Eat in Italy!
Summer heat may curb our appetite a bit, but in between a slice of watermelon and a granita, we need to think of proper food and if you happen to be in Italy, it goes without saying, the whole "eating-only-for-nutrition" mantra does not apply. Italians eat for pleasure and you're better embrace the habit while here, or you may leave a string of disappointed guests staring at your half-full plate, wondering what they did wrong.
As far as stereotypes go, the one about Italians and food is true, and there's more: we're proud of it. Do we think of food all the time? Very much so. Are we great cook? Many of us are. Is Italy a great destination for foodies? Well... of course it is.
So, Summer or not, when you are in Italy, food must become an important part of your trip: it doesn't matter whether you're on a budget or walk around with a fat wallet: good, genuine, authentic Italian food is available for all pockets. The restaurants in this specific article, however, are a tad more special than many others, as they've been voted the best in the country. Each year, the people of the Michelin Guide, Il Gambero Rosso (a leading culinary publishing house in Italy) and L'Espresso (a popular Italian current affair magazine) compile their own list of the best eateries in the country, following criterias such as ambience, service, creativity and, of course, the taste of dishes. Many of the chefs leading them have been also voted the best in their field by these very same institutions.
The three lists present little variations and they all agree on the number one restaurant in the country, identified unanimously as Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana, in Modena. All Michelin's three stars are part of both the Gambero Rosso and L'Espresso's top 10, demonstrating an overall concordance of all critics, regardless to their professional affiliation. This year, the people of Agrodolce, a culinary world's online portal, have brought together the work of these institutions and calculated the average points for each of the top 50 Italian restaurants; their top 10, once again, differs very little from each of those upon which it was based.
Here it comes, with some more info about each of these food prodigies of Italy, including all you need to know to book yourself a table and try their delicacies.
10. Da Vittorio (Brusaporto, Bergamo). Michelin Stars: 3
Family run by the Cereas, Da Vittorio has been around since 1966. It obtained its first Michelin Star in 1978 and the second in 1996. At the beginning of the 2000s, the restaurant became part of the Relais Gourmand circuit then, after the move to a new location in Brusaporto, in the beautiful green surroundings of the Cantalupa, and the opening of a hotel, it also joined the Relais&Chateau and Les Grandes Tables du Monde circuits. The third Michelin star came in 2010. As said, Da Vittorio is also a hotel, so it could be a perfect location for part of your holiday.
Known for: fish dishes such as the "gran fritto misto di crostacei, pesci, frutta e verdura," and for its vegetarian specialties.
Prices: from euro 70 (during the week) to 230. À la carte menu: from euro 90 to 230.
Via Cantalupa 17, Brusaporto (BG)
9. Enoteca Pinchiorri (Firenze). Michelin Stars: 3
Opened by Giorgio Pinchiorri and French born chef Annie Féolde in 1972, Enoteca Pinchiorri is an institution of Florence. Giorgio Pinchiorri, a somelier by training, first directed, then bought the Enoteca Nazionale in Florence, where he used to serve the best Italian and French wines. It was to accompany them that Pinchiorri's partner, Annie Féolde, began creating snacks and light dishes. The rest is history: sister restaurants opened in Tokyo (1992) and Nagoya (2008). Féolde was also the first female chef to receive three Michelin stars in Italy.
Known for: its amazing wines, the fantastic mix between French and Italian cuisine and its timeless ambience.
Prices: from euro 175 to 225. À la carte: from euro 155 to 250.
Via Ghibellina 87, Firenze.
8. Casa Vissani (Baschi, Terni). Michelin Stars: 2
Gianfranco Vissani owner and chef of Casa Vissani, is a bit of an instituition of Italian cuisine. His culinary expertise has made it into several books and even to the tv screen. He is, in fact, known for his participation to popular tv shows such as Uno Mattina and La Prova del Cuoco. Vissani inherited the family restaurant from his father, and turned it into one of the best known Italian eateries in the world. Casa Vissani is also an outstanding 5 stars hotel: a perfect place for a luxurious break.
Known for: its eclectic menu and many initiatives (fixed priced menus, theme menus), its welcoming atmosphere and beautiful surroundings.
Prices: from euro 90 to 180. À la carte: from euro 108 to 183.
S. S. 448 Todi-Baschi al km 6,6 05020, Civitella del Lago (TR).
7. Villa Crespi (Orta San Giulio, Novara). Michelin Stars: 2.
Villa Crespi Ristorante is part of the majestic Villa Crespi Hotel, beautifully located on the Lago d'Orta in northern Piedmont. Built in the 19th century, the building hosted artists and kings before becoming, in 1999, property of Antonio Canavacciuolo and his wife Cinzia, who transformed it into one of Italy's best hotels and restaurants.
Canavacciuolo is known to the larger public for his tv appearances, but his culinary skills are second to none. His restaurant is famous for dishes that conjugate the best of northern and southern Italian cuisine; traditional ingredients and products are mixed and matched in an innovative way, creating a style than honors the heritage of italian food, with a twist.
