Discover the best dining spots on Italy’s biggest lake, from dishes made with fresh fish landed from its waters to Neapolitan pizza in a lakeside restaurant established in 1961.
Few settings are as spectacular as Lake Garda. Here, in a Mediterranean climate, your table will be set amid lemon trees or out on the waterfront. Although it’s a top tourist destination, the best Garda restaurants stay true to their roots, cooking fish straight from the lake and adding local fruit and vegetables. For a classic Med feel in the northern reaches of Italy, here are some of the best places to eat.
The views are to die for from the terraces at La Grande Limonaia: it teeters on the rooftop terrace of the Lefay hotel, which sits halfway up the cliffside above Gargnano. From here, you can pretty much make out the entire lake, but tear your eyes away and focus on the menu, because there’s much to enjoy. Dishes are inventive and always light – this is a spa and fitness hotel – including pasta pillows filled with the resort’s own organic olive oil. There’s also a daily chef’s menu, as well as a daily spa menu, which is low-sodium, low-calorie and broadly vegan – but just as delicious.
Perched by the water at Brenzone, this laid-back restaurant specialises in the tastes of the past, using lake-caught fish and traditional Garda recipes, all flavoured with owners Livio and Rosaria’s olive oil. Rather than a regular menu, guests get to pick from whatever was netted on the lake that day, from sardines to eel and beyond.
This delightful Manerbaagriturismo has its own high-class restaurant. Guests eat in the garden, where they can enjoy hyper-local dishes that show off the Garda area at its absolute best. On the menu you’ll find fish scooped straight from the lake, along with spit-roasted quail and home-made cheese.
This lovely restaurant sits in what might just be the prettiest building in Lazise – a grand 19th-century palazzo, formerly owned by a prince and complete with its own little watchtower. You’ll find excellent fish and fantastic sides – this is a place to go traditional.
Occupying a plum spot on the water in Belle Époque town Gardone Riviera, this lovely restaurant, owned by chef Riccardo Camanini and his maître d’ brother Giancarlo, does traditional Italian dishes with a twist – like the cacio e pepe pasta cooked in a pig’s bladder. Leave room for the torta delle rose (rose cake) slathered in warm zabaglione. The seven-course tasting menu is full of surprises.
On the lakefront in pretty Salò, chef Alberto Bertani uses local ingredients to create his fine-dining menus. It’s not just fish from the lake, though. Bertani looks for lesser-known products, such as capers from Gargnano, served with local fish and lakeside lemons, or Veneto veal, served with caviar and porcini mushroom broth.
At first glance it seems inexplicable that this burger bar in pretty Sirmione regularly tops restaurant listings. But this is no ordinary burger bar: the meat Is top quality, the beers are artisanal and the burgers are inventive (try the carbonara burger – yes, really). There are coeliac options, too, and you can swap the chips for grilled veg if you’re feeling healthy.
When the sun’s out and all you want is pizza, step forward Bella Napoli, which has been going strong since 1969, when it was the first pizzeria to arrive in Riva del Garda. The pizza comes in authentic Neapolitan style, with 36-hour-raised dough, while there are also typical Trentino dishes, including strangolapreti pasta, fish from the lake and meat from the local butcher.