Guests of Conti Sertoli Salis: Part 3, Wine!

When we finished seeing the palazzo, we had a little stroll in the garden, in which an intricate, manicured geometric hedge is winningly juxtaposed with overgrown and out-of-control everything else. My favorite photo of the day is above – autumn red vines draping down a stone plaque. The boast of the garden is a glorious, ancient cedar of Lebanon. I wish I owned a tree like that one.

^ a tromp l’oeil gazebo built into a wall in the garden

Then we were invited inside for the wine tasting. A large party of retirees occupied the canua (a semi-underground kitchen/taverna) usually used for tasting, and they didn’t look like leaving anytime soon, so we had to improvise. Pancrazio helped carry a table and chairs from another part of the palazzo

…and we sat in an anteroom full of antique winemaking implements.

We had:

  • Torre della Sirena – white
  • Il Saloncello
  • Canua (a sfursat)

…and two others that I don’t now remember – I’m a very disorganized wine reporter! “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like.” I liked these. And I was very pleased to be given six bottles of the Canua to take home as wages for my translation.

There was also bread, cheese, and salame – had we known to expect that, we could have skipped lunch (though that would have been a pity to miss).

The Sertoli Salis winery is well worth a visit, both as a historical site and, of course, a place to try and buy some great wine. Tours can be arranged in English.

Part 1: Lunch

Part 2: The Palazzo

Part 3: Wine!

Favorite Restaurants, in Italy and Elsewhere

Note: All prices may be severely out of date. Quality not likely to have changed.

Lake Como Area

These are full reviews – also see brief listings below for some more restaurants.


Vegetarian Restaurants

Some tips for eating in restaurants in Italy.

Don’t want to eat out all the time? It’s also possible to eat cheaply in Italy.


Some More of Our Favorite Restaurants

NB: My data on prices may not be entirely reliable; costs refer to a full meal (antipasto, primo, secondo, dessert) with wine, per person. You can of course save money by eating less! (By 2010, these prices are likely out of date! I have not eaten at any of these places in at least two years.)

But you don’t always have to go to restaurants; it’s also possible to eat cheaply in Italy.


Lo Scugnizzo

via Cassala 59

near the Romolo metro stop

tel 02 5811 1957

Fresh mozzarella from Naples daily, amazing seafood of all kinds. Pizza is also good. ~ euro 20-30

Vecchia Napoli pizzeria

via Chavez 4

tel 02 2619056

Fantastic pizza. Closed Mondays. Pizzas cost euro 7-12.

Osteria Grand Hotel

via Ascanio Sforza 75 (naviglio Pavese)

tel 02 89511586

Fabrizio, the owner, is head of one of Milan’s Slow Food groups. Excellent food, great wine list. euro 30-40

La Veneta

via G. Giusti 14

tel 02 342881

Antique recipes from the Veneto. Don’t miss the pasta e fagioli with radicchio, but everything else is wonderful as well. The owner is idiosyncratic and sometimes perceived as rude, but really he just has strong opinions on what should be eaten (and drunk) with what, and he’s probably right. Leave room for amazing desserts. euro 30-50

Ristorante da Bruno

via Gonzaga 6 (Duomo metro stop)

tel 02 804364

An old family favorite. Everything’s good. ~ euro 25-40


via Castel Morrone 10

tel 02 70006870

Mon 17:30-23:30, Tue-Sat 12:00-23:30

A brief but excellent Neapolitan-influenced menu, with an emphasis on top-quality ingredients. Possibly the best tuna steak I’ve ever eaten, lightly seared with a Japanese-style dipping sauce. Don’t miss the desserts.

near Menaggio

Locanda San Martino

Santa Maria Rezzonico and then way up the hill

tel 0344 50167 – reservations recommended

Excellent regional specialties including boar and polenta uncia (with cheese, garlic, butter, and sage), very cheap. euro 15-20


Osteria del Viaggiatore

Corso Promessi Sposi

see my review

Taverna ai Poggi

via ai Poggi 14

phone: 0341 497126

Large selection of salumi and wines. Especially try the lake fish carpaccio and of course the local specialty, pizzoccheri (buckwheat pasta cooked with vegetables, cheese, garlic, butter, and sage). euro 25-35 at night, much cheaper at lunchtime (weekdays).


Piazza XX Settembre

tel 0341 288063

A little pricey, but the servings are large by Italian standards. Particularly good meat, and an excellent selection of wines.


Ristorante Vecchio Fiume

Contrada di Cima alle Case

Nouveau twist on regional specialties. euro 30-40


La Lanterna Verde


VILLA DI CHIAVENNA 23029 SO (on the road going to St. Moritz)

Our absolute favorite, well worth the trip. During the day, eat outside and enjoy the amazing view of forests and waterfalls. euro 40-50 (cheap at the price!). See my review liked above.


via D.P. Lucchinetti 67

23020 Mese (SO)

map | my detailed review

Restaurant associated with the Mamete Prevostini winery.Specializes in salumi and insaccati (dried meats) and wild game. Five-course menus euro 25 and 30.

Il Capriolo

Subiale, Tel. 0341 875.017 – Cell. 328 749500

See my review; closed Thursdays.


