there several times times and always been underwhelming and I have never seen a positive review here - what am I missing about the food there?

You should make a tidy sum on that 2000 Lafite if you can resist drinking it!

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Craig, this is the link to a post that I did on Costco wine in the D. C. area on Chowhound a number of months ago.

http://www.chowhound.com/midatlantic/board...ages/20400.html

It's relevant for a number of reasons including the Super Tuscans such as Solaia at $119, Sassicaia for $129 (I think am certain of all the other prices), Sammarco for $59, etc. In the linked post I talk about how fast certain 2000 bordeaux were selling despite the Iraqi war and the Bush administration's attempts to discredit the French. (I'm trying to be non political here but I am not the world's biggest Bush supporter.) Today, the Costcos in Fairfax and Chantilly, VA have the 2000 Solaia still on their shelves. The Fairfax store has had it at this price for over two months, Chantilly about three weeks but that was when they received it and only a few bottles have sold. But point is that top end Italian wine-at least Super Tuscans-don't move like some bordeaux.

I've only tasted Dal Forno once in my life and it was incredible! But I love amarone and this was just awesome. My reaction to it was almost as strong as when I first tasted 1990 Avignonesi Vin Santo which is the best dessert wine of any kind that I have ever had. I mention both of these because they are incredible wines, hard to find yet don't enjoy the status of some of the French and California here. Perhaps because they don't move that quickly stores are less reluctant to stock them-if they can get them. I honestly don't know. But if I do a search on Wine-Searcher I can find Dal Forno in the U. S.; if I walk into a store in D. C. I doubt that they will have it. I saw a bottle of '91 Avignonesi sit on a shelf in a wine shop in Boston's North End for three months without it being sold. In Fierenze I remember Ama's L'Apparita only being sold as part of a mixed six pack for a tremendous price-it was that hard to get. Here, you can go into some D. C. stores and they've had it on the shelf for months. Point is again top end Italian doesn't move as fast as others. Result is that it is harder to find because most stores don't carry it but when you do there's usually not a large markup.

Anyway, all of this stuff excepting the L'Apparita could be found by me in Italy for what I thought were reasonable prices. Even the Avignonesi which I have bought many years in Panzano.

Aimo y Nadia was early last December. Ridiculously expensive but my wife and I tried to sample as much as we could. I felt that he was trying to be creative but that a lot of combinations just didn't work very well. At Le Calandre there was a similar trial period. Four or five years ago there were a lot of misses. Now, for me, he's more than justified his three stars. The combination of flavors and textures, the creativity-it has all just come together. At the Milano restaurant it is falling apart from what I can see. Two stars to one.

Il Desco was a December trip three or four years ago. Intesting point about wine. I ordered a Sammarco and when they presented it they did not decant it; just opened it and poured it straight into the glass. I asked them to pour it into a decanter so it could breathe for a bit. I felt that in a two star this was inexcusable. GR gives this a 52 for food. I just think it's unexceptional other than one spectacular chocolate combination dessert which was around 25 or 30 Euros. I also didn't really think the ambience was anything exceptional.

Today I can afford to drink the Lafite. In ten years when I retire I may need to sell every bottle. Still, it's a choice worth having. Thanks.

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My reaction to it was almost as strong as when I first tasted 1990 Avignonesi Vin Santo which is the best dessert wine of any kind that I have ever had.......  I saw a bottle of '91 Avignonesi sit on a shelf in a wine shop in Boston's North End for three months without it being sold.

I had the 1990 Avignonesi Vin Santo for the first time recently, and would have to second your sentiments --- the best dessert wine of any kind that I've ever tasted. An incredible body/mouthfeel --- syrupy, nectar-like are the words that come to mind --- with a blast of flavors (raisins, currants, fig, cinnamon, honey) following close behind and finishing LONG....all in perfect balance. I can only wonder what the "Occhio di Pernice" version is like.

I bought a bottle of 1991 in Boston's North End about a year and a half ago --- it was at "The Wine Bottega" on Hanover Street. Any chance that was the bottle you saw on the shelf for 3 months? It's a small world....

Here, you can go into some D. C. stores and they've had it on the shelf for months. Point is again top end Italian doesn't move as fast as others.

I'd generally have to agree with your observation that high-end Italians (with some notable exceptions) don't move as fast as other high-end wines in the States. The average US consumer --- even the average so-called US "collector" --- just isn't educated about the world of Italian wine (especially in the more moderate price range), which still, in my view, generally represents the best price/value ratio out there today for VQPRD.

