A trip to Italy: Ten restaurants to try this summer
Until July, 2021’s holiday prospects were gloomier than ever before. Somehow paradoxically, even last year there were fewer restrictions than this summer. Many of us – your writer included – wouldn’t accept that it’d have to be rainy England or long and expensive quarantines. Then everything changed: green passes finally came into effect and travelling to Europe became a reality once again. Of all the countries, Italy is by far the most complete – think mountains, beaches, lakes, islands, arts cities, UNESCO sites. And food. From local trattorias to Michelin stardom, here’s a list of restaurants, by region, that will make your visit simply perfect.
Veneto: Ristorante Quadri (Venice)
Dining at the Quadri is one of the most elegant and exclusive experiences a food lover can have. In an opulent, refined room designed by Philippe Starck, with windows overlooking the barely-lit St Mark’s Square, the atmosphere is one that makes for a once-in-a-lifetime meal. The restaurant is run by the Alajmo family – also owners of the three-Michelin-star Le Calandre in the nearby Padua – who create dishes which draw from Venetian tradition, adding a modern touch. Don’t miss the delicious Cappuccino di Laguna.
For further information and to book visit the Ristorante Quadri website.
Emilia-Romagna: Ristorante Cavallino (Maranello)
Cavallino is the latest restaurant from globally renowned chef Massimo Bottura. This revamped trattoria serves classic Modenese food – tortellini, tagliatelle and gnocco fritto – as well as historic dishes from the region such as the Cantarelli savarin. Standing out from the eclectic menu is the Cotechino Rossini, a typical boiled pork sausage which gets a fine-dining treatment with the addition of truffle and amarena cherry sauce. The restaurant is located right next to the entrance of the Ferrari factory and having a meal here – surrounded by memorabilia – will feel like being part of the history of the supercar maker.
For further information and to book visit the Cavallino website.
Tuscany: Lux Lucis (Forte dei Marmi)
Lux Lucis is the fine-dining rooftop restaurant at the five-star hotel Il Principe in Forte dei Marmi. Modenese chef Valentino Cassanelli trained in London at Nobu and Locanda Locatelli before returning to Italy at Carlo Cracco’s restaurant in Milan. Opened in 2012, Lux Lucis offers a refined dining experience inspired by the local culinary traditions, an area that features both mountains and sea. The restaurant offers cutting edge creativity whilst also exploring the rich biodiversity of the area, over which the venue offers panoramic views.
For further information and to book visit the Lux Lucis website.
Liguria: Cracco Portofino (Portofino)
Carlo Cracco was the rising star of Italian chefs in the late 2000s, achieving the higher rankings on all the national guides as well as two Michelin stars. In 2011 he reached mainstream popularity by becoming the face of the first edition of Masterchef, continuing to be its symbol for five more years. After relocating his eponymous Milan restaurant to the super-central Galleria, Cracco has now opened his new venue in Italy’s most exclusive destination, Portofino. Amongst the must-try dishes is a marinated anchovy with vermentino gel and sea herbs.
For further information and to book call +39 0185 163 6026.
Marche: Dalla Gioconda (Gabicce Monte)
Davide Di Fabio, the former sous chef of Osteria Francescana, went solo after 16 years in Modena and opened a stunning restaurant in Gabicce Monte, on the other side of the border between Emilia-Romagna and Marche. His partners Stefano Bizzarri and Allegra Tirotti Romanoff look after the front of house, adding a special welcoming touch to the whole experience. Dalla Gioconda lies on four floors, features three terraces overlooking the entire bay and has a circular vegetable garden as the centrepiece of the outdoor space. Despite being a design gem – every single corner is worthy of a coffee table magazine photoshoot – and serving food that very few restaurants can match, Dalla Gioconda is a relaxing, easygoing place.
For further information and to book visit the Dalla Gioconda website.
Lombardy: 28 Posti (Milan)
For creative chefs Milan is the place to be in Italy; despite not being the capital, it serves the same role as London in the UK and Paris in France. While it’s hard to pin it down to one choice, 28 Posti in the trendy Navigli neighbourhood is a delightful contemporary bistro that won’t break the bank. Led by chef Marco Ambrosino – who hails from Procida in Campania – the restaurant champions seasonal, high-quality ingredients and ethical practices, as well as a wine list made of small producers and 80% low-intervention produce. You’ll want to try one of the latest dishes – ombrina fish cooked in rose butter, mediterranea green curry, fermented courgette and kimchi of courgette flowers – or the four-piece lamb.
For further information and to book visit the 28 Posti website.
Sicily: Il Consiglio di Sicilia (Donnalucata)
Grandmother’s house-turned-restaurant Il Consiglio di Sicilia is the perfect destination for gourmet travellers in the south of Sicily. The restaurant is run by couple Antonio Cicero (chef) and Roberta Corradin (manager) and focuses on the delicious seafood from the Italian island. The simplicity of the food matches perfectly with the tranquil charm of Donnalucata, which has become increasingly popular in recent years after being used as a location for TV show Inspector Montalbano.
For further information and to book visit the Consiglio dei Sicilia website.
Valle d’Aosta: Petit Royal (Courmayeur)
Courmayeur is one of the most exclusive mountain destinations of Italy, and young chef Paolo Griffa is in charge of the Michelin-starred restaurant Petit Royal. The venue is located within the five-star Grand Hotel Royal & Golf, where Griffa is able to showcase his ingenuity and artistic eye. The chef is committed to use locally sourced, sustainable ingredients – he’s known to practice “extreme foraging” – and serves up new specials every day, ensuring a unique experience for every guest. The new art-inspired Declinazioni menu features Cannellone Put-Together, a colourful cannellone pasta dish inspired by fashion house Missoni that took a year to create and refine.
For further information and to book visit the Petit Royal website.
Lakes: Lido84 (Gardone Riviera)
If Quadri has arguably the most beautiful view for a restaurant in a city, Lido84 has the best one by a lake. Riccardo Camanini is breaking boundaries not only with his incredible menus but also with his approach towards the restaurant experience. The chef likes guests to be in contact with the creators of the dish, which is why he invites kitchen staff into the dining room to introduce their plates and inspirations. This, paired with the fact that the intriguing ingredients used – including raw mountain milk and Wisteria flowers – are farmed and foraged locally, ensures that diners can understand the whole development process and thus approach their meal with increased curiosity.
For further information and to book visit the Lido84 website.
Alps: Genesis event (Cortina d’Ampezzo)
This entry is more than a restaurant. If you are planning on going to the Alps, we suggest checking out the Genesis event in Cortina, on the eastern side of the Dolomites. This brand-new international food event launches this September from the 10th to the 13th, allowing guests to immerse themselves in nature for three days while they explore the origins of cooking through a culinary venture from ingredients to table. This incredible weekend was thought up by chefs Riccardo Gaspari and Ludovica Rubbini of SanBrite, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Cortina d’Ampezzo, and features national and international talent such as Davide Di Fabio (Dalla Gioconda, Gabicce Monte), Franco Aliberti (Anima, Milan), Valerio Serino (Tèrra, Copenhagen – Denmark), Mikael Svensson (Kontrast, Oslo – Norway), Alessandro Gilmozzi (El Molin, Cavalese), Jordan Bailey (Aimsir, County Kildare – Ireland), Stefano Ferraro (Loste Cafè, Milan) and Chita Pelazzi, Sara Nicolosi and Cinzia De Lauri (AlTatto, Milan).
For further information and to book visit the Genesis website.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor