Northern Italy (Milan, Lake Como, Verona, piedmont, and Venice)

So we took a whirlwind tour of Northern Italy. Given we were with our 8- and 10-year olds, there was more gelato than Barolo, but we managed some pretty good places to eat. We did not do any fancy places (see note about kids) and I had no time to properly plan so no places that require three weeks/months’ advance reservations. We had many so-so meals. But when you’re in Italy, so-so is still good.

Lake Como
Il Gelataio Matto in Bellano
Best gelato of the trip. Every flavor tasted exponentially more of what it was than actually eating the thing. So, the hazelnut tasted 100x more hazelnutty than actually eating a hazelnut. It was crazy good. The last day, he gave us a grapefruit-flavored gelato that was phenomenal. The slight creaminess really mellowed out the bitter tang of the grapefruit, but did nothing to dilute the flavor.

Osteria del Vicoletto
Order the 40-yolk tajarin with meat sauce. So savory and delicious, we ordered a second. Best pasta of our trip. Veal tonnato was also a highlight. They also had a wonderful wine list, no surprise given that it was in the heart of Barolo country. We had a nebbiolo that my 10-year-old had a sip of and he is now a true fan. I guess I don’t have to worry about him binge drinking swill in college now that he has standards! Oddly, I could not stop eating their bread sticks, which were surprisingly tender and crisp and moist. I’ve only ever had bread sticks that were dry and crunchy, even at the other restaurants in Italy we tried. I learned later these were hand made and baked at the restaurant.

Osteria Brunello
Their veal milanese is listed in bold on their menu, highlighting the fact it won some award a few years ago. It lived up to the hype. Simply fried with a shower of sea salt on top, it is juicy, tender, and well-seasoned. I enjoyed less the risotto alla milanese, which was good but not spectacular. The veal milanese was bigger than my kid’s face, but he ate every bite!


You were in Venice? Verona? Any Recs?

Yes! I was going to come back and finish this but forgot. Thanks for the nudge.


Pizzeria Leon d’Oro. It’s in a beautiful courtyard full of laughing, drunk Italians, all celebrating something. There was an engagement party to our left and a birthday party to our right. Interspersed were tables of 3 or 4, just celebrating life. Given that atmosphere, you would have to try really hard not to enjoy the pizza! But the pizza was great even without all of it. The crust was delightfully puffy and chewy with the leopard spots denoting just the right amount of char. I had the brie and speck. Lots of speck. Possibly too much for balance, but I like toppings so I didn’t complain. My kid ordered the gorganzola and something. I think he was a bit dizzy from the jet lag. None of us like gorganzola on a pizza, we discovered. My other two wouldn’t share so I can’t comment on their pizzas. They wolfed it down, if that’s any indication. We also had a salad. What is it about good olive oil and salt that makes lettuce so tasty? I think it’s just Italy.

Scapin. En – Gastronomia It’s a little deli/take away shop across the Ponte Pietra. It was close to our Airbnb and very convenient for lunch or a quick bite. We went twice in the three days we were in Verona. They have Roman style pizza with daily toppings. Crust was thick but tender. We usually picked the prosciutto or speck with burratta. Great balance of topping to crust to cheese. I also ordered a seafood salad with squid and shrimp and fennel. Light and refreshing. Perfect for a hot day.
There are probably 2 dozen dishes offered in the cold case. There were also lasagnas and other things that they could heat up for you.

Osteria Al Bacco. A 5 year old recommendation from our old board. Canalside dining on a warm summer night off the tourist track in the Jewish Ghetto. Okay, all of Venice is the tourist track, but it was less touristic than most. Squid ink pasta was the standout. We also really liked the fritto misto (though I don’t think it was called that).

Unfortunately, there was not a lot of great food in Venice. It was fine, but nothing memorable.

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Thanks so much!!


Thanks for recommending Al Bacco.

After browsing through shops along Fondamenta della Misericordia, we stopped at Al Bacco and had lunch at a canalside table. It is located outside of the busy section of the thoroughfare. Squid ink pasta was spot on. We also ordered a plate of seafood pasta with pesto sauce. It felt like time passes very slowly here.