But, when the Wine Spectator named Isole e Olena's 1997 Cepparello the third best wine of the year a couple of years back, the price doubled in US retail outlets and a wine that had been sitting on the shelves unnoticed (but for a few souls like me who had been drinking and admiring this wine for years) blew its way out the doors almost overnight. Shortly thereafter, I had the pleasure of meeting the winemaker --- Paolo DeMarchi --- at a dinner in the Boston area. I asked him how it felt to have his wine recognized so prominently by WS. He shook his head --- half in amusement and half in bewilderment. "We've been doing the same thing year-in/year-out for a long time --- making the best wine we know how. Now, people stop me in the street. They say 'Hey, aren't you the famous winemaker?' I'm just me --- our wine has always, in my opinion, been consistently excellent . But overnight, this magazine has changed people's perceptions. It's the perceptions that are better, not the wine itself."

And we wonder why "modern" winemakers are moving more and more toward international style wines catering to the palates of WS and Parker (many of which, I admit, I greatly enjoy for what they are), and foregoing the traditional styles rooted in terroir?

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Really interesting post, thanks. And, yes, my God I think you bought the bottle that sat there for three months. Twice I almost bought it. After it was gone I knew was a terrible decision I had made.

Please, when you open it. Toast the stranger who made a bad decision in the North End one night. An incredibly small world!

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I find the overall score which includes up to a 5 point arbitrary bonus to be largely meaningless.  Can you list the 60 point scale food only scores?

I actually wanted to but had problems with the link on the gambero rosso web site. Here is the list with only the food votes taken in account, which as you rightly point out cahnges the things a a bit:

56

Gambero Rosso San Vincenzo [LI]

Vissani Baschi [TR]

53

Da Caino Manciano [GR]

Le Calandre Rubano [PD]

Combal.0 Rivoli [TO]

La Madonnina del Pescatore Senigallia [AN]

La Torre del Saracino Vico Equense [NA]

Uliassi Senigallia [AN]

52

Ambasciata Quistello [MN]

Antica Osteria del Teatro Piacenza

Il Desco Verona

Don Alfonso 1890 Massa Lubrense [NA]

Hostaria Santa Lucia Jesi [AN]

Paolo e Barbara San Remo [iM]

Perbellini Isola Rizza [VR]

Al Sorriso Soriso [NO]

La Terrazza del Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni Bellagio [CO]

Let me make some overall comments about 3 of the highly ranked places here: Da Caino, Gambero Rosso and Calandre. I have only dined once in each place but quite recently.

CALANDRE---February 26, 2003

My overall impression of this place is that there is a very talented and intelligent chef in the making and he succeeds with both seafood and meat. His passion for cooking reflects in the dishes and the overall attitude is right, prices are reasonable, they do not mind hearing some criticism and one day this nondescript inn near Padua may become a gourmet destination.

The chef already excels in extracting flavor from impeccable ingredients and pass the "deliciousness" test before showing off his technique. The quality of cauliflower, potatoes, red gambas, langoustines, calamari, and squab and artisanal risotto from Piemonte(Vialone Nano)are such that one can only take the hat off. Starters are very appetizing and the progress of the meal is well measured. The famous ex Robuchon cauliflower mousse with oscietra dish is rendered more interesting with the apt inclusion of gelatinous veal feet. Even more impressive is the simple seafood coctail of gamberi rossi served in a flute with various agrumes, raw radicchio and a dollop of fruity olive oil. The dish is uplifting, acidity is tempered with fruitiness and slight bitterness and the palate feels good afterwards. He follows this with "involtini di Scampi fritti su salsa di lattuga e cappucino di seppia al nero". The first part of the dish in non impressive. Maybe he shows off his impeccable deep frying technique with langoustines but compared to what, say, the likes of Ducasse and Pacaud can concoct with this favorite shellfish of mine, Massimiliano just does OK and the lettuce mousse does not add much. But the latter half of the plate, i.e. the custard of potatos and squid ink with sweet cuttlefish is a masterpiece. The potato puree is the level of Robuchon version of the past(but without butter)and somehow this simple looking dish is more than the sum of its parts(forgive the cliche). Next comes a Milanese risotto embellished by licorice dots. The risottos I had in this trip in and around Milano was an eye opener for me. Massimiliano's version was a cut above of the second best. Bravo. It is hard to follow this with another pasta and he can not. "Tortelli di stracchino e ravioli di guancia di manzo" which comes afterwards is good but not better than, say, the superb versions I had in Trattoria Pompiere in Verona(highly recommended in its own right). After a slightly smoked chicken broth, Massimiliano served me arguably the best pigeon dish in memory. "piccione arrostito con fegato grosso d'anatra, tartufo nero e millefoglie di mele"is such that the dish is beautiful, has a clear center, both the brest and thigh(served in the same time)are rendered beautifully, foie gras does not dominate but adds up to the flavor, and the apple slices provide the counterpoint. How can a rich dish with truffles, foie gras, etc., taste so light? What is in this pigeon that is so flavorful? Massimiliano explains. He is clearly pulling my leg but at this point I am quite ecstasic, ready to be taken for a ride.

"The pigeon comes from a nutty man in somewhere in Tuscany(he told me where but I forgot). He takes special care of his birds, talks to them, and he makes them listen to classical music".

What? Did I understand correctly? Is this a seen from a Jarmusch movie? Will they taste better if they listen to Mozart as opposed to Wagner? Anyway Massimiliano is too modest to take personal credit. He loves to talk about his suppliers.

Desserts at this point can only be a letdown. And they are a letdown except a remarkable celery sorbet.

My notes also list the 7 cheeses we had beforehand. I read the note:" a great pecorino with a Vacherin consistency". Was I drunk or what?

I suppose I could not have been drunk. Following 2 welcome prosecco(really from the house) my wife and I had only a 2000 Pinot Grigio from Sanct Valentin==which I graded 92 and was 26 euro--and a 96 Dal Forno Valpolicella for 70 euro which I graded 93+(By the way the Sauvignon from the same house is also very good and they make pretty decent pinot noirs)

Total cost:386 euro

My final wish and judgment: I would love to return. Presently I will rank the chef say 2 and 3/4 stars so Michelin is right. Gambero Rosso rating seems ungenerous to me esp. in view of the fact that they have ranked(for food) Da Caino and Gambero Rosso higher. To me the latter 2 were a notch below, maybe deserving 2 stars but not at the higher end of 2 stars(like Soliveres when he was at les Elysees, or Rostang in a good day, or Briffard at Elysees, or Zuberoa in Spain, etc). Massimiliano is still evolving and may emerge as a top gourmet destination--not all 3 stars are created equal--in near future.

I may also post notes from recent meals at Da Caino, Gambero Rossi, Perbellini if there is interest.

PS: I am not too ungrateful. Of course we cheered at the end of the dinner, sipping our from the house vin santo wines, for Joe H who brought this restaurant to our radar screen.

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Thank you sir for the nice words. I am also appreciative that you tried Le Calandre. I first went to it five or six years ago when he was, perhaps, 22 or 23 and just learning. I agree that he is still "evolving" but I also believe he is very close to being one of Italy's and the world's greatest chefs. Years ago some of his attempts did not work or they were a step off; my last visit a year ago, he was very, very close on some, others were total triumphs. Several induced moans.

There is also a point about this chef and this restaurant that I believe is well worth mentioning. 125 Euros prix fixe for this level is incredible. Double this in Paris and elsewhere and I still believe that he challenges the best at half the price.

We will try the Dal Forno Valpocella on our next visit in early December. In fact we go to Romano Dal Forno that afternoon for a visit that I really anticipate. Some of his amarone is among the best wine of any kind that I have ever tasted. To be able to order this and his other wines at Le Calandre for a "semi-reasonable" price is almost a gift.

I was also looking for a restaurant in Verona since I am not a fan of Il Desco. Your comments about Pompiere cemented a decision for me and I thank you.

I have not been to Perbellini nor Da Caino but I have been to Gambero Rossi. I would be extremely interested in your thoughts. Your post by the way was an absolute pleasure to read.

Finally, have you been to Il Postale in Umbria or La Fornace di Barbeblu?This is the link to a post I had on the 2000 year old Roman era furnace: http://www.chowhound.com/boards/intl/messa...ages/17143.html

It probably is the most unique (for lack of a better description) restaurant that I have ever eaten in. Il Postale is not in league with the creative Massimiliano at Calandre. But for what it is there is real excellence...at a more than reasonable price. When I think back to our only meal there it is one of the best that I have had in Italy.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your experiences and also for the nice words.

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vmilor thank you as always for your wonderful posts. Please give us your reports on Da Caino, Gambero Rossi and Perbellini.

Could you comment on how the Dal Forno went with the food? I have always found his wines a bit too highly extracted to balance well with such refined cooking.

Also did he happen to comment on why he used artisanal vialone nano from Piemonte instead of one from Veneto?

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I've carried bags of Pila Vecia Violane Nano back on planes many times from Italy to make risotto with. I had thought this was considered by most to be the best brand for most risottos. Ferron is something of the King of arborio if you will and this represents the top percentage of his rice. I am curious why Massimiliano chooses another especially considering that this is so close to him. If he did not happen to mention I'll ask him next month.

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I've carried bags of Pila Vecia Violane Nano back on planes many times from Italy to make risotto with.  I had thought this was considered by most to be the best  brand for most risottos.  Ferron is something of the King of arborio if you will and this represents the top percentage of his rice.  I am curious why Massimiliano chooses another especially considering that this is so close to him.  If he did not happen to mention I'll ask him next month.

Pila Vecia is an incredible experince. Going there to eat is like going to a risotto university. Actually he uses and packages both carnaroli and vialone nano under the Pila Vecia label - not just vialone nano. His dishes at the restaurant do tend to feature vialone nano, but he does use carnaroli when he feels the dish calls for those textures. To the best of my knowlege he does not use or package arborio which he feels is inferior to the other two types (I agree).

