Eating my way around Northern Italy: top five food highlights
By Lianne Walsh
As a huge fan of Italian food and culture, I have just returned from two weeks travelling around Northern Italy and sampling delicious dishes from Milan, Lake Como, Bologna and Venice. Below are my top five food highlights, that I am still dreaming of now and would definitely recommend. Buon appetito!
1) Pizza in Milan – Piz
Some locals recommended Piz to us and we found it tucked away on a side street overflowing with locals and tourists. We had to wait nearly 45mins for a table but were kept happy with the complimentary prosecco and pizza slices, which are given to waiting guests. And it was definitely worth the wait! With only four pizza varieties on the menu, Piz serves what I can only imagine pizza to be like in Naples. Even though we tried, we couldn’t find pizza to match Piz’s on the rest of our trip.
2) Tagliatelle al ragu in Bologna – Ristorante Biagi
Bologna is nicknamed La Grassa (The Fat One) and now I know why! It is the home of fresh pasta, the famous mortadella sausage and the original spag bog – however you should never refer to it as that but as ‘tagliatelle al ragu’. We sampled this famous dish at a lovely restaurant called Ristorante Biagi. The enclosed garden lit up with fairy lights and candles made the meal extra special. The tagliatelle was paper thin and accompanied with a rich ragu, it was one of the best pasta dishes of our trip. On our way out we even spotted Signora Dina, the mother of the friendly owner and maître d’, Fabio cooking in the kitchen.
3) Cooking in Bellagio, Lake Como – Gusto Italiano
Bellagio is a picturesque village at the tip of Lake Como and is known as the Pearl of Lake Como because of its beauty. We took part in a half-day cookery class, so that we could learn how to cook a traditional Italian meal. After grocery shopping in the food boutiques of the old town, we returned to the kitchen to create a delicious three-course meal of bruschetta with tomato and basil, ricotta and basil ravioli, followed by a strawberry tiramisu. After our meal we enjoyed our delicious meal on a picturesque terrace, accompanied by a few glasses of local Italian wine. I’d recommended this class to anyone and I can’t wait to start creating my own pasta at home!
4) Drinking Mezzo e mezzo in Bassano del Grappa – Nardini distillery
Bassano del Grappa is located at the foot of Veneto’s foothills, a picturesque town known for its bridge (Ponte degli Alpini) over the River Brenta, the after-dinner spirit Grappa and it has also been named as the place in Italy where you would most likely consume the most alcohol!
At the entrance of the Ponte degli Alpini, is the ancient distillery Nardini and this is where we sampled its most famous drink mezzo e mezzo (half and half). A mixture of Nardini’s classic aperitif Rosso, a red bitter vermouth mixed with soda water. The story is that in the 1970’s a customer decided to try it with a bit of Nardini’s rhubarb liqueur. The word spread and the ‘bit’ of rhubarb became increasingly more until the mixture reached 50% Rosso and 50% rhubarb. The drink was named mezzo e mezzo or simply mezzo and crowds of people can be found on the historic bridge in Bassano del Grappa with a mezzo in hand. I loved the taste which was reminds me of a stronger version of Pimm’s/Aperol but unfortunately I could only fit one in my suitcase. I wonder if they deliver worldwide…
5) A tiny restaurant in Venice – CoVino
CoVino is a charming concept, a tiny 14-seat restaurant which offers a fixed-priced, three-course menu where you choose from several traditionally inspired dishes and watch the chefs construct them in the open plan kitchen. It felt as though we were eating at a friend’s house and within minutes we were easily chatting away to our neighbouring tables. The whole meal was outstanding, but the main course of veal sausages, with a curry flavoured ratatouille and a friggitelli bell pepper was exceptional. It was our favourite evening in Venice and a great way to end the trip.
Back in the office, I am now working on the launch of a new Italian restaurant set to open this month in central London. Watch this space for further news!