In Northern Italy just outside of Milan and south of the Swiss border, lies the stunning lakeside city of Como. This enchanting city is bursting with Italian charm and natural beauty. On the shores of Como, travelers can take in the majestic mountains, nearby green hills, and the sparkling blue waters of Lake Como all in the same place. Enjoy the stunning scenery as you dine in authentic Italian eateries to partake in a few of the country’s staples, along with delicacies from the mountains and one-of-a-kind fish fare courtesy of the fresh water of Lake Como.
As is typical in Italian tradition, cheeses and cured meats are a key part of the appetizer course. In Como, you will find a delicious collection of savory cured meats and locally made cheeses, such as semuda and zincarlin, that are often served with homemade bread. In this part of Italy, bread is usually baked in a wood-fired oven and yields a slightly acidic taste that has a delightful mouthwatering effect, especially when fresh out of the oven.
For many centuries, polenta has been a staple of the Como area. Made from cornmeal, polenta is frequently used as a base on which meat or fish are served upon. Polenta can also be eaten on its own in either a warm and creamy version or a sliced version that is typically fried, baked, or grilled.
Frittura di alborelle is an often-served fish-based appetizer of Como. The small white fish used in this dish are caught from fresh from the lake. They are usually fried to a crisp golden brown and are eaten whole.
Many first courses in Como are made with the authentic fresh and handmade Italian pasta the country is known for. The freshness of the pasta dough greatly enhances the flavors of this simple time-honored fare.
Some of the more popularly requested pasta dishes here include pizzoccheri and pasta ai funghi porcini. Pizzoccheri alla valtellinese is a popular dish from the nearby Valtellina Valley. The dish consists of strips of pasta made from buckwheat flour and wheat flour. The pasta is cooked in boiling water with potatoes and cabbage then layered with local cheeses and melted butter.
Fresh porcini mushrooms are a common ingredient throughout the Lake Como area. Found in the forests surrounding the lake, porcini mushrooms are considered to be among Italy’s most flavorful mushroom varieties. In Como, porcini mushrooms are often cooked with herbs and served with pasta as a first course.
Regardless of which pasta dish you choose to indulge in, many of them are combined at least in part with locally grown vegetables and herbs, homemade cheeses, and sometimes a dollop of butter for a creamier consistency. The result is pure decadence.
In addition to the pasta dishes, risotto is quite popular in Como, as is the case in most of Northern Italy. Perhaps one of Como’s most iconic dishes is risotto al pesce persico. This fragrant dish is made with perch caught from Lake Como. Due to its subtle flavor and tenderness, perch is one of the lake’s most celebrated fish. This light fish is typically cut into fillets, generously rolled in flour and breadcrumbs, and then pan fried in butter. Risotto al pesce persico is seasoned with herbs and a small amount of lemon zest to allow the flavors of the perch to shine through.
The fact that the city of Como sits along the edge of the beautiful Lake Como does wonderful things for the local restaurants’ menus. Italians are famous for making their food with lots of love and fresh ingredients. In Como, this includes freshly caught fish. Lake Como acts as the city’s built-in natural supply of freshwater fish that are used in second course dishes.
A popular fish-based menu item is lavarelli alla salvia. The medium sized white fish used in this dish generally have a touch of fat.
When the fish are baked in the oven, their fat content decreases making the fish a lighter fare. This fish is usually baked in the oven with a leaf or two of sage for an extra kick of flavor. In the Lake Como area, fresh lake fish may also be served grilled, poached, or fried.
Misultin is another local favorite. This agone or shad fish is salted and then sundried following a traditional process before being chargrilled. Many locals enjoy this dish paired with polenta, which may be served creamy, grilled, or fried, depending on preference.
Though fresh fish may be the undisputed king of Lake Como’s cuisine, locals in Como are known to enjoy a few meat-based dishes as well. One of the best examples is wild boar. This meat is commonly served in the fall, but it is not unusual to find wild boar on local menus during other seasons as well. Traditionally, the wild boar is slowly braised in wine and served with fresh local vegetables.
Another dish is busecca, which is adapted from trippa, a dish that is common throughout the Lombardy region. Busecca is a staple of peasant cooking in Como and the surrounding area. The main ingredient is tripe, which is typically served with sauteed vegetables and beans. During the cooking process, tomato sauce and water are added to give the dish the consistency of soup.
While Como does not have a particular specialty that is designated as a street food, some of the local dishes may be adapted to enjoy on the go. The two best examples from the dishes mentioned above are alborelle fritte (fried lake fish) and misultin, both of which are often served in a paper cone for portability. These street foods can be enjoyed by travelers as they stroll the cobblestone streets and shore of Como.
Just like the rest of Italy, gelato is one of the desserts offered in nearly all of Como’s local restaurants. There are also countless gelaterie where travelers can build their own cone by choosing from dozens of fresh flavors.
During the holidays, special festive dishes such as mataloc and miascia are local favorites. Mataloc is a light sponge bread or cake generally flavored with honey, orange and lemon zest, dried figs, raisins, and hazelnuts. Miascia is more of a traditional peasant sweet bread flavored with fruit, nuts, crushed amaretti cookies, and many other variations. Both are outstanding with a cup of coffee or a glass of dessert wine.
The premier wine of the Como area is widely considered to be Valtellina Superiore, which is produced in the nearby Valtellina Valley. This light red wine is expertly made with a lengthy twenty-four-month aging process in oak barrels. In addition to this wine, many Como locals and visitors enjoy Domasino white wine and Sorsasso wine that features white, red, and rosè varieties. Another popular request from the wine menu is Lombardy’s Franciacorta sparkling white wine. Regardless of which variety you choose, these fine wines make a lovely complement to any meal in Como.
The city of Como offers a varied cuisine derived from the stunning mountain landscapes that surround it as well as the expansive lake. From fried lake fish and perch risotto to braised wild boar, Como’s culinary tradition is full of authentic flavors that are representative of this breathtaking part of Northern Italy.
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