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Looking For Best Risotto In Italy [split from Home Cooking]

Joe - You've been quite famous I see! I'm a big of the risotto as well.. I haven't tried your recipe, as I'm not a fan of the gorgonzola... I know, shame on me! =) However... in reading this awesome thread.. I saw you have traveled quite a bit. This may be for a different board... BUT I'm in search of the best risotto in Italy.. preferrably in Rome, Bologna, Parm, or Venice... as those are the cities we're visiting. We're going for our honeymoon and fancy ourselves to be 'foodies'.

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  1. Fail to see the mystery associated with this recipe. Looks to be a great flavor combination. The magic is the the 2.5 - pounds of high quality cheese and butter.

    I love rich recipes, and this one looks great. I am just surprised at the 'g-whiz' reactions found here....

    1. I'm not Joe. but I'm posting to say I'm not sure you will find great risotto in Rome, Bologna, Parma or Venice. I live in Italy, and I would look for it in Lombardia, perhaps Piemonte, and around Mantova. If you want a major city, I would focus on Milano.

      It came as a surprise to me when I moved to Italy that Italians don't use Arborio rice to make risotto. Apparently it is easier to distribute Arborio rice in America, so food writers specify it. Italians use Carnaroli rice (from Piemonte and Lombardia), and it makes a HUGE difference in creaminess. Val di Nerone rice is more common in Mantova, but I have had less satisfactory results with it.

      Fred Plotkin cited several legendary establishements for risotto in his "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler." They were mainly in Lombardia. The book may need updating, but I would at least consult it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: summerUWS2008

        I should correct my too-hasty typing in the above post: It is vialone nano rice, not val di Nerone as I incorrectly posted.

      2. Still waiting for Joe to chime in.
        You will find good risotto in Venice. Venetians prefer the vialone nano for their risotto and their version tend to be 'soupier' than those from other parts of Italy. Cooking risotto takes time and attention, therefore, most places either fore go it or turn out sloppy versions. Naming the "best" is always difficult. For me, it has to be at Le Calandre in the nearby city of Padua. I've had three versions: one with saffron and licorice, another with truffle and the most recent with baby kidney and curry powder. The rice is firm, delicate and not at all heavy (probably the worst attribute of a poor risotto and the main reason I don't order it often in restaurants). One of the best I've had is the crab and artichoke at Da Fiore but that was many years ago. The risotto at Fiaschetteria Toscano is always reliable; one of the few that does a traditional squid ink properly. Al Covo always have one good risotto on their menu, usually with crab or baby shrimp.

        1. Best Risotto is to be had in Lombardy or maybe Piemonte, they are the specialists. As you are not going that way, your best bet would be in Venice. Search this board (Italy) for recs on Venice dining, and you'll find what you are looking for.

          1. Risotto, as others have told you, is most typical of the Piemonte, Lombardia, and Veneto regions. Don't waste a meal in Bologna looking for risotto when you ought to be having tagliatelle or lasagne. Although it's not typical of Rome, I have had wonderful risotti at Il Convivio and Agata e Romeo and also at Antico Arco. Don't bother with risotto in Rome except at a high-end place, and I would say the same for Venice and probably a lot of northern cities. Otherwise, a labor-intensive dish like risotto is likely to be precooked.

            Beyond that, I think the search for the "best in Italy" is not a good approach to Italian food. I have already made this point with regard to carbonara, and I think the same applies here. In a country that loves, and prides itself, on variety, you will miss, or possibly underestimate, much that is excellent if you stay focused on finding a hypothetical best. If you go to Le Calandre (Padova) it will be wonderful, but also at Da Fiore (Venice) and numerous other places at that level. Why force yourself to choose?

            1 Reply
            1. re: mbfant

              Thanks everyone for the great feedback... this is our first visit to Italy and this website has so much reading material, it's a bit overwhelming as there ar so many opinions. We just want to know where to go to find the best of everything, which isn't as easy as I was hoping. There are so many wonderful sounding places at various price ranges... and yet so little time to try them all. Maybe we'll make our way over to the Piemonte, Lombaria regions.

              We saw Da Romano featured on Anthony Bordaine's show as being the 'best' risotto he's ever had.. but that was a few years ago and it's since gone a bit down hill according to some of the reading I've done.