By the way you can get his rice in the USA from www.agferrari.com.

For more info on the rice types click here

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I'm familiar with the restaurant at the rice mill. I know several people who have been and echoed your feelings, although I've never been. How long does it take to drive from the center of Verona there?

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I'm familiar with the restaurant at the rice mill.  I know several people who have been and echoed your feelings, although I've never been.  How long does it take to drive from the center of Verona there?

If you know the way it is just over 30 minutes from Verona. It is not easy to find so allow more time. I think there is a map on the website and the Michelin website also gives detailed directions.

It is a unique dining/learning experience.

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Thanks again, Craig. I've wanted to go for a long time and will go on this trip.

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Joe and Craig:

Both of you guys are more connoiseurs of risotto than I . I never had the one you mention, i.e Pila Vecchia. The first risotto which was an eye opener for me was at the French Laundry, Keller's carnaroli with borown butter and some Langhe goodies. The rice itself I had in Calandre was superior. He told me that he prefers even shaped carnaroli for seafood and vialone nano for other purposes. His producer from Piemonte is TENUTA CASTELLO. He gave me a handfull but somehow we lost it! I suppose this is a non commercial artisan with modest means that Massimiliano discovered. This is what is great about the guy. Discovering top quality product is not a PR thing for him, it is a way of life.

I forgot to add that, although we chose the 125 Euro menu quite a few things in the cheaper menu attracted our attention. Unfortunately they must have taken mental notes as we had extra courses for no extra matierial charge but it takes a toll---I lost today in tennis.

They decanted the Valpolicella and served it in the stupid Riedel balloon shaped glasses. I hate these glasses aesthetically. We did not start our Dal Forno till the piccione, i.e. 2 hours or so after they have decanted it. And yes, Craig is absolutely correct that even the 96 Valpolicella was an overkill for the baby pigeon but it went well with the cantal like cheese we had and the gorgonzola. Still I was very curious and given my mediterranean blood curiousity mostly takes precedence over reason and logic.

I will post about the 2 stars as soon as I can. Thanks for your encouragement and kind words.

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I'm familiar with the restaurant at the rice mill.  I know several people who have been and echoed your feelings, although I've never been.  How long does it take to drive from the center of Verona there?

If you know the way it is just over 30 minutes from Verona. It is not easy to find so allow more time. I think there is a map on the website and the Michelin website also gives detailed directions.

It is a unique dining/learning experience.

One more thing...

When you make your reservation request a table close to the kitchen. It is an open kitchen and you can watch Ferron cook.

I would not suggest this is a culinary experience on the level of Le Calandre, but it is fascinating and you will look at rice in a whole new way afterwards.

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Thanks to both of you.

I am a serious cook who immodestly believes that I can do some things as well as anyone anywhere assuming I have access to the proper ingredients. Not a lot of things but some things. One of the dishes that I make myself which is better than any I have had anywhere else (Le Calandre included) is a toasted pistachio gorgonzola dolce risotto which I make with MAURI gorgonzola dolce (Very important) and the Pila Vecchia violane nano along with the best freshly grated reggiano and country butter (even Pleugra) that I can find. I also use chopped toasted pistachios ecause I want some crunch. This is an incredibly rich dish which uses far more butter, reggiano and dolce than you will even want to consider. Don't skimp on anything. This is a dish that is about 6 to 8 bites. The recipe I have found will probably seve 15 or so because of this richness. This is the link to what has become something of a notorious post on Chowhound because of my authoritarian manner in it. I apologize for the tone but there are too many people (including my sister who owned a restaurant that Phillys Richman once called one of D. C.'s 50 best) who cut corners. This is a dish to make exactly as I do. So an apology in advance but if you are into risotto and have the technique down I promise you risotto better than any you have had anywhere. (If you disagree PLEASE tell me where and I will go. I am probably as obsessed with risotto as the people at the rice mill!)

http://www.chowhound.com/boards/general11/...ages/30466.html

This generated about 200 responses on, I believe, four or five initial posts including this. It has been brought back up by a whole bunch of people who wanted to prove that it would not be as good as I promised. To the best of my knowledge there is no one who has made this CORRECTLY that has not said it is the best they have ever had.

I have also made it for several chefs in the U. S. along with a number of friends, two of whom claim to have eaten in every two star and three star in Italy along with having been born in Vicenza and marrying a woman who only semi facetiously claims was because her mother made the best risotto he ever tasted. He is also the man who first told me about Calandre and the restaurant at the rice mill. He believes this is better than his mother in law's white alba truffle risotto. The other now makes it himself flying in the ingredients.

I will request a table close to the kitchen. It is very important to me and thanks again. I will also try to find the artisinal arborio that Le Calandre uses.

Thanks again.

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