The picturesque villages and upscale resorts surrounding Lake Como, in the foothills of the Alps in Northern Italy, are famous for their grandiose villas, lakeside beaches and first-rate restaurants. Here is our pick of the best.
Lake Como is one of Italy’s most upmarket destinations and travellers come to the region trying to catch a glimpse of George and Amal Clooney’s lakeside villa or to scope out the settings of Hollywood films (parts of Casino Royale and Oceans 12 were filmed here). For those wanting to rub shoulders with the glitterati, there’s a world-class dining culture to match. While some restaurants come with a celebrity price tag, family-run trattorias cook up reasonably priced, traditional specialties that would make James Bond drool, and they share the same snow-tipped mountain views and waterside settings as any celebrity hotspot. Here are the best dining spots to enjoy around Lake Como, for any budget.
This family-run restaurant on the northern end of Lake Como is an agriturismo, which means that every dish is sourced from its adjoining farm or the nearby area. Open by appointment only, it isn’t cheap, but it’s worth the expense to taste the wine produced by their vineyard, while you enjoy sweeping views of the lake. The fixed menu is equally impressive, prepared by local, home-trained cooks with a reputation for traditional methods. For rustic, homemade flavours in a serene setting, it’s hard to beat.
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Serving a menu exclusively based on freshly caught lake fish, Ittiturismo da Abate perfects traditional fish cooking and then gives it an upgrade. The fish are caught daily by the three managers Giuseppe, Claudio and Silvia, who specialise in sprawling platters of fish cooked in various ways. Innovative dishes include a cooked sushi starter. This is not your average lasagne and cannelloni joint, and is all the better for it.
Antica Trattoria del Risorgimento, for a low-key atmosphere
This small, secluded restaurant is loved for its friendly atmosphere and a tranquility that you won’t get on Azzano’s busier streets. The small menu of carefully chosen dishes is based on fresh, local ingredients that are as good as they look, arriving at the table in wonderful displays, with heavenly flavours to match. As a family-run trattoria, its prices are reasonable, too.
In the heart of Como is one of its most renowned restaurants, La Colombetta. Split into five dining areas, with two rooms in the loft, the restaurant provides plenty of candlelit corners for smoochy couples who want to get cosy without missing the lake views. The cuisine is as traditional as it gets, based on family recipes handed down through generations: tender lamb chops, ravioli, octopus salad and a limoncello digestif.
Agriturismo La Selvaggia, for seasonal specialities
The hotel restaurant at Agriturismo La Selvaggia ia the perfect opportunity to sample authentic, rustic cooking at reasonable prices. At the top of a steep, pebbled path, its elevated position merits the climb, rewarding you with fantastic views of the surrounding area and lake. As for the food, there’s no menu, with guests being offered seasonal specialties as if they were family members who have popped round for dinner. And the staff make you feel like long-lost family, too. Just be sure to make a reservation in advance.
In a charming courtyard directly on the lakeside, and with a private jetty that makes the restaurant reachable by boat, Locanda La Tirlindana is all about sophistication. All the dishes are elaborate and appealing to the eye, and their delicate flavour combinations more than meet expectations. One must-try dish? The famous lemon and mascarpone ravioli.
Thanks to its sheltered balcony overlooking the beach at Lezzeno, Ristorante Aurora Lezzeno ensures all guests get a tip-top view while they tuck into traditional Italian dishes. This place specialises in fresh lake fish, but also serves other regional fare. To experience their culinary flair, go for the ravioli with local pears and cheese.
Set in a tranquil area of Como, La Vita è Bella specialises in generous portions of creative salads, served with high-quality dressing and fresh ingredients. The menu is wide-ranging and offers a healthy lunch option that’s still creative and satisfying. The staff are friendly and deliver rapid service. Want something a bit more substantial? The restaurant also does a mean line in paella, plus grilled meats and seafood.
This trattoria near the pier at Careno offers local, home-made cuisine in an informal setting. During the summer, customers sit outside on a balcony with enchanting views of where their meal of fresh fish, served with rice or polenta, came from. Bonus tip: ask the owners to borrow the keys to a nearby church, San Martino, for an extra tourist experience reserved only for their customers.
Head to Como’s ultramodern, swanky Avenue Hotel and take a bar stool at its theatrical in-house restaurant, Il Comacino. This place has garnered a cult following for its kitchen-side seating, which gives you an intimate insight into the preparation of your dinner. Watch the chefs roll breadsticks, sear tuna and fry courgette flowers as you sip away at a local red wine.
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