Shaped like a topsy-turvy Y, Lake Como (or Lario as locals call it) is renowned for its superb panoramas, terraced citrus gardens, luxury villas overlooking the shimmering water, boat tours and beaches for refreshing swims. These are usually at the top of travellers’ bucket lists. But what about its divine food that always comes with breathtaking views? A gourmet safari circling the lake, stopping in sleepy villages and bays, is the best way to discover traditional fish taverns, no-frills panoramic eateries and high-end restaurants. Try this mix of the best Lake Como restaurants.
Among the colours and scents of the Pian di Spagna protected reserve, where birds peep curiously at diners, this eco-friendly Lake Como restaurant in the offbeat village of Sorico is a must-stop for nature and fine food lovers. It used to be the chef’s former family home, and now, after a makeover, it blends in with the surroundings. First, enjoy the many fish varieties from the chef’s daily catch on the elegant wooden-and-glass veranda. Then, at sunset, indulge in an amaro or liqueur at the floating open bar, an old boat wreck recovered from the lake bed which has been finely restyled.
Address: Ristorante Beccaccino, Via Boschetto, 49, 22010 Sorico CO, Italy
Polentoteca Chalet Gabriele
Plunge into die-hard peasant food traditions at this low-key stone-wooden mountain hut in the hamlet of Piano Rancio in the lake’s wilderness. The main dish is Toc, which is more of an eating ritual: guests are served a huge communal copper cauldron of cornmeal mush polenta with missoltini lake shads, homegrown hens and salami, placed in the centre of the table. They’re invited to eat with their bare hands as in past hard times when low-income families shared one meal a day. The name ‘toc’ derives from the dialectal word ‘Tucà’ (meaning ‘to touch, take with your hands’). The dish is prepared by master ‘tocchisti’, and it’s become a rare delicacy; this chalet still makes it according to ancestral techniques. Afterwards, go for a stroll in the surrounding forests.
Address: Polentoteca Chalet Gabriele, Località Prà Filippo, 60, 22030 Bellagio CO, Italy
Prepare for a throwback to an earlier era and delicious traditional cuisine cooked Nonna’s way. Crotto in local dialect means ‘cave’, and this tavern is partly built inside one. Open since 1882 and still run by the same historical family, it used to be a freezer cellar where food was stacked. Located in Vergonzano, a district in the secluded village of Moltrasio, it’s a no-frills place with a homey, sleepy vibe and great lake views. Owners are proud of their fish heaven: top specialities feature risotto with perch, whitefish butter and sage, and missoltini (dried salted shads). In winter, it’s more little birds and polenta cornmeal mush. As a digestive, order basil liqueur verdino.
Address: Crotto Valdurino, Via Antonio, Via Besana, 37, 22010 Moltrasio CO, Italy
Trattoria del Porto
Fish specialities top the menu of this authentic, family-run hostaria. Alongside perch risotto and various fish pâté, try the miascia fruit and bread pie. It’s a dreamy, timeless lake-shore stone cottage on the outskirts of Careno village, among the quietest, offbeat corners of Lake Como. The best way to get here is by boat or foot, walking down from Lariana road across narrow cobble alleys and twisted step paths. The little panoramic veranda, with an ivy-covered roof, has red tablecloths and wrought iron chairs.
Address: Trattoria del Porto, Via del Pontile, 26, 22020 Careno CO, Italy
Il Gatto Nero
With its elegant wooden decor ideal for a romantic dinner or special occasion, this high-end, rustic-chic establishment has one of the best lake views. Perched on a promontory from Cernobbio to Mount Bisbino, there’s a panoramic stone terrace and cosy lounge surrounded by palms and flowers where you might bump into George Clooney. The owners describe it as “a corner of paradise”. Signature dishes, all locally sourced, include maltagliati short pasta with rabbit ragout sauce and roasted octopus.
