Locanda dell'Isola Comacina in Lake Como
- a Mar 10, 2006 12:00 AM
Has anyone been to Locanda dell'Isola Comacina on the island of Comacina in Lake Como? Is it worth going?
Absolutely. It was one of the most memorable meals of my life (I'm sixty and I love to eat) It is a rustic setting--stone building in the woods. The menu is set and they bring course after course of wonderful, plain but perfect food.
Here is a description of the affair that my son-in-law provided after he and my daughter went there at our urging
Locanda dell'Isola Comacina was my first flag of our trip. I'm far from a foodie, but I'm increasingly enjoying the eating experience, and from what I've heard this was going to be a good one. I was definitely looking forward to it. We had a little difficulty getting to the right boat stop for crossing over to the island. It led to a minor disagreement, but nothing that would tarnish the evening.
We found the correct boat dock, and sitting there was a little vaporetto fishing boat, like the toy one we bought today. Things are looking up! It was 5E a piece for the ride across. It includs a return after dinner. The sun was just setting as we came over. We had 7pm reservations. Kind of early for Italy, but we didn't want to book too late with it only being our second night. We walked from the dock up to the restaurant. We were greeted by our host and the owner Benvenuto Puricelli. He was quite the character all dressed up in a plaid vest wearing a matching ski hat.
Upon seating we were given a couple copies of the menu. It's actually more of program than a menu. They have served the same meal since 1947, and I don't think there are plans to change it anytime soon. It's 55E per person for the food and wine.
We were the second table to be seated that night. After being greeted came a bottle of white wine and the antipasto. It was huge. If this was a sign of things to come they were going to have to roll us out of there. The antipasto was an array of eight large plates; celery, carrots, baked onions, sweet peppers, courgettes beans, broccoli and french beans. Then came separate plates for each of us with a slab of prosciutto, some kind of salted beef with cucumbers and melon. All very tasty. More people rolled in.
The second course was local grilled lake trout. It was dressed at the table adding lemon, salt and olive oil. After that came fried chicken which was actually quite tasty, even Liz ate it. Between courses we tried "secure" a menu that we could abscond with to bring home and frame. Every time we got a hold of one and sort of tucked it away they would come back to the table and find it immediately. They must get a lot of that. By this time the restaurant is packed.
After our two meat courses they rolled out a huge round of parmigiano reggiano cheese. They scoped out blocks of it and deposited them into our hands. Great, gritty texture and very rich. Dessert was peaches in a banana liqueur served with vanilla gelato. They kept bringing us extra gelato so the other customers who arrived later could finish up their meal. The goal is for everyone to finish at once so Bienvenuto can have his big finale.
The lights darken and at the sound of a bell Bienvenuto enters the room and starts to burn brandy in a large black pot. He goes through the history of the island while performing the fire ceremony with the brandy. We actually almost left before this all began. The fire ceremony didn't start until 10pm, three hours after we arrived. It was taking all our strength to hang on, but it was certainly worth it.
We quickly exited after the production to head back to Menaggio and get some rest. We rated the place a 12.5 on our 15 point scale. Bascially 4's across the board, a great experience!The menu is set and they bring course after amazing course.
I recommended Locanda (etc) to a friend today but didn't remember the name of the restaurant as it's been 23 years since we were there--but my friend researched it & sent me the name. It remains one of our favorite memories of our 3 month trip in Europe in 1983---and yes, the description sounds exactly as I remember it from way back then!!
I think the price is up to 60 Euro/head now, and with the weaker dollar, that may be a tough sell to American tourists, even Chowhounds. The website for Locanda dell'Isola Comacina also cheeses it up something fierce, which is kind of a put-off. On the other hand, there are very few places to get a good meal around that part of Lake Como, and it's such a beautiful setting that some extra expense and romance can be forgiven, if the food is good. And it certainly is, simple and good, just as the other replies describe. I have some more details and a picture on my site, but in short, it's worth a visit.