Dining with a cheese-maven at Al Sasso, in Teolo, outside Padova.
One of Italy's greatest cheese mavens, Alberto Marcomini, introduced me to Al Sasso Trattoria, a new favorite outside Padova with terrific country-style cooking. Lucio Calaone is assisted by his mother, wife and sister in the kitchen, from which he serves enlightened, unusual versions of traditional regional dishes, a welcome relief from the tired, cheap Sunday lunch food that prevails in the area. Al Sasso has a rustic ambiance, with wooden-beamed ceilings and terra cotta floors. In summer, you can dine under the portico.
I recommend you begin with either a deep-fried antipasto of zucchini flowers, sage leaves and mushrooms, or the bean and potato salad studded with anchovies. Pasta e fagioli soup, homemade tagliolini pasta with mushrooms, and bigoli (extruded pasta, often made with whole wheat) sauced with chicken ragu are also tasty. Poultry lovers will go crazy over the quality of the meat in main dishes - guinea hen with mushrooms, pheasant cooked with Cabernet, and Al Sasso's justly famous fried chicken served with crispy potato chunks.
Be sure to save room for Calaone's impressive selection of cheeses, especially the world-class taleggio from neighboring Lombardy, which is the best I've ever tasted. Conclude with seasonal fruit desserts, particularly anything made with Monselice peaches.
Al Sasso, via Ronco 11, Castelnuovo di Teolo, tel. 39-049-9925073