Sins of taste in Valtenesi

When I was a child, I was a really chubby little girl. My mother always tells me about when I saw her from a distance with any kind of food in her hands. My first reaction was to open my jaws and hold still until I got my spoils. This unconditional love for cuisine is a passion I have had for years. With time, this attitude had changed, refined itself and aimed itself at pure and genuine foods.

I love to eat local products, savouring the real flavour of a tomato, the intensely sweet aroma of basil and the warm and fruity bouquet of a good wine. This seeking takes the form of a journey, a voyage on the trail of good food, a fusion of tradition and the urge to try something new.

Today, dear travellers, we will discover the magic of Valtenesi and Lake Garda food specialities.

The Valtenesi area is a wonderful green space between Lake Garda and the colourful moraine hills of Brescia. Some people consider it a transit zone between the Brescia shore of Garda and the splendid Valsabbia further north.

Speaking of food, what struck me about the cooking of this area is the richness of high-quality products, and what stayed in my heart is the freshness of the fish from the lake, the intense flavour of oil, the perfume of local produce, a blaze of flavours that awakens my appetite at the mere thought.

This enchanted valley encloses Polpenazze del Garda, a small inland village. An oasis of peace and serenity, immersed in green plants and boasting a striking lake view, a gem perched among the remainder of a medieval castle.

The village, mainly agricultural, is renowned for its excellent wine production and organic oil. In many cellars you can taste the gastronomic offerings of the area, with many typical products like Gropello and Marzemino.

The Valtenesi oil is a trademark of the area and, with the abundance of olive trees, it is a characteristic feature of the local countryside where, driving along, you can see expanses of olive trees, as if we were in the heart of Apulia.

The abundance of specialties is due to the force of tradition, which for centuries has been handed down by fishers and peasants to future generations. All this has the reward of creating an absorbing stream of local flavours and products.

First among them is the lake fish, based on sardines, trout, pike and alborellas. In the winter months you can often see capable fishers taking on the lake. In summer, the more usual activity for residents is organizing boat trips for tourists. In many places around the lake, various festivals are planned where excellent lake fish is served, including aole and sardines.

Just an hour’s drive from Milan, Polpenazze is a great place to spend a weekend at the lake and, during one of my last trips, I discovered a couple of little restaurants in the area.

First, a pleasant place called Antica Trattoria Miravalle, where you can enjoy fish dishes. The restaurant is small and thus a little noisy, but the view from the terrace is priceless. The place is certainly welcoming and the recommended dishes are all special. The complexity stems from the choice of best-quality ingredients, from the care taken in presenting the dishes creatively and attractively. In this restaurant an ordinary ham and melon becomes a work of art, with a wooden plate where the prosciutto is laid out on a kind of clothes rack with little clothespins.

What can you say but compliments to the genius!

Not far from the first restaurant, is the restaurant Salvia e Rosmarino (Sage and Rosemary) in Piazza della Pesa. I found it purely by chance. My friends and I decided to look for a little restaurant where we wouldn’t need to worry about reservations. Suddenly, there we were in front of a sign that said “Ristorante pizzeria Salvia e Rosmarino”.

We went in and any doubts we might have had before crossing the threshold disappeared instantly on seeing the welcoming space and kindness of the staff. The tiny place was managed directly by the young owners, who had employed a very skilled cook. With crisp and savoury pizzas on one hand, and tasty appetizers and fried foods on the other, we spent a very happy evening among friends. I fell in love with the cozy atmosphere, deriving from the furniture made of shells and lovely hearts.

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