LAKE COMO, ONE SPRITZ AT A TIME…
When you think of Italy, one of the first things that springs to mind is of course the food. Italians take their food very seriously, and usually the best places are those a little off the beaten track. As a self-confessed ‘foodie’ I am going to guide you around Lake Como where I have lived, eaten and drank for the past five years!
Taimar, Lake Como Weddings
Let’s start with breakfast. No-where in the world (that I’ve been to so far) has coffee as good as you’ll find in Italy. Even the motorway services have better coffee than most coffee shops outside of Italy.
Italians don’t go all in on breakfast like the British or Americans, there’s no cooked breakfasts, avocado toasts or pancakes. Here you’ll find great coffee and something sweet, usually as they call it in Northern Italy, a brioche (croissant).
For the traditional family run bakery with homemade croissants and a huge selection of biscuits and cakes head to Pasticceria Poletti in Cernobbio. Here you’ll find Italian style croissants, which are a little more like bread, however they are delicious and made fresh every morning with a selection of fillings…jam, chocolate, cream, pistachio…
My all time favourite place to sip a cappuccino in the sunshine is Café Colombo in the little village of Argegno. The quaint piazza overlooks the lake and is a suntrap in the mornings. Cappuccinos paired with buckwheat and jam cake or a crispy croissant are a morning ritual that’s hard to beat!
After a day spent sightseeing around the lake, hiking, swimming and doing water sports, of course a gelato is needed! You can’t go wrong with most gelaterias here, and you’ll find one in almost every village.
Il Gelato di Zoe in Argegno always has a queue outside on a summers day. Flavours change depending on what’s in season from cantaloupe melon to orange zabaione if you want something with a little more of a kick.
In Lenno and Menaggio you’ll find one of the most popular gelaterias, La Fabbrica di Gelato, they make the creamiest pistachio.
From around 5pm in the afternoon bars in Italy begin the aperitivo…..possibly my favourite Italian tradition. Walk into any bar and you’ll find the ‘aperitivo’ which is basically a huge selection of snacks that they serve you ‘free’ with your drink. It’s like a happy hour but with food! For Italians when you drink you must eat….which makes perfect sense. So order your Aperol Spritz and you’ll get a platter of cheeses, hams, little bruschetta and more.
There are many great places for an aperitvo around the lake, for a fabulous view and a chic setting head to the rooftop bar Terrazza 241 at the Hilton in Como city.
For the poshest aperitivo the terrace at Villa D’Este is a must, complete with a live pianist and traditional Italian cocktails there not many better places to people watch in Como!
For something a little more rustic and local drive down the old lakeside road in Laglio and you’ll find Da Luciano. It’s tiny bar tables that hang over the water are full every evening so head there early to grab a great spot to watch the sunset. This family run spot started life as a butchers, order their homemade meatballs and ribs for some comfort food that tastes like its been lovingly made by someone’s nonna (grandma)!
Not forgetting possibly my favourite place to enjoy a Negroni while looking out over the water, Grand Hotel Tremezzo. Either at the beach bar by day or on the terrace in the evening, there aren’t many places that exude elegance whilst also being cosy and welcoming. Thanks to the amazing staff here that remember you by name, it always feels like you’re at home!
Now you’ve had your spritz its time to soak up some of the alcohol with a bowl of pasta or risotto.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the most delicious places to eat are those that the locals go to. And a must is Trattoria Il Glicine in Cernobbio. Situated on the hillside, it doesn’t have a lake view, but here you go for the family style cooking not for the view. Start with the tempura zucchini blossoms, the best I’ve ever had, and they are gluten free! Then move on to their homemade pasta with deer ragu or risotto which flavour changes with the season from beetroot to saffron Milanese style. The best time of year to go here is in May when the terrace is covered in wisteria (glicine – hence the name) hanging over head while you eat.
Una Finestra Sul Lago, literally a window on the lake, in Carate Urio is the coolest spot to hang out on the lake. Run by a trio of young forward thinking guys, you’ll find modern takes on traditional Italian dishes and ingredients. Pizza gourmet is one of their specialities…try the straciatella with beef tartare (trust me on this one!) And don’t forget to finish the night with one if their speciality cocktails.
I keep going back to the village of Argegno but it has a fantastic selection of cafes, bars and restaurants. The best being La Piazzetta, an ideal spot for Sunday lunch in the sunshine. Sit in the piazza and enjoy a fresh focaccia while drooling over the menu.
Heading north I cannot list restaurants on the lake without mentioning La Tirlindana, a family run restaurant set in the cutest little harbour in Sala Comacina. Arrive here by boat for the ultimate Dolce Vita experience. You cannot leave here without trying their most famous dish, lemon ravioli, little parcels that burst open with a delicious mix of ricotta and zesty lemon!
Driving up the mountains above Tremezzo you get the most incredible views over the lake and the only island on the lake, Isola Comacina. Husband and wife team Luca and Cheryl not only run the restaurant but grow much of the menu in their vegetable garden. Visit at the right time of year and you’ll try their fresh figs with proscuitto.
Last but by no means least, crossing the water to Lezzeno, home to boutique Hotel Filario. I saved this to last as it’s one of my favourite places to hang out on Lake Como at any time of day. During lunchtime chill at their beach bar and enjoy homemade pizzas and cocktails made with gin from Como. In the evening their formal restaurant, Al Veluu, is home to some of the best fine dining in the area.
You might need a whole week to fit in all of the places on my list but trust me it’ll be worth it!