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Dining recommendations in The Alta Badia (in The Alto Adige) 2013

allende | Sep 2, 201309:06 AM

We're finishing up another 2 1/2 months in San Cassiano, so am bringing the recommendations of prior years up to date. Here is the main link to the past.

Very little has really changed up here. It almost never does; except for one new place as you'll see below. As far as refugi go, we were at Bioche five times and Scotoni once and there is no change. Both remain wonderful places. There is a new rifugio (for us) if you are going to do one of the hikes east from Val Gardena. This is the Rifugio Col Pradat in Colfosco. Highly recommended.

We were at Pre de Costa many times (including today) both for dinner and lunch. That should speak for itself. Many of you have enjoyed it in the past and nothing has changed. La Signora is as nice as can be, the food is simple and wonderful and speaks of the mountains. The wine list is more than adequate (and you drink from very good stemware); prices are extremely reasonable. The menu rarely changes (why should it; there are many many classic mountain dishes on the menu so there is plenty of change if you eat there two, three or more times during a trip), and there are always a few daily specials. Today among them was ravioli di ricotta affumicata con fondue. Looking at the expanse of meadow in front, the top of Piz Sorega up to the right, Passo Falzarego up to the left and the majestic La Varella behind, as those of you who have been there know, the setting and the food make this a very special trattoria.

La Terraza at Ciasa Solares in Armentarola is perfect for lunch and The Wine bar at the same hotel is very good for dinner. Both have the same very extensive wine list. We were at La Sieia here in San Cassiano for both dinner and lunch and it has held up very well since its opening a few years ago. L'Murin in Corvara (at the Hotel La Perla, but not to be confused with the Michelin starred restaurant at the hotel) is a place we went back to twice and its not only a place with good food and wine, but a really fun place because of the building it's housed in (a renovated barn). Tivoli is the only restaurant that we've ever found worthwhile in Cortina and worthwhile it is. Had our once a year lunch there and it was very good. As I've mentioned in the past, even though you're right over the mountains from the Alta Badia (in the Alto Adige), this is food of the Veneto... totally different from here. We, unfortunately, did not get to our favorite trattoria in Cortina, Baita Fraina.

And there is a new place up here for a very special meal. This is the restaurant part of the Hotel Gran Ander in Pedraces, abot 10 km. from San Cassiano, going north from La Villa. Have held off writing about it because we wanted to make sure that we weren't imagining how good it was the first time we went. Have now been three times, including once with a group of six friends. Each time it has been really excellent. The Irsara family has owned the Hotel Gran Ander for a long time. Andrea Irsara has cooked there with his late father. Now, in addition to the hotel dining room for guests, he has a separate room for outside diners. Four or five tables (depending on the configuration of the parties) in a lovely room facing out toward a great view of La Varella. The restaurant is a gem.

Andrea and his wife Evelyn are wonderful hosts. The service is friendly, flawless and professional, but in a casual way. It is a relaxed meal. The menu is on a blackboard (see below) and changes very often (often every day), depending on what Andrea feels like cooking and what ingredients are available. And they are the freshest and most flavorful ingredients available. The other day I had the Lonza di Vitello, from the hindquarter of the calf. It was one of the best pieces of veal I've ever had. Really. I asked Andrea why it had this incredible flavor. The reason: His uncle raises calves (and pigs and beef) on a farm in San Vigilio, right down the valley. The calves are raised only on milk and salt and are killed at 5 1/2 months. The salmerino that my wife had, was fished, that day, from a stream nearby. We had the risotto with herbs (and finferli which are abundant up here now). Just fantastic! Of course, that meant passing up his pastas which are ethereal. We started with the lingua di vitello with vegetables. His vegetables, too, have intense flavors and he cooks them well, and they are served copiously with his main courses and some of the antipasti.

His plating is pitch perfect, beautifully presented, but plates which are not fussy. There is no "presciousness" in his dishes; in contrast to too many other restaurants, you know exactly what you are eating. The portions are ample, not too small and not overwhelming in size. The wine list is excellent and very moderately priced (a touch above retail). It is a joy to order from the list.

Both Andrea and Evelyn are enthusiastic about what they are doing and it shows in the service and food. Andrea is a master at what he is doing. This is by far the best restaurant for us in The Alto Adige or the Veneto. In terms of comparison, I'd say it reminds us of Il Centro in Priocca in Piemonte. Clearly the ingredients are different, but the style of cooking is the same. Elide Mollo takes local ingredients and uses them in slightly refined Piemontese classic dishes. The dishes are plated very well (but again, no fussiness). The menu changes very frequently. The service by her husband Enrico is warm as is the atmosphere of the room. That well describes what Andrea and Evelyn are doing. Go!!! It really is a wonderful restaurant.

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