            2. I agree with mbfant (hi Maureen!) that it is pointless to look for the "best" risotto, which you can't know unless you taste every one in Italy. I am not a fan of the food of le Calandre and in Venice would point you to da Ivo rather than da Fiore for risotto ai frutti di mare. SummerUWS2008 in his/her post cities my previous listings. The new edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler comes out in March and includes the following, in a town called Desana in the province of Vercelli (rice central!) in Piemonte: Tenuta Castello/Ristorante Oryza
              Piazza Castello 8; tel 0161/318297, www.tenutacastello.com (Castello); 0161/318565, www.oryzariso.it (Restaurant) Here is an all-in-one experience for anyone passionate about rice and risotto. Tenuta Castello is one of the few fully organic producers of rice, hewing to old methods that favor quality over quantity. By prearrangement you can arrange to visit the rice fields and learn all about planting, irrigation, harvesting and packaging. There is a 5-room bed and breakfast, each room named for one of the five varieties are grown here: Arborio, Baldo, Balilla, Carnaroli, Vialone Nano. The castle has exhibitions about rice history and culture. The Oryza restaurant offers wonderful dishes, almost all based on rice, but including fish, meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit or wine. Prices are very modest for this special experience. The bottega adjacent to the restaurant has many delicacies you can purchase to take home. If the original questioner really wants to get the full rice experience, I suggest a journey here. You can learn about rice production, learn recipes and eat course after rice-based course. I also see that the questioner is going to Parma. Note that in the new edition of the book I no longer recommend Parizzi restaurant. It has become too posh for its own good. If there are other questions, I can be reached at my Web site. Thanks, and buon viaggio, Fred Plotkin

              10 Replies
              1. re: Fred Plotkin

                Great info.. thanks. Also, thanks for the tip about Parizzi. It was on my list of possiblities... and it's a shame to see good places go more for the trendy/posh look... and the food starts to lack it's original quality.

                1. re: Fred Plotkin

                  Thanks for making an appearance here! seem to recall there is also a rice mill south of Verona/east of Mantua offering a special rice experience.
                  Do you know about that one too? It might be more convenient than Piemonte for this traveller.

                  We had a big disappointment with risotto at da Fiore a few years back - the pretty copper pot presentation and all and the rice was tasty, but they left out the seafood!! I wouldnt go there for this dish.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Jen Kalb, Sorry to butt in here with another topic, but I found your past posts on Campania and can't relocate...we're going there in May to visit wineries and eat and drink, of course, and am desperate to find some hotels in the Avellino province nearer to the wineries than the city of Avellino itself (which I've heard is kind of industrial. We've already booked a place in Calitri, but can't find anything in Taurasi, say. Feel free to email me directly with any assistance. Mille grazie! sherijorden@gmail.com

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      I think Riso Ferron is fine but does not compare to what I list in Desana. In Parma, by the way, the Ristorante in the Hotel Cocchi is consistently good. Trattoria al Tribunale is casual and nice. And I loved the food at the Societa' Corale Giuseppe Verdi, just around the corner from the Casa di Arturo Toscanini (which you should visit). The Societa' Corale had delicious tortelli and an excellent bollito misto and the whole experience there was happy and genuine

                      1. re: Fred Plotkin

                        Fred Plotkin, I don't know if you will return to the thread but I want to send you my deepest thanks for the work you have done -- which literally changed my life in the best possible ways -- and I look forward to the updated edition of your book, which I will buy in multiple copies and read again and again, I'm sure. Mille grazie.

                    2. re: Fred Plotkin

                      Respectfully, but I could not disagree with you more about Le Calandre. We have literally built several vacations around travelling from the U. S. to have dinner there; In the past I've also incorporated dinner there as part of business trips. I am a huge fan of Massimiliano. In particular the saffron and licorice risotto PBSF noted above is extraordinary and a signature dish of his. He also uses Tenuta Castello, either violane nano or carnaroli for his riso. His "deli" across the street also sells this. I've been bringing either this or Ferron back in my luggage for years and cooking with it.

                      I am sorry to disagree but for myself i am convinced this is one of the Great restaurants not just of Italy but also of Europe.

                      There is an extraordinary book for anyone who is seriously into making risotto, if they can find it: "Guida Gallo 100 Risotti Dei Piu Grandi Ristoranti Del Mondo." Bascially this hardbound volume published by Gallo has features, photographs and recipes for what they consider the 100 best risottos in the world. They also, at one time at least (2003), sponsored a contest for chefs 18-26 to find "the risotto of the year.(using their rice.)" Whether any of them is or not is another matter; but a number are truly creative in an absolutely fascinating book which has photos of all of them. Over time I've made about a half dozen of them; I've also eaten in ten or more of the restaurants whose risottos are noted in it.

