We spent a few weeks wandering along Lago di Como, Lago d’Iseo and Lago di Garda. We drove through fields of corn and rice, forests and vineyard after vineyard. Throughout we found a patchwork of wineries and farms.
We started from Milano stopping off at Tarantola restaurant hidden in the woods. The woods themselves were serene although studded with some unusual wildlife we previously had thought to be mainly nocturnal… The restaurant is a bit formal, has a lovely terrace looking into the woods and a lawn with children’s play equipment. The food was modern and excellent. I had the best costoletta alla Milanese (breaded and fried veal chop) of my life there.
Lago di Como was our first and favourite lake of the trip, it felt as though we walked into an oil painting from another era. The lakeside villas, the sun reflecting off the lake and the boats full pleasure seekers crisscrossing the waters were pure poetry. We visited Bellagio and its many tourists enjoying the beauty of this tiny town.
The Albergo Ristorante Silvio has an excellent restaurant overlooking the lake and features lake fish, particularly missoltini (traditionally prepared salt cured shad (surprisingly similar in flavour to dace, an inexpensive fish eaten in Hong Kong).
A quick ferry ride across the lake is another tiny town of 1,300 inhabitants, Tremezzo, which has several 18th century villas.
The first stop on the ferry was Villa Carlotta which was built in 1690 for Marquis Giorgio Clerici from Milano. It is named Carlotta after the daughter of Princess Marianna of Nassau and Prince Albert of Prussia who was given the house as a wedding present in 1843 by her mother.
The villa is impressively grand, not only because it covers more than 70,000 square meters and is filled with art masterpieces but it also has a remarkable botanical garden with fountains, sculptures and pergolas of lemon and orange trees.
We had lunch at La Darsena in Tremezzo, which had the perfect view of the lake and Bellagio. The menu featured the bounty of the lake including a mixed lake fish starter with grilled and poached fish and fish pate. The risotto with breaded and fried perch fillets was exquisite.
On our way to Lago d’Iseo to see the Franciacorta area, we stopped outside Bergamo for lunch at a lovely countryside trattoria housed in an ancient manor house. This was our favourite meal of the trip. We sat outside on the terrace and took the kids in back to see the garden and chickens providing the ingredients for our meal.
The service was heartfelt and attentive. The food was authentic and excellently prepared using family recipes. Our boys finished full bowls of casoncelli (cured meat, bread, eggs and cheese filled pasta). Meanwhile we tucked into plates of polenta and a cheese plate.
Their cheese plate included AgrÌ, a special fresh unpasteurised cow cheese from near here in the Brembana Valley by only one remaining producer.
Next week’s blog will be about Lago d’Iseo and the Franciacorta wine area. See contact details below on places mentioned below.
Recipe translated from Cucina Lariana:
As this dish incorporates both rice and fish fillets, it can be eaten instead of a first course and main course (piatto unico). Perch were a fish prized during Roman times.
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Risotto con i filetti di pesce persico (risotto with breaded and fried perch fillets)
800 gms perch fillets
100 gms butter
25 grams (2 tablespoons) flour
12 leaves sage
500 grams risotto rice
1.5 litres vegetable broth or fish court-bouillon
40 grams onion, finely chopped
125 mls white wine, dry
salt to taste
In a saucepan, heat the broth to a boil. In a separate large saucepan or risotto pan heat the 40 grams of the butter and onion. When the onion has softened and becomes translucent, add the rice, stirring, to toast it. When the rice makes a squeaking sound, about 3 minutes, add the wine. Continually stir with a wooden spoon until the wine evaporates. Add the broth one ladle at a time, continually stirring. As the broth is absorbed by the rice, add more broth. Cook until the rice is “al dente“, 15 to 20 minutes from when it was first added.
In a frying pan, heat half of the sage with 40 grams of butter. At the same time, place the flour on a plate and dip the fish fillets in the flour, turning. Fry the fish in the butter one at a time until they are golden, turning to fry the other side. Remove the fillets as they are cook and keep warm. When the rice is cooked, place the fillets overtop in a crown.
Heat the remaining 20 grams of butter with the rest of the sage until the sage changes colour. Remove the sage and discard. Drizzle the sage butter overtop of the risotto and serve hot.
Where to eat:
From Milano to Lago di Como:
Appiano (Outside Milano):
Ristorante TarantolaVia della Resistenza 29 Appiano Gentile (CO) Tel: +39 031 930990 [email protected]
Closed Monday dinner and all day Tuesday, 1-15 January
Set in a forest to the north of Milano, not far from the southwestern tip of Lago di Como. Sit outside on the terrace in the summer. There is a large field with a herb garden, trellised grape vines and a children’s playground.
Recommended dishes: costoletta Milanese
On Lago di Como:
Winner for best view:
La DarsenaHotel La Darsena Via Regina, 3 – 22019 Tremezzo (CO) Tel: +39 0344 43166 Fax: +39 0344 40029 [email protected]
A beautiful lakeside restaurant with a view of Bellagio.
Recommended dishes: risotto con filetti di peace persico (risotto with breaded and fried perch fillets with sage butter), mixed fish platter- lavarello (European whitefish), smoked trout, char, and fish pate with agone. Good wine list.
Albergo Ristorante SilvioVia Carcano 12 (strada statale) 22021 Bellagio (Como) Tel: +39 (0)31 95 03 22 [email protected]
Closed 20 November to 20 December and 10 January to 20 February
Recommended dishes: lavarello (European whitefish), mixed fish platter
Drive from Lago di Como to Lago d’Iseo:
Ambivere (outside Bergamo)
Winner: our favourite of the trip
Trattoria Visconti12, Via De Gasperi, Ambivere (BG) Tel: +39 035 908 153
Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 2 weeks in June
This restaurant has been recognised by the Lombardy Regional Authority as an important local establishment. The trattoria is in an ancient manor house which has served the public since 1932. There are chickens and an amazing vegetable garden behind the restaurant which can be visited. This is Italian country dining at its best.
Walk from Colonno to Cadenabbia di Griante to see villas and gardens along the way.
Where to stay:
Agriturismo Castello di VezioVia del Castellano, 16 23828 Vezio di Perledo, Varenna, Lecco, Italy +39 02 5819 0940
This is a holiday farm located on 60 acres above the eastern part of Lago di Como offering a panoramic view of the lake. On the grounds is a castle as well as beautiful gardens, a pool and tennis courts.
Albergo MilanoVia XX Settembre, 35 23829 Varenna, Lecco tel: +39 0341 830298
Small lakeside hotel on the eastern part of Lago di Como.
Grand Hotel TremezzoVia Provinciale Regina, 8 22019 Tremezzo Como, Italy Tel: +39 0344 42491
Old world luxury hotel on the lake with pool.
Grand Hotel Villa SerbelloniVia Roma, 1 22021 Bellagio (CO) Tel: +39 031 950216
A lakefront 5-star hotel with pool, spa and its own pier.
Albergo Ristorante Silvio
(see details above)
Foodie 3 star hotel with a veranda overlooking the lake. It has been run since World War I by the Ponzino family. The hotel also organises fishing trips on the lake.