Address: Il Gatto Nero, Via Della Liberta', 69, 22012 Cernobbio CO, Italy
I Tigli in Theoria
Prepare for sophisticated grandeur at this one-Michelin-starred restaurant in Como’s ancient district. Located in Renaissance Palazzo del Vescovo, formerly the bishop’s residence, it boasts an internal courtyard with a garden, columned porches, frescoes and coffered ceilings. You can see the chef prepare his creations in an open-air kitchen. Tables are on two floors in various rooms, each with typical ancient stoves and a lounge bar for aperitivo. The multi-course tasting menu includes concoctions such as ‘wood-free range Hen Egg, asparagus, tamarind, and coconut milk’.
Address: I Tigli in Theoria, Via Bianchi Giovini, 41, 22100 Como CO, Italy
Crotto del Misto
Located in the hamlet of Crotto, it’s also a wine lovers’ mecca. There’s a historic cave winery dating back to the seventeenth century where a freshwater source sprouting from the rocks creates a balanced humidity that helps wines season better. The lake-front stone floor veranda with wooden ceiling beams enclosed by tall glass windows has a private deck for clients’ boats. Dishes have a modern twist, such as handmade fettuccine pasta with fish ragout and grilled white fish with burnt butter sauce.
Address: Crotto del Misto, Frazione Crotto, 10, 22025 Lezzeno CO, Italy
Il Sereno al Lago
Set inside the lavish Hotel Il Sereno on Torno’s lake banks, in an isolated spot, this creative one-Michelin star cuisine temple offers a mix of Lombard iconic recipes, vegan dishes and modern twists. You’ll be dining al fresco on a terrace deck suspended above the water with views of villages on the opposite bank. Fancy exotic twists include spaghetti with cashew butter, tonka bean and perilla vinegar, Savoy cabbage tempura, arctic char and cod dashi. While rabbit “cacciatore “(cooked the ‘huntsman way) terrine with turnip greens are more traditional recipes.
Address: Il Sereno al Lago, Via Torrazza, 10, 22020 Torno CO, Italy
Located in the town of Gravedona ed Uniti, on the less crowded north-western lake shore, this family-run Lake Como restaurant serves simple local handmade recipes, including tasty appetizers Sciatt (crunchy wheat balls with cheese), pizzoccheri pasta and gnocchetti chiavennaschi, little gnocchi made with bread crumbs. Surrounded by views of the Valtellina Alps, there’s a cosy terrace with just a handful of eaters and a playground for kids.
Address: La Fattoria, Via Brenzio, 4, 22015 Gravedona ed Uniti CO, Italy
Imagine dining in a vast palm garden with elegant tables that run along what is dubbed the ‘Romantic Riva’ (shore) of Lake Como in the village of Moltrasio. Cell phones must be silenced, and no smoking is allowed, even in the open air. Among the most mouthwatering dishes are tagliatelle with cured salmon trout, pink pepper, black garlic, ricotta cheese and lake caviar, and poached sturgeon with prosecco sauce and vanilla-flavoured fennels.
Address: Ristorante Imperialino, Via Regina, 26, 22010 Moltrasio CO, Italy
Set in one of Lecco’s typical stone agriturismo, an 1800’s idyllic farmhouse turned into a restaurant and B&B, you’ll enjoy the slow-pace, bucolic vibe. There’s a locally sourced seasonal menu that changes every month. Signature dishes include risotto with nettle and roasted goat with bitter chicory, raisin and almonds. In addition, the former barn has been turned into a wine-tasting canteen.
Address: Agriturismo La Costa, Via Galbusera Nera, 2, 23888 La Valletta Brianza (Lc), Italy
Crotto dei Pescatori
You’ll be eating fresh lake fish with your feet practically in the water. This lake-front humble tavern on sleepy Lezzeno beach with views of the surrounding hills is a former warehouse where gomballi fishermen sailing boats would deliver their daily catch to markets and local families. With the lake breeze caressing your face, indulge in fish pâté with almond sauce, delicate white-red carp and trout with green sauce, or try one of the many fish risottos. To sleep it off, upstairs, there are a few B&B rooms.
Address: Crotto dei Pescatori, Località Casate, 77, 22025 Lezzeno CO, Italy