Calandra’s Il Vecchio Café
Francesco Palmieri is currently the Executive Chef of the esteemed Calandra’s Il Vecchio Cafe and La Taverna restaurants based in Caldwell, New Jersey. An accomplished and visionary chef, Chef Francesco spent eight years working at top New York City restaurants and owned and operated his own acclaimed restaurant, The Orange Squirrel, in his hometown of Bloomfield, New Jersey for eight years.
Chef Francesco’s culinary interest was sparked at an early age by his mother’s Italian home cooking that was prepared with organic vegetables grown in their garden. This started the path to his education at Culinary Institute of America (CIA), which included a culinary externship in Frankfurt, Germany. Upon graduating CIA in 2000, Chef Francesco’s first foray into the culinary field began at the world-renowned Windows on the World restaurant in the World Trade Center in New York City where he trained with his mentor, Chef Michael Lomonaco for two years until the tragic events of 9/11.
Immediately following Windows on the World, Palmieri joined Pino Luongo’s team at Coco Pazzo as Sous Chef where he honed his skills under Chef Marta Pulini. During his two years at Coco Pazzo he cooked for a host of celebrities and notable clientele and finished as acting Executive Chef. He then spent three years as Sous Chef with Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian at Town, a Three Star restaurant.
At The Orange Squirrel, his innovative culinary style is reflected in the contemporary American upscale comfort cuisine with European accents made with premium, fresh ingredients that include house-made pastas; ‘couture’ pizzas and a selection of main entrees with an extensive assortment of side dishes. A multi-creative talent, Chef Francesco also attended the Fashion Institute of Technology for Interior Design, which proved beneficial as he personally designed and hand-crafted The Orange Squirrel. His inspiration for the décor was a modern, art deco style featuring a one-of-a-kind Wood Stone oven, a custom made “floating” Brazilian birch and limestone bar, and imported Italian furniture and lighting.
He is married to Elaine, a make-up artist and currently lives in his hometown of Bloomfield, NJ. A 21st century Renaissance man, he is passionate about applying his creativity in all his artistic endeavors.