                      For myself considering which is the best may have as much to do as the beach where water laps near your feet while eating a seafood risotto at Uliassi or the smell of the Fall at the original Guido which made an Alban truffled risotto taste even better. At Del Pescatore she grows her own saffron for her risotto! (She raises her own chickens, too. I remember having a rental car and leaving the window open several inches on a hot day and when I returned after three or so hours of lunch the front seat was covered with chicken feathers!) Still, these are serious restaurants where one would expect to find risotto properly prepared. I would suggest as noted above that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find an exemplery risotto; many no longer take the time to stir it properly or source the best ingredients such as the riso you mention. Also, as I noted in a post from last year, "Venice: The Great Binge of '09" http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/605395 I was told at Alle Testiere, a restaurant which I've been visiting annually for almost 20 years, that the reason they do not have risotto on the menu is that it "takes up two burners" on their stove (one for the stock in be kept warm in while ladelled). The stove only has four burners!

                      Still, on our second visit last March which was early in the evening on a weeknight, they made a superb and "proper" seafood risotto for us. It was truly special.

                      Fred, I am curious: what do you think of Combal O? Also, have you been to El Molin in Cavalese? I suspect that these along with Calandre are non traditional experiences that may reinterpret Italian tastes and textures which for some, perhaps for many, prefer the more traditional such as what might be found at Dal Pescatore which I mentioned.

                      Last, this is from the menu of the two Michelin star St. Hubertus in San Casciano in the Dolomites:

                      Risotto cooked on wood stove (min. two persons


                      2008 Risotto with monkfish carpaccio, sea urchins and fish roe

                      1999 Risotto with pine needles served with gently smoked breast of Guinea fowl

                      2009 Risotto with fresh garlic, candied lemons and frog legs

                      I have not been to this restaurant-yet. But my guess is that they do a superb risotto, perhaps even three creative superb risottos.

                      1. re: Joe H

                        Piemonte and Lombardia are where Europe's biggest ricelands are located and you would expect to find the best risotto from this region, although as others have pointed out, its a national dish and any big city will have restaurants serving a risotto dish, but Milan would be the best choice.

                        Vercelli and Novara in Piemonte are the main towns in the rice heartland, I favour Novara as a more charming town to visit, there are also some gorgonzola casefici nearby. BTW its not common in Piemonte to add any dairy to risotto, if properly cooked it has its own creaminess.

                        As well as the Tenuta Castello mentioned by Fred, you can also consider the Principato of Lucedio, an ancient abbey close to Vercelli, where they have been growing rice for centuries and specializes in all things rice with guided tours for visitors http://www.principatodilucedio.it/ing... .

                        Canaroli is regarded as the better grade of risotto by professionals, but if you visit a rice mill, you will find many different types and grades of rice, not just the well-known classifications. There is also a little town called Arborio, although it has yet to cash in on its name for tourists (see pictures


                        Burton Anderson in his wonderful book "Pleasures of the Italian Table" devotes a chapter to "the Champaign of Rice" and recommends the Riseria Re Carlo in Albano Vercellese if you want to visit an artisanal rice farm, and the Osterie Cascina dei Fiori at Borgo Vercelli as an oasis of cucina Vercellese.

                        1. re: Villasampaguita

                          Thanks, Villasampaguita, for sharing and the recommendations. The Lucedio riso that you mentioned is also sold in the United States at Dean and DeLuca.

                          1. re: Joe H

                            while in Stresa we went to :arc en ceil (sp) best risotto

                        2. re: Joe H

                          Joe, I agree with you about Le Calandre and our experience at Scabin’s restaurant was MEMORABLE.


                      2. Something funny with the board today, when I tried to edit my post, two copies got posted and no photos.

                          1. The Carnaroli Rice DOP and especially the one cultivated with fish (mostly carps) in paddy fields (no chemicals!) is the one we use at home to prepare our Risotti. Of course, every other ingredient should be consequent, starting from the meat - or fish - broth prepared with the right meat/fish qualities – the right wine - the right parmigiano reggiano - when appropriate - and so on.
                            You won’t find this variety at supermarkets and cost almost the triple compared to the Arborio variety but when you try it you understand that it is worth every penny.
                            As many others have already stated, Piemonte, Lombardia and Veneto – where most of the paddy fields are located, would be the best places to “experiment” many varieties of this fabulous and multitalented dish. I totally agree with the Chower who wrote: “not in Bologna, please” :-)


                            11 Replies
                            1. re: Irene65

                              Irene, I am curious, we can find Carnaroli DOP rice, vialone nano, etc, sometimes from large companies but some from small producers and labeled organic etc here in the US. If I was looking for a rice "cultivated with fish" as you mention, what indication would I look for on the label? Or are there particular producers you recommend?

