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Mar 3, 2011 06:10 PM

Dolomiti Trip Report

In February, we spent eight days skiing and eating our way through the Dolomites. We rented an apartment in San Cassiano, and thanks to several sources, most notably allende on this board, the eating was every bit as good (and maybe better) than the skiing. We found San Cassiano to be a perfect base point from which to ski and eat - there are several shops in town where one can pick up provisions (including a very nice meat store and a store with an extensive selection of local artisanal products) and the local slope (Piz Sorega) provides easy access to Alta Badia and Dolomiti Superski beyond. We bought food to take breakfast in our apartment, and then generally ate our lunches on the mountain followed by dinners in the valley.

- Hotel Malita, Arabba: For the first two days, we hired a ski guide, and on day one he took us to the ristorante at the Hotel Malita in Arabba for lunch. It's a bit away from the tram station, down the hill into town (we skied through a parking lot and a small playground). The food was solid but nothing revelatory.

- Rifugio Fodom: Our guide brought us to Fodom on our second day with him, and when he called ahead to make a reservation, I assumed it must be a popular spot (it was). Even at 2PM the place was packed, and the weather was nice enough to eat outside on the patio. The pizzas were the star here, with 3 or 4 menu pages devoted to them and many interesting combinations. We also shared a dish of sausage, polenta and mushrooms that was delicious.

- Malga Saraghes: Without our guide on day 3, we reverted to my pre-researched list and tried Malga Saraghes, which was recommended by allende. Both of the pastas we tried here were very good (penne with tomato, meats and cheese; little spinach gnocchi with cream and mushroom), and the goulash with polenta was very flavorful. It came with a side of vinegary slaw laced with speck that was something of a wake up call - why don't we put cured pork in our slaw in the States? We also were able to try graukase, which was described as being served with with onion rings (we were thinking fried onion rings) and was instead served with...sliced rings of raw onion, which was good for a laugh. Saraghes has a wine list (Malita and Fodom simply had house wines, I think) and we ate outside at the large wooden tables, soaking up the sun.

- Rifugio Edelweiss Hutte: Picked at random off the map mainly because it seemed off the beaten path, we had lunch on our fourth day at Edelweiss Hutte. Walking in the door we say only the self service area and were pretty disappointed (though the food didn't look bad) until we noticed the painted wall sign for the restaurant. Hidden in the back was a fairly fancy little restaurant, replete with tablecloths, cloth napkins, and very nice stemware. We had a full three course lunch here, with soups, pastas, and veal chops (perfectly-cooked). Every pasta we tried was incredible, though I was partial to the gnocchi with cabbage and pork and my papparadelle with ragu. Both the tortelli in brodo and the typical barley soup were very good as well. Nice wine list.

- La Terrazza (Ciasa Salares): Later in the week we decided to stop skiing in the early afternoon and packed into the car for the short drive to Ciasa Salares in Armentarola. We had canceled our dinner at La Siriola for later in the week after hearing some less-than-favorable reviews, but were please to have a chance to try one of the hotel's more casual spots for lunch. We weren't disappointed, and everything from the bread basket (our best lunchtime one) to the pastas and the artichoke flatbread were well prepared. The dessert and wine lists here are nice as well (the apple donuts were my favorite).

- Wine Bar & Grill (Rosa Alpina): After a full day of travel (two flights and a 2+ hour car drive) we were thrilled to be able to walk 5 minutes to dinner at the Wine Bar & Grill in the Rosa Alpina hotel. We were among the first seated tables at 7:30, but by the time we left around 9:30 the bar area was packed. We tried the spaghetti alla chitarra (topped with a VERY healthy dose of the little local black truffles), the gnocchi in mountain cheese sauce, one of the pizzas and a focaccia topped with rocket, prosciutto and burrata. Solid if unexciting meal.