Known for: the atmosphere, the beautiful surrondings and dishes that amaze for an only apparent simplicity, belaying a creativity second to none.
Prices: euro 95 to 150. À la carte: euro 95 to 195.
The Santini's family is behind the huge success of this restaurant, which opened exactly 90 years ago, in 1925, when Antonio Santini, a fisherman, and his wife, Teresa Mazzi, decided to start a business together. Part of the Relais Gourmand circuit since the 1990s, as well as of Tradition et Qualité and Les Grandes Tables du Monde, Dal Pescatore is, still today, a fully family run business.
A true icon of Italian cuisine and of how family businesses can still be strong in this day and age.
Known for: fantastic service and atmosphere, dishes deeply rooted in the culinary tradition of northern Italy and the Pianura Padana.
Prices: euro 175. À la carte: from euro 112 to 201.
Località Runate, Canneto sull' Oglio (MT).
5. Piazza Duomo (Alba, Cuneo). Michelin Stars: 3
Piazza Duomo is lead by famous Italian chef Enrico Crippa and, as many of the restaurants presented in this articles, successfully merges together tradition and innovation. The Piazza Duomo brand has recently expanded to the world of accomodation: a small, yet luxurious hotel (three rooms and one suite) can be booked in the same building as the restaurant. They have been specifically studied for all those gourmets who travel to Alba to visit Piazza Duomo, and may enjoy to stay over afterwards.
Known for: its historical location, its well known chef, its Japan-meets-Italy cooking style.
Prices: from euro 150 to 200. À la carte: from euro 112 to 193.
Vicolo dell'Arco 1, angolo piazza Risorgimento 4, Alba (CN).
4. Reale (Località Casadonna, Castel di Sangro, L'Aquila). Michelin Stars: 3
The creative cuisine of its unique chef, Niko Romito, has made Reale one of the country's best restaurants. A self-taught cook, Romito's recipes are the result of his own endless curiosity for new flavors and combinations. Reale's food has been defined traditional, but stripped down to its purest flavors.
Ristorante Reale is associated to the beautifully luxurious Casadonna hotel.
Known for: its rediscovery of central Italian cuisine, transformed into an exclusive fine dining experience.
Prices: from euro 100 to 150. À la carte: from euro 81 to 128.
Contrada Santa Liberata, località Casadonna, Castel di Sangro (AQ).
3. Le Calandre (Rubano, Padova). Michelin stars: 3
Le Calandre's chef, Massimiliano Alajmo, was the youngest chef to ever receive a third Michelin star, at the very young age of 28 (in 2002). His cuisine is innovative and creative. The presentation of his plates borders on the artistic. The restaurant was opened in 1981 by Alajmo's parents and is listed among the best 50 restaurants in the world. The whole dining experience at Le Calandre is bound to surprise customers: from home décor to fragrances, from the tableware to furniture, everything has been conceived by the Alajmo brothers and produced by the best artisans and craftsmen in Italy. In case you'd like to try Alajmo's cuisine, but without Michelin stars prices, you could go for Il Calandrino, a lovely bistrot nearby, supervised and directed by the chef himself.
Known for: its ambience, its uniqueness, its cuisine, which embraces all senses.
Prices: from euro 125 to 225. À la carte: from euro 100 to 200.
Via Liguria 1, località Sarmeola, Rubano (PD).
2. La Pergola dell'Hotel Rome Cavalieri (Roma). Michelin stars: 3
La Pergola is the kingdom of world-known chef Heinz Beck. Located within Waldorf Astoria Group's Hotel Rome Cavalieri, everything related to this restaurant speaks of excellence.
Beck is one of the best established chefs in the world and his presence at La Pergola since 1991 has made of this restaurant one of the favorite destinations for gourmets all over the world. Beck's cuisine is creative and innovative: shapes, textures and flavors are juxtapposed in a far from the ordinary pattern, to create a true haute cuisine experience. The restaurant, located on the top floor of the Hotel, allows you to savor the beauty of Rome from above, an experience already worth (well, at least in part) the price of your dinner. Its interior is richly decorated with works of art and antiques, all concurring to create an amazing dining experience.
Known for: its head chef, its haute cuisine allure.
Prices: from euro 195 to 220. À la carte: from euro 125 to 180.
Via Cadlolo 101, Roma.
1. Osteria Francescana (Modena). Michelin stars: 3.
Osteria Francescana has been recently voted the first best restaurant in the world: ladies and gentlemen, here is the king of restaurants according to critics. Bottura's creative, at times over the top culinary productions, are all here: from mortadella foam and jellied fish, to parmesan presented with four textures in one dish. All here for customers to try. Bottura offers, beside his avant-guarde delights, also more traditional classics of Italian cuisine, so there should be really something for everyone.
Known for: being the restaurant of a man considered the best chef in the world.
Prices: from euro 130 to 190. À la carte: from euro 130 to 190.
Via Stella 22, Modena.