                              1. re: jen kalb

                                Hi Jen. I personally buy from a really special producer “Azienda Agricola I Dossi” in Gambolò (Pavia) - Lomellina area - and rice is not the only special gourmet product they produce. The owner’s name is Giovanni Bazzano. It is a “filiera chiusa con tracciabilità al 100%” how can I translate that in English???? Maybe someone is able to help. Genuine methods of production and cultivation. On the Italian label you find “coltivazione con pesci in risaia”.
                                In Italy large companies do not sell DOP rice and of course not the ones cultivated with carps in paddy fields… I am curious too: which label do you find in the US?

                                1. re: Irene65

                                  In a restaurant in Italy it really doesn't matter which of the top rice varieties are used (e.g. Vialone nano, Carnaroli), if it is not made well. I really don't want to disappoint people but most restaurants in Italy, particularly high end restaurants, don't make it well because it is already partially cooked, before it is finished. Really! It is partially cooked, then let to dry.

                                  Many of the trattorie I know, in contrast to those high end restaurants I know, actually make it from scratch. Better? Who defines better or best. Those are terms, particularly "best" ,that shouldn't be used with risotto or any other dish except in the context of what you like.

                                  But, over a long period of time, I've bet I've had many more really good risotti at trattorie and lower rated restaurants in The Gambero Rosso, than from those rated higher.

                                  Joe H... that's San Cassiano in the Alta Badia, not San Casciano which is in Toscana. The risotto at St. Hubertus is okay, nothing special. Stick to pasta there. Now Dal Pescatore's is something to travel for, as is Cascinale's in Isola D'Asti and Tivoli's just outside of Cortina. In the 80s and 90s., for us, Romano Tomani's at L'Ambasciata was the model for what a great risotto should be.

                                  1. re: Irene65

                                    I hate to break it to everyone, but there is no such thing as Riso Carnaroli DOP (or at least there was none as of February 4, 2009):

                                    1. re: zerlina

                                      I stand corrected - I think I muddled it in my head with the Vialone Nano IGP from the area of Verona. I guess this angle belonged back on Home Cooking. Lots or great restaurant tips on this thread, tho especially since restaurant risotto can be so disappointing.

                                      1. re: zerlina

                                        I hate to contradict you, Zerlina, but as for
                                        Riso di Baraggia Biellese e Vercellese (DOP) go to www.risobaraggia.it (official website) click “IL NOSTRO RISO” and then click “VARIETA’” you’ll see that the Carnaroli variety *is* included, together with Arborio, Baldo, S. Andrea etc. I am sorry that there is no English version.
                                        As for Riso Nano Vialone Vercellese (IGP


                                        the website has an English version.

                                        1. re: Irene65

                                          Zerlina and Irene are both right/wrong, however you take it: it is the "riso di baraggio" that is DOP and one of the allowed varieties for that regional rice is carnaroli - but there is no carnaroli DOP on its own. Similar to there is Chianti Classico DOCG, and Sangiovese is one of the grapes that can (or must, actually) be used in it, but there is no Sangiovese DOCG.

                                          1. re: vinoroma

                                            Yes, VinoRoma, and thank you for clarifying. When I generically wrote *Carnaroli DOP* I was referring to the Carnaroli variety cultivated in the recognized areas, I should have been more specific and – generally - more English proficient ;-) Expressed like that, there is not “Carnaroli DOP”, as Zerlina pointed out: a DOP EU certification guarantees that a product and all its phases of production have been carried out in a strictly defined geographic area.
                                            Carnaroli is a variety, the Baraggia area is the geographical D.O.P. location.

                                      2. re: Irene65

                                        Irene65--The brand I have in my cupboard is Riso FALASCO from Casalbeltrame.

                                        Sold here in NYC.

                                        1. re: erica

                                          Is it this one? Produced by Azienda Agricola Cirio Giuseppe e Claudio?
                                          I don't know them, but from what I've found on line they seem to be a small quality producer.


                                          1. re: Irene65

                                            Yes, exactly. I brought some home from Eataly in Torino and have since purchased at their NYC branch.