- St. Hubertus: After our friends arrived the following day, we had our first big meal of the trip. Deciding against the tasting menu, we instead put together a fairly extensive menu of our own, and until we hit the cheese course the service was gracious and the dishes well-executed and interesting without being over done. By the time we were ready for cheese I was incredibly excited, having seen the cart roll by a few times already that evening. One of our friends had departed for the evening, exhausted from traveling, so we ordered two cheese plates for four people. The cheeses and assorted accompaniments were excellent (including two types of delicious honey), and portion sizes were adequate but not generous by any means as compared to what we're accustomed to in high-end New York restaurants. I should note at this point that we were the only diners left in the restaurant (and had been for a bit). Imagine our surprise when the check came to see we had been charged for 5 cheese plates at 25 euros a piece. 125 euros of cheese! (Made all the more galling by finding 80 euros of water on the bill). I eat meals at places of similar caliber frequently, I can honestly say I've never seen such gross overcharging (especially for the cheese - I suppose I have been to a place or two that charged for every. single. bottle. of. water). The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

- Pre de Costa: We took a taxi the next night to Pre de Costa, and were one of only two tables in the dining room at the time. I'm not sure why this place wasn't more crowded - the food was excellent (especially the cheese soup) and the woman running the dining room was absolutely lovely. Desserts here very enjoyable as well.

- Las Vegas: We canceled our reservation at La Siriola and replaced it with a night at Las Vegas after we heard from several sources (including the owner of the company we booked our ski guide through) that Las Vegas had dinner and dancing (with transport via snow cat) on Wednesday nights. Dinner was fine, but the dance party was quite the spectacle. Wave after wave of people arrived at Las Vegas on skis or by foot (locals, maybe?) and the dance floor was packed from 10 onward. As we rode the snow cat back down the mountain heavy snow was falling, and from our perch in the basket on the front of the cat, we had a perfect view of all the skiers (and two runners!) making their way down the pitch-black trail and enjoying the foot or so of new, untracked powder. I'd recommend a Wednesday night trip to Las Vegas for the totality of the experience, but not necessarily for the food.

- La Stua de Michil: Our meal here was lovely from start to finish (with one exception, which I'll mention later). The staff was friendly and helpful, the food was delicious, and the wine list quite far-reaching (in fact, it appears to be a major point of pride that the hotel has the "most important collection of Sassicaia in the world." Their words not mine, but there is indeed an entire cellar devoted just to this single wine). My one quibble here was the temperature of the restaurant. In general, the interior temp at almost every meal we ate was a bit on the toasty side, but at La Stua it was bordering on uncomfortable. We had to leave the table numerous times to cool off outside, but luckily the staff didn't seem to mind. We had drinks at the hotel bar after dinner, and there was live music.

- Jasmin: Our final dinner during our stay in San Cassiano was at Jasmin, located in the Hotel Bischofhof in Klausen/Chiusa. Despite what turned out to be a rather exhausting day of driving (we went over the Gardena pass in the morning, spent the afternoon in Bolzano, ate dinner, and then drove back via Brunico) this meal was absolutely worth it. Recipient of a second Michelin star in November/December of last year, the restaurant is run by a husband and wife team (he in the kitchen, she in the front of the house) who were incredible hosts. There was a slight mix up with our booking, and they made room for us (in a dining room that had just four tables that night due to a party of 10) and went out of their way to ensure we had a spectacular meal. We opted for just four courses because we knew we'd be driving back late at night, but now I wish we'd had time to do 6 or 8 or more courses - it was that good. There were multiple rounds of amuses to start off the meal, and then four courses (turbot with foie and truffles; sea bass with white asparagus and beurre blanc; venison with a pistachio crust, cabbage, and buckwheat polenta; pre-dessert), a tasting of six mini desserts for each of us, and finally, a tray of mignardises. The owner (Marlis, I think) made wine recommendations for us that paired perfectly with the courses. We walked out of there close to five hours later absolutely stuffed and very glad we'd decided to include Jasmin on our restaurant itinerary despite the drive.

St. Hubertus
Str Micura de Rue 20, San Cassiano, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol 39030, IT

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  1. First of all, thanks for following up on your trip. Too many here just forget that they had asked for help and then find they don't care to spend the time to follow up. All your detail was appreciated. Bravo.

    Happy to hear that you enjoyed San Cassiano. Pre de Costa: La Signora is always that way; extremely pleasant and with a smile on her face. On any given night it can be totally full or totally empty. They do a great business because they have good mountain food at decent prices and a decent wine list for a trattoria. Glad you liked it.

    St Hubertus: Not surprised. Notice that I never once mentioned that you should go there. Of course, it wouldn't have been right to tell you not to go, even though that's what we wanted to do. After having gone there many times from 2000- 2005, in 2006 we had a crummy meal (that's the only way to describe it) and the pomposity of the service (I don't want anyone stocking their finger out and point out each individual piece of bread and what it is) was just too much. We were with four other friends and they said the same thing. We vowed never to go back. Four years later, we broke that vow and regretted it. Another poor meal and the service was doubly pompous.
    A few questions:
    1. At St. Hubertus, how many bottles of water did you have for 80 Euros?
    2. I would have complained if someone had charged me 25 Euros for each plate of cheese. That is outrageous.
    3. You had mentioned in all the previous posts that wine was important. However, you mentioned very little about wine in the post up top. What were some of the wines you had?

