Where to try traditional dishes in Lombardy, Italy

We round up the best places across the region to get your fix of authentic Lombard cuisine.

By Christine Smallwood
Published 11 Feb 2021, 08:00 GMT
The terrac at Osteria del Crotto in Morbegno. The menu here is influenced by ingredients from nearby farmers ...

The terrac at Osteria del Crotto in Morbegno. The menu here is influenced by ingredients from nearby farmers and producers.

Photograph by Daniel Bone

Osteria al Bianchi, Brescia
Part local bar, part excellent restaurant, Osteria al Bianchi is a hub of activity. Expect morning coffees with the day’s papers, lunch, afternoon card games, aperitivi, dinner and late-night digestivi. All sorts of Brescians come here, from young movers and shakers to elegant older regulars who return for honest-to-goodness food, like the home-cured salumi, casoncelli and spinach malfatti. Be sure to try a pirlo, the city’s aperitivo (Campari, white wine and sparkling water) served with a twist of lemon peel. 

Trattoria del Glicine, Cernobbio
When arriving at Cernobbio by boat, ignore the waterside restaurants and carry on walking up a steepish hill to Osteria del Glicine. When it’s warm, the doors open up onto a wisteria-covered terrace with Lake Como seen between houses. Loyal diners come back here for the menu of classic dishes such as Lake Como missoltini, violet artichoke salads, fresh homemade pastas, wild boar and an enticing wine selection. 

Osteria del Crotto, Morbegno
The menu here is influenced by ingredients from nearby farmers and producers. Settle down in the cosy dining room to try local favourites such as bresaola, violino di capra (cured goat meat) and thin homemade grissini (breadsticks). In summer, a sheltered terrace next to a cooling wall makes this place perfect any time of year. Don’t leave without trying a tasting of Storico Ribelle cheese with Valtellina wines made in the same year. 

Caffè La Crepa, Isola Dovarese
The family-run trattoria was established in 1951. Today, Federico, alongside his uncle and father, serve fresh fish from the Oglio river as they have done for as long as anyone can remember. The menu features much-loved classics; bollito misto with salsa verde, marubini pasta, and perhaps a semifreddo of torrone from nearby Cremona, with an intriguing and well-researched wine list. Sunday lunchtime is busy with families, friends, celebrations, and often group photographs as the trattoria occupies a prime position in the picturesque Piazza Matteotti. 

Prato Gaio, Montecalvo Versiggia
The Oltrepò Pavese is Pinot Nero country, and home to the restaurant Prato Gaio, which attracts as many oenophiles as it does gastronomes. The menu features a number of almost forgotten recipes such as chicken duls-e-brüsc (local dialect for ‘sweet and sour’) with strachitunt, a blue cheese from the Taleggio valley; baccalà with white onions and sultanas; stuffed chicken necks; as well as traditional chocolate salami. Local wines include Bonarda, Croatina and Buttafuoco. 

Osteria del Treno, Milan
The daily queue here speaks for itself. Locals love it for reasonably priced lunch menu, which includes an excellent choice of pastas (like the meat-filled tortelli), delicious cheeses and efficient service. Head here in the evening for a more relaxed atmosphere and enjoy a house aperitivo, namely a consolazione (Campari and Prosecco), alongside the traditional braised meats. There’s also a good choice of grappas, to aid digestion of course.

La Madia, Brione
Many people (from the smartly dressed to the very casual) make the winding trip up to La Madia, where chef and co-owner Michele Valotti is a dedicated supporter of local producers. Expect homemade breads and raw-milk cheeses to small-production wines and even a chicken kebab — which probably isn’t what you’d expect. 

Osteria Sali e Tabacchi, Mandello del Lario
An appetite-enhancing walk from the lakeside stop of Mandello del Lario is Osteria Sali e Tabacchi, run by husband Gabriele (chef) and wife Giuliana (front of house) since 1999. It’s a small place with a bar area for coffees, drinks and catch-ups and a menu of excellently sourced food and wine, including fish antipasti, artisan-produced salumi, homemade filled pastas and meat secondi

Published in the Lombardy 2020 supplement, distributed with the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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