There are many ways to judge what makes a truly spectacular dining experience. Ratings and awards can be one way to sort of the best from the rest and food connoisseurs in Europe generally look to the stars awarded by authors of the French Michelin guides as a good indicator of culinary brilliance. Each year Michelin revises its ratings – earning just one Michelin star can truly put an establishment on the map, losing a star can be a public relations nightmare. Earning three stars is the Holy Grail for any restaurant and chef. In 2006, there are five restaurants in Italy that hold three Michelin stars (as noted in Michelin’s 2006
- La Pergola, Rome: This restaurant in the Cavalieri Hilton boasts a stunning view of Rome and earned Chef Heinz Beck his third
Michelin star in 2006.
- Dal Pescatore, near Montova: What started out 80 years ago as a fisherman’s hut has now produced Nadia Santini one of only three Italian female chefs who hold three Michelin stars. The restaurant was passed down to Santini’s husband Antonio who is part of three generations working in the 35-seat restaurant today.
- Enoteca Piniciorri, Florence: Chef Annie Feolde, the first woman in Europe, outside France, to win three stars from Michelin, welcomes diners to a Renaissance palace to taste her innovative Tuscan cuisine complemented by one of the 150,000 bottles of wine in the enoteca’s cellar.
- Al Sorriso, near Lake Orta: Chef Maria Luisa Vallazza is another of the three- star female chefs. Those who are satiated by her cuisine can spend the night in one of Al Sorriso’s eight elegant guest rooms.
- Calandre, near Padova: This restaurant featuring modern Italian cuisine is part of a mini- empire run by the 5th generation
of the Alajamo family. It includes a deli, patisserie and hotel. Massimiliano Alajmo is the youngest three-star chef in Europe
I couldn’t confirm the latest totals for 2006 (looks like there are 226 Italian chefs with stars this year), but in 2005, 255 restaurants in Italy held Michelin stars – 197 establishments had one star, 23 had two stars and four had three stars (La Pergola above earned its third star in 2006). How does that compare to other countries? In 2005, France had 620 restaurants with at least one star (23 eateries earned three stars). The United Kingdom had 230 restaurants with at least one star and Germany had 212.