To search for the finest Italian cuisine, we came all the way to a small town 80km east of Milan to explore the finest Italian cooking emphasizing on the freshest top quality ingredients by one of the very few female Michelin 3-star chefs.
About the Chef
Now owned by the third generation of Santini, Nadia’s grandfather acquired the place in 1925, where he fished and Nadia’s grandmother cooked with local traditional recipes. The name of the restaurant changed in 1960 from Vino e pesce (Wine and Fish) to its current name dal Pescatore (From the Fisherman).
In 1974, Nadia and Antonia had their honeymoon in France, full of gourmand dining experiences, which inspired them to blend tradition and innovation in a balanced and modern independent style. The restaurant menu is made up of recipes passed down through the generations, but constantly subject to new interpretation of regional cuisine with innovative flair and talent.
About the Restaurant
Situated in peaceful country side, dal Pescatore is the most charming family-style restaurant that we have visited. Dining tables are generously spaced out. Mirrors made the dining area look even more spacious. There is a garden on each side of the dining room, beautifully decorated with elegant lightings at night.
About Our Meal
Dal Pescatore offers two tasting menus: Seasonal and Traditional. Obviously, we ordered one of each to get a comprehensive view of this highly reputable female chef. The sommelier suggested us Planeta Cometa 2005 as it should go well with both menus. The wine has quite an intense floral aroma and it partnered particularly well with our pasta and rich seafood courses.
We were given three amuse-bouches to start off the evening. The crispy cheese potato chips and creamy pumpkin puree were amazing. The strong pumpkin flavour made us appreciate the underlying ingredients.
The first course of the seasonal menu was their signature dish – a stunning piece of art composed of lobster and salmon terrine topped with luxurious osetra caviar, accompanied by a delicately arranged eel in carpione with citrus perfume. Carpione is a traditional Italian preparation where the eel is first fried and then marinated overnight.
The first course of the traditional tasting menu was porcini of autumn and liver of a year-old calf with butter and rosemary. The texture and the earthy flavour of the porcini once again confirmed the freshness and quality of their ingredients.
The second course from both tasting menus was tortellini: one stuffed with goat cheese and the other stuffed with pumpkin, butter and parmesan cheese. That was the first time I tasted pasta in Italy. I was never a big fan of pasta, but pasta in Italy was so different from any other pasta I ever had in my life. We absolutely loved it! The restaurant made their fresh pasta on a daily basis. The pasta is cooked “al dente”, an Italian phrase meaning “to the tooth”. It has a slight resistance when bitten into. For dry pasta, Italians use only semolina, which doesn’t absorb too much water and is pleasantly firm when cooked.
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The third course from the traditional tasting menu was a soup with snails, porcini of autumn and butterfly-shape pasta. It was the first time that we had a snail soup. We were amazed at how the soup absorbed the deep flavour of the snails and became a delicacy. Although the flavour of the snails infused into the soup, the snails themselves were still tasty – very meaty and fresh. Needless to say, the porcini and pasta were absolutely fantastic.
The fish course for the seasonal menu was a piece of sea bass covered in mint, paprika, and olive oil. The traditional menu was pike with parsley and carefully decorated with various vegetables. Both were excellent courses.
Moving on to the meat course, the seasonal menu served slices of medium-rare duck breast laying on top of glossy tangy-sweet Modena balsamic vinaigrette. Modena is a famous Italian city in the culinary circle. Balsamic vinegar from this city must be aged for at least 12 years under a strict governing body similar to those governing the quality of French and Italian wine. The balsamic reduction not only moistened each bite of the duck breast, it also provided a fabulous depth of taste.
The traditional menu came with a good portion of beef shoulder braised in Barbera, a marvellous Italian red-wine grape ideal for braising. We were surprised by the remarkably tenderness of this toughest part of the cow – knife was pretty much not needed at all, just a gentle touch with a fork was enough. Strands of moist meat simply melted in our mouth. Combining with the intense grape sauce, this dish offered a wonderful palate. From its concentrated flavours and softness, the meat was obviously cooked through a long and slow process. The dish came with polenta on the side, a thick mixture made from cornmeal and milk, a common side dish in northern Italy.
Now, time for dessert – their regular dessert menu with seven choices was provided to us. They said that we could choose as many as we wanted as all desserts could be served in mini portion. What a generous treat to end the menu! We tried an Italian grape pudding, an amaretti cake, and a Valrhona chocolate cake.
Our server suggested us a glass of La Spinetta Moscato d’Asti ‘Bricco Quaglia’ 2003 after the desserts. This light and bubbly wine with fragrance of peach has only 5.5% alcohol. What a marvellous drink to finish our night!
About the Service
After being lost several times on the route, we arrived at the restaurant very late. The restaurant manager greeted us at the door. He showed great concern and sympathy regarding our difficulty in finding the restaurant. We suddenly felt a sense of family warmth in this foreign country. After our dinner, he again made sure that we knew the way to our hotel.
The cozy ambience and the friendly service really made us feel like home. They do not have an English menu, but our server was very patient in explaining each dish on the menu more than once.
Their menu is huge with a beautiful painting on the cover page, which changes every year. They gave us a copy of that big menu as a souvenir. You can really frame it as a small painting in your house.
Ristorante dal Pescatore
Riserva del Parco – Runate, Canneto S/O
Between Milan (80km) and Venice (140km)
Tel: +39 0376 72 3001
Open from Wednesday evening to Sunday evening.
Holidays from 2nd week of August to 1st week of September, December 24th and 25th, and the first three week in January.
7-course tasting menu (Seasonal or Traditional): €165/person
À la carte menu: About €30 appetizer, €35 pasta course and €45 main course.
If you don’t want to drive too far after dinner, the closest hotel is Hotel Margot (www.hotelmargot.it), within a 5-minute drive.