I Tre Castelli
Loc. Cintoia Bassa

Strada in Chianti

tel 055 8572227

Open for lunch and dinner, except Wednesdays.

Rita and Lino took us here. Excellent and unusual dishes such as a very spicy boar goulash.


Osteria Le Mani in Pasta

via dei Genovesi 37, Trastevere

Antica Taverna

via Monte Giordano, 12

da Alfredo e Ada

via Banchi Nuovi 14

An old-fashioned Roman osteria. Get there while you can – places like this won’t last much longer. euro 15-20Also go here


Outside Italy


(locations in Brussels, Copenhagen, Paris, Delhi, Dubai, and Beirut
as well)

La Porte des Indes

Indian-French cuisine based on recipes from the old French colony of Pondicherry. I have had a lot of Indian food (lived there 5 years), but never anything like this. Amazing. Expensive.

Virginia/Suburban DC


Some of the best Thai food I’ve eaten outside of Thailand.


Le Ménestrel, Nimes


La Provenza, Barcelona


Guests of Conti Sertoli Salis: Part 2, The Palazzo

After an excellent (if somewhat hasty) lunch, the four of us had a private tour of Palazzo Sertoli Salis, which is still the home of the Sertoli Salis family, as well as the headquarters of the winery.

My photos don’t do justice to it: the palazzo is charming, rich with newly-restored tromp l’oeil frescoes cleverly designed to make the ceilings appear far higher than they are.

The paintings and furniture were intended to display wealth, yet the style is somehow appealing and cozy. Some of the family’s collection of antique documents and pictures is displayed museum-style, with (unusually for Italy) explanatory text in several languages.

^ Detail of the saloncello (small salon). Sertoli Salis’ “titled” wines are named after features of the palazzo.

Part 1: Lunch

Part 2: The Palazzo

Part 3: Wine!

Guests of Conti Sertoli Salis: Fine Food and Wine in Valtellina

Part 1: Lunch!

Many moons ago, spurred by a question on, I wandered the Internets, looking up wineries in the nearby region of Valtellina. Several had sites, some gorgeously produced. Sertoli Salis particularly caught my eye because the site was so very beautiful, and I knew the wines to be good, but the English translation was laughable.

Desperate for extra income, I wrote them, hoping to be offered the job of re-translating the site. They replied that, having just spent a lot of money to redo the site, they couldn’t pay cash, but there might be some wine in it for me.

They sent me the files, I translated a small piece and sent it to them, then my life got busy, I changed computers and lost some of the subsequent work I had done. The winery must have liked what they saw: they wrote asking if I could do the rest. Eventually I found the time (and some new wine-related vocabulary) to finish this not-small job and send it off.

NB: The English on the site today is not mine! It will be quite a job to replace the text on the site as it’s mostly embedded in the Flash – an unfortunate mistake made by many Italian web designers. The site is still well worth visiting for the beautiful photos.

I therefore had a standing invitation to visit the palazzo and winery for a tasting and a gift of “our very best wines”. Finally, last Saturday, we were able to make good on this offer.

Enrico and I set out with Pancrazio (a TVBLOB colleague) and Emanuela. Between bad weather and traffic we were an hour late for our lunch reservation at Ristorante Jim, which meant that we had to rush, while this fine establishment deserved more leisurely attention! Jim offers very interesting seasonal menus (in addition to a far-from-boring regular menu); this time the specialty was mushrooms and wild game.

porcini soup

Emanuela and I started with a vellutata di porcini (wild boletus mushroom soup). Oh, my. That was special. I want to go back and eat more of that.

The boys had tagliatelle al sugo di lepre – home-made egg pasta with wild hare sauce. Very gamey, very tasty.

For secondo, Emanuela had bocconcini di capriolo (“bites” of roebuck), which she said were tender enough to melt in your mouth. I had breast of wild duck in a balsamic vinegar reduction – I love duck, and this was even more flavorful than usual. Umm… don’t remember what Enrico and Pancrazio had, except that they both managed to squeeze in dessert afterwards!

Then we headed off to the object of our visit, the winery.

Part 1: Lunch

Part 2: The Palazzo

Part 3: Wine!

Bellagio: “Beauty and Comfort” on Lake Como

Bellagio, Lake Como’s best-known tourist destination, lies at the tip of the triangle between the two southern branches of the lake. You can get there by road or get there by boat from Menaggio or Varenna.

Personally, I find Bellagio a bit overrated. During the season it’s overrun with tourists, and the shops are accordingly filled with overpriced souvenirs, most of which have nothing to do with the region (okay, I’m a souvenir snob – I only want something that authentically represents the place).

I concede that the views are stunning – but there are views at least equally stunning from other points on the lake.

But I end up in Bellagio a lot whether I want to or not, because our foreign visitors usually want to see it. My favorite way, during the summer, is to take the slow boat from Lecco.

Bellagio’s charm, for me, is in its verticals – everything runs uphill from the lakefront. (Which means that, to really appreciate it, you must be prepared to walk.)Above is a view up Bellagio’s main salita, with the (justly) famous Bilacus restaurant on the right. Below is a shop whose sign I’m fond of – I love the antique typography you can still find on many shop signs in Italy.