    Again, thanks for the post.

    1 Reply
    1. re: allende

      1. I can't say exactly how many bottles of water we had for 80 Euros, but it couldn't have been more than 10-12 (2 bottles or so for each person). Of course you expect to be charged for bottled water, but it's rare in my experience that a restaurant of this caliber charges for every single one. If not for the cheese issue, the huge water price tag probably wouldn't have been so galling.

      2. Oh, we absolutely should have complained (and I'm not normally one to hold back when incidents like this arise), but was after 1:00AM, we were tired, the entire waitstaff was waiting on us to clear out and leave so they could pick up and go home....we just...let it go. (Our choice, and we're fine with it. Honestly, it became a bit of a running joke for the rest of the trip: "We could have [insert here things that should reasonably cost 125 Euros] or....2 plates of cheese!"). That said, despite some very good food, we wouldn't rush back. I did note that you were mostly silent on the issue of going, but enough other sources (media, mostly) had such glowing reviews and it was within walking distance, so we thought we'd give it a try.

      3. Wines. We drank a lot of wine on this trip, almost every bottle of it from Alto Adige or Trentino. In addition to bottles ordered when out, we made good use of the little grocery store and specialty food stores in the mini mall in San Cassiano and the Spar in La Villa to stock our apartment. Dining out we had mostly reds - sticking primarly to Lagrein and Blauburgunder riservas (though we had a few cuvees that were really nice). In the apartment, we also had quite a few Teroldegos (nice article on them in the NYTimes just before we left:, St. Magdaleners, Muller-Thurgaus, Sylvaners, and Gewurtztraminers. We were surprised in general to find bottles had very low markups in many of the restaurants we visited. As I didn't do much of the wine ordering when in restaurants, I can't share specific producer names other than Manincor, which we seemed to run into quite frequently (and enjoyed quite a bit).

    2. Thanks for this very thorough report. Ive added some links - note that if Chowhound generates inappropriate links for your posts, (like for La Villa below or La Terrazza above) you can delete them or request hit report) to have the moderators delete them.

      La Stua de Michil de l'Hotel La Perla
      strada Col Alt 105, Corvara in Badia, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol 39033, IT

      Pre de Costa
      Strada Pre de Costa 20, Badia, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol , IT

      Rosa Alpina (Wine Bar)
      San Cassiano Strada Micura de Ru, 20, Badia, Puglia 93030, IT

      La Terrazza at Hotel Ciasa Salares
      Loc. Armentarola, Strada Pre de Vi, 31, San Cassiano, Alto Adige/Trentino, Puglia 39030, IT

      Jasmin at Hotel Bischofhof
      via Gries 4, Klausen, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol 39043, IT

      Rifugio Edelweiss
      localita Colfosco, Badia, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol , IT

      Rifugio Fodom
      Passo Pordoi, Livinallongo del Col di Lana, Veneto 32020, IT

      3 Replies
      1. re: jen kalb

        @ slcorlis.
        Many thanks for the reply. The specialty food store in San Cassiano, Delizius, has a good Alto Adige wines selection (and lots of other wonderful products) at reasonable prices and as you said, in many (not all) restaurants low markups are very prevalent; contrast that to The States, particularly Manhattan.
        One last question. Which residenza did you stay at?

        1. re: allende

          @ allende
          We stayed at Appartements As'Odei on Via Costadedoi. I really had no idea what to expect, but the apartment we stayed in looked to be quite new and was very clean and comfortable. No complaints at all.

          The specialty food store you mention isn't ringing a bell to me. I'm thinking of the one immediately to the right as you walk in the ground floor (around back) of the mini mall. It specialized in cheese and milk products, though it certainly also had selections of wine, meat, etc. This same store was somehow connected to a building of apartments (or maybe it was a hotel?) on the hill above San Cassiano (lighted at night in sort of neon colors).

          1. re: slcorlis

            Ah, the store of Luch da Pcei, which is the barn and dairy up on the hill behind the Hotel Fanes.