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Apr 3, 2012 10:56 AM

Any suggestions for Sirmione?

We will be staying in Sirmione for two nights at the start of our Veneto trip this summer. We'll have a car but would prefer just staying local those nights as we'll have just arrived from NY. I've only found one suggestion on this board: La Rucola, which looks great and will likely be one of our dinners, although its a bit of a splurge it looks worth it. Any thoughts on a 2nd dinner--hopefully more moderate in cost? Can't find too much information on dining in that town. Thanks!

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  1. Its a heavily touristy town with a lot of little restaurants, bars, gelateria, etc. La Rucola looks the most attractive. Ive been on day visits three times - the farther you get away from the castle area the better - Gambero Rosso gives the same food rating as La Rucola to Antica Trattoria La Speranzina on Via Dante and also recommends the L'Orangerie restaurant at the Grand Hotel Terme, . Neither are cheap but both are cheaper than la Rucola.

    note Sirmione is actually in Lombardy - in case you want to move around, you can take the lake boats to nearby towns, have a nice cruise on your way to/from your lunch, or catch a train to one of the local cities like Mantova with lots of choices.
    If you choose the boat, There are good restaurants in the slowfood price category in Salo (Osteria di Mezzo, Osteria dell'Orologico), Desenzano del Garda (La Contrada, via Bagatta 10-12), Gardone Riviera (Trattoria Agli Angeli, up in Gardone Sopra, across the road from the Vittoriale, accessible via a cute little train that meets the boats),
    Here is the link to the navigation co but they do not have the summer schedule up yet.
    Bardolino (Il Giardino delle Esperidi) and other towns around the lake.. this is more feasible at lunchtime since the boats dont run late. Since you can pretty much see Sirmone in 2-3 hours max, such a cruise around the little lake towns could be a good way to enjoy your second day.

    6 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb

      Thanks so much Jen. That's a great idea re: lunching somewhere along the lake, I did plan to take a boat...somewhere! We will arrive in Sirmione around lunch time on the first day, which is a Saturday--I know it is touristy but it looked like a good stop on our way to Verona. Will do the Castello and just hang about town...will likely just find something simple in town for lunch, I'm sure we'll be jet-lagged. So I just need to find a nice, moderate but not horridly touristy place for dinner the first night. Someplace lakefront would be nice but I imagine those are most touristy of all.

      Day two we'll likely go to Grotto of Catullus early before its too hot then get on a boat. I will look into some of those places on the lake towns you mention for lunch on day 2. Will need to check those boat schedules but I imagine in summer they run fairly frequently. And then La Rucola for dinner day 2.

      I'll be asking about Verona in a bit ;) just doing the easy stops first!

      1. re: jinx

        You plan sounds good.

        My feeling is that most of the eating places in Sirmione (other than perhaps hotels) are not lake front.- most of the frontage along the lake on the W side is hotels, on the east side, there is the beach with its thermal area (there are hot springs in the lake under the water, making it quite warm, maybe a nice place to go on your first afternoon..

        Maybe you could eat light at the Grand Hotel Terme restaurant if you dont see anything else that appeals!

        The castello takes about 2 minutes to see, and the nearby area of the town (near la rucola) is charming.. There are two paths going out the the north tip of the peninsula where the "grotto" is - one along the water past the beach and picnicking area and the back of one of the major hotel properties, the second is the main road down the center of the peninsula. A toy train can be caught that road goes past major hotels and villas, as well as a more countrified area toward the end with a nice little romanesque church up on a hill. The villa of catullus is a scenic spot, but its hot on a hot day, so you are right to get out there early..

        Will be interested to hear about what you find.

        1. re: jen kalb

          Great info, thanks again. My research has turned up another possible in town--Ristorante Pace; the website looks encouraging, on the lake (as you note, also in a hotel). Has good TA reviews although I usually don't put too much stock in those for restaurants, but still--nothing glaringly terrible :) and it looks very pretty on the water. Although we may really want something more casual--more trattoria than ristorante--but the only one I've found that looks interesting is outside of town and I know we won't want to drive anywhere.

          I will surely post back on my return.

          1. re: jinx

            did you look at these?

            I forgot to mention that the various types of fresh water fish from the lake are very good - its worth trying some of the fish specialties while you are there

            also there are some wines typical to this region that are worth trying, including the tocai from nearby San Martino di Battaglia made by Feliciano - impress your wine waiter. the same winemaker makes a very uncharacteristic but tasty cabenet on the west (Brescian) side of Garda.

      2. re: jen kalb

        Jen - you are the best resource for this area! Thank you! I'm looking for a lunch place, ideally on a terrace overlooking the lake (how surprising) on the West side of the Lake -- Salo, Limone or Gardone Riviera -- that is maybe more casual than some of the places you've suggested appear to be. We will be a larger group (20?).

        1. re: Hungry Karen

          Karen - sorry, I tried to reply earlier and lost my post. I dont have any recommendations for Limone, sorry. In Gardone, we like Trattoria Agli Angeli very much - have stayed there for two extended visits and eaten quite a number of meals there e enjoy the friendly welcome, good wines and sophisticated regional cooking, meat and lake and sea fish, as well as good cheeses, risotto, etc.- no view, but in the old Gardone Sopra - up the hill and across from the amazing vittoriale. You can take the little train from the ferry stop if you dont want to walk up the hill. We also enjoyed RestaurantCasino a classic mellow lakeside restaurant where you eat under awