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Three Worlds of Flavours
in a Single Province

In the small province of Como the gourmet will find at least three distinct local cuisines: three gastronomic cultures with their own characteristics. In fact, one can find three ‘territories of the table’ which are much further apart in the pot than on the map.

The first, and most famous, is the cuisine of the lake with its preference for fish. The second is that of the valleys, with much older, almost secret traditions which make ample use of polenta and local cheeses. And, to enjoy the third, one must travel just a short distance to the south, into the plains of Brianza where local hostelries offer a wide range of robust meat courses which have something of a Nordic feel to them.

The Como Lake
As one might expect, fish, both fresh and conserved, is a dominant ingredient. Risotto with fillet of perch is the ‘national dish’ in the area, but other specialities keep alive the memory of simple cooking enriched with the abundant presence of the resources offered by the lake. Another famous speciality, typical to the area around Tremezzo and the upper lake, are “misultitt”, which these days have taken on the Italian name of “missoltini”. They are “agoni”, allis shads caught between May and June, dried in the sun and pressed in salt in wooden “missolte”. The area also offers carp fried and marinated in salt and vinegar with local herbs such as “segrigiola”; fried bleaks, smoked trout in olive oil; whitefish in white wine, carp, tench, “pigo” and the typical fish soup of Tremezzo containing several varieties, including pike, trout, chub, burbot and perch.
But fish is not the only local delicacy. Fine olive oils and vegetables, such as asparagus from Rogaro and Drezzo, stuffed chicken - a traditional Pentecostal dish in Tremezzo - and sweets such as Resta di Como, which has dried and candied fruit, as well as an olive twig inside the dough to wish guests peace and good fortune.

The valleys
Polenta, game and mushrooms are the main ingredients in these areas. Peasant dishes and delicacies, simple flavours and unusual combinations are the characteristics of an area in which one feels the influence of nearby Switzerland and of the frequent incursions (peaceful and otherwise) of northern peoples. Many of these dishes are so typical of the area that their names do not even have Italian translations: such as “polenta cuncia”, made with cheese, butter and garlic; “balota”, balls of polenta with a heart of cheese; “tocc di Bellagio” a polenta made from a blend of different flours with butter and cheese; “urgiada”, which is barley cooked and smoked over an open fire; “furmentada”, a soup made with wheat from the Val d’Intelvi and pork rind, “mataloch”, a sweet made from dried and candied fruit, “miascia” made from stale bread, butter, milk, eggs, sugar and red wine; “rageli” a digestif made from red wine, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, apple chunks and brandy, which is scalded in the “tocc” cauldron.

As well as these dishes with their mysterious names, the is a wide choice of raw ingredients which are still free from the sterile and insipid influences of mass production: free range chicken, young goats and lambs from the upper lake region, troutlets from the Cuccio and Senagra, snails from the Valassina and Val d’Intelvi, chestnuts, game and mushrooms from all the valleys of the region. There is a wide range of dairy products, butter from mountain pastures: cheeses with the strangest of names - a guarantee of the respect for ancient traditions and genuine local culture - such as: caprini, casorette, zincarlin, semude, piazzavachera, caprinotti, all of which are ideal as a main course or to end a meal.

The Brianza
Here meat is the most important ingredient, a sign of a traditionally richer economy and of the plains nearby. The recipes lose the - sometimes bizarre - exclusivity of the valleys and become more “earthy” and, in some cases, more widely known. Pork is widely used and dishes have the same names that are found in other areas - particularly Milan. Here we find the “buseca”, a robust and fortifying soup made from tripe; the “cassoela”, a calorie-charged stew made of pork ribs and rind with savoy cabbages. But we also find the “rustisciada”, a typical Brianza dish made from pork loin and sausages browned with onions (preferably from Brunate). And then there are polentas; cotechino sausages with beans; rabbit alla brianzola; cooked in special gravy dishes (an ancient tradition); beef alla California, a very tasty recipe for rump steak which takes its name from a farm near Monza. Among the sweets, one can enjoy the typical “cotizza”, a homemade foccacia, made from flour, milk, sugar and lemon peel, “masigott” from Erba and “nocciolini” from Canzo.

All the restaurants in the region have a few typical local or traditional dishes on the menu, often combining some of the “rough” specialities with more refined dishes or the special interpretations of the chef.

To lodge in Como Lake

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