The Alajmo family of three star Michelin Le Calandre in Rubano took over this Venice institution in early 2011. Quadri is located on the northeast side of St Mark's Square in the heart of the city. The building itself dates back to 1638, and historically was a cafe, the first to introduce Turkish coffee to Venice.
The head chef of Quadri is Silvio Giavedoni. He trained via interships at a number of Italy’s top restaurants including the Corte Sconta in Venice, Rucola in Sirmione and Michelin-stared Miramonti l’Altro in Concesio (BS), where he was chef de partie from 1999 to 2001. He then moved to Paris where he worked for Pierre Gagnaire at Hotel George V from 2001 and 2002 in the three star kitchen of chef Philippe Legendre. In 2003, he joined Massimiliano Alajmo’s team at Le Calandre, and in 2007 Silvio was sent to Japan to open Il Calandrino Tokyo. Two years later, he returned to Le Calandre, and was appointed executive chef of Quadri in early 2011. The restaurant earned a Michelin star in the 2012 guide, which it has retained up until the time of my visit. At the time of writing Quadri is one of just three Michelin starred restaurants in Venice. Its menu focuses on seafood occurring in the Venice lagoon, delivered from the local Rialto market.
Quadri itself is up two flights of stairs, whilst at ground level is a simpler cafe and restaurant called abcQuadri, under the same ownership. The main restaurant opens for both lunch and dinner, its dining room in two sections. Four tables in all have a direct view out over the square, so request one of these when booking. At night the room has low lighting levels, yet the tables themselves are picked out by directed spotlights and are well lit. The walls are decorated with burgundy damask wallpaper, with Murano glass light fittings including a spectacular central chandelier, and there is an ornate panelled ceiling.
Several tasting menus were available, as well as a la carte options. The "lagoon" tasting menu was priced at €170 and emphasised the seafood of the local Venice lagoon, a meatier tasting menu was €235 with a white truffle menu at €300. A la carte dishes included starters such as dentex tartare at €75 and main courses such as suckling pig with white truffles at the same price.
The wine list is displayed on an iPad, and you can search by region, price etc as you wish. Over 650 different wines are listed, such as Vitovska Zidarich 2010 at €65 for a wine that you can find in the high street for around €34, Jermann Vintage Tunina 2011 at €95 for a wine that retails at €44, and Contemo Barolo Aldo Colonello 2008 at €210 for a wine that will set you back €125 in a shop. The bread was made from scratch in the kitchen, a choice of white, brown or grissini (breadsticks). I was impressed with the texture of the grissini, the white bread being the least good of the three offerings, but still averaging 16/20.
I had a tasting menu (a mix of dishes from the standard menus) and my wife chose a la carte. A trio of nibbles began the meal: bruschetta with pumpkin and mushroom, salt cod with prawn from the lagoon, and tempura of anchovy with mozzarella. The texture of the bruschetta was too hard, but the other nibbles were good, the ingredients of good quality (16/20). A little purée of beans with fried bread and bottarga (salted grey mullet roe) was warm and comforting, appropriate to this cold December evening (16/20).
My next dish was dentex tartare with sea urchin, capers, oyster leaf and caviar. Dentex is a Mediterranean fish that tastes somewhat like sea bream, and this particular fish had good flavour. The sea urchin added a briny richness, the caviar bringing an element of luxurious saltiness to the dish (16/20). At this point my wife was presented with a pleasant pumpkin soup with parsley froth and a garnish of pumpkin seeds (15/20).
Mezzi paccheri (a hollow pasta from Campania) was filled with raw fish and shellfish, tomato, pistachio sauce and drops of saffron sauce. The lobster, shrimp and langoustines were all excellent, the tomato having lovely flavour, but the pasta was quite hard. Certainly it needed to be firm to be able to hold the shellfish, but for me it was a still a touch too hard (15/20). At this stage of the meal my wife ate fried tagliolini of langoustine with a basil and almond sauce, with a light bottarga and oregano mayonnaise. The shellfish had very good flavour, the pasta in this case could have been crisper (15/20).
Risotto of "go" fish and spider crab was next, the rice retaining a hint of firmness, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. The crab was excellent, the fried fish going nicely with the risotto, in this case made using olive oil rather than butter, the overall dish just a touch saltier than ideal (16/20).
Fassone beef tartare came with a truffle sauce, anchovies and sea urchin. I have written elsewhere about this very interesting Piedmontese beef, which has excellent flavour yet has unusually low fat and cholesterol content due to a genetic characteristic of the breed. Here the tartare worked well, the anchovies bringing a natural element of seasoning to the dish, balancing the richness of the sea urchin (16/20).
My favourite savoury dish was wild duck risotto with white truffles. The duck used here is local and is to be found nesting near the lagoon, here cooked pink and then topped with a generous shaving of wild truffles. The risotto had a lovely rich stock, the duck having deep flavour, the truffles adding their unique fragrance (18/20).
My main course was chicken livers with sautéed wild mushrooms flavoured with rosemary, fried polenta on the side. The mushrooms were excellent, the polenta providing some balance to the richness of the liver. Polenta can be a very dull thing indeed, but here it was carefully cooked and its inherent blandness worked well in such an otherwise rich dish (17/20). Sea bass was carefully cooked, served with olive, chicory and caper pesto and a rich chickpea purée (16/20).
Between us we sampled three desserts. Tiramisu combined light texture with deep, intense coffee flavour (easily 17/20). Zabaglione was impressive, rich and still warm (when so often it appears cold), the Marsala flavour not too strong. This was served with superb assorted biscuits, which were gloriously delicate (18/20). I have had so many disappointing versions of this classic dessert over the years, so it was lovely to see it done properly here.
Sour cherry panettone was the star dessert, served with a chocolate sauce. The texture of the panettone was a revelation to me; this can so often be very hard and dried out, but here the sweet bread loaf was extraordinarily light; the chocolate sauce was also fine, and I will remember the remarkably fluffy texture of this dish for a long time (20/20).
Service was excellent, friendly and welcoming, the dishes coming at a steady pace and the topping up faultless. If you went a la carte and had three courses then the food would come to perhaps €150 depending on what you ordered, a little less than the cheapest tasting menu. With a modest wine a typical bill with coffee and water would come to around €195 (£164). Of course if you went for the full white truffle menu and drank more ambitiously the bill would be considerably higher. This is hardly cheap, but you must remember that this is the heart of Venice, where a cup of coffee in St Mark's Square costs €9, as I discovered earlier today. It is possible to eat very badly indeed in Venice, as I recall from a previous trip, and at least at Quadri you are getting very good food and service for your money, with a view over the most famous square in Italy thrown in. Overall I thought that the food fully merited its Michelin star, with some dishes better than this and the pastry section actually operating at a higher level than its one star rating.Book
Further reviews: 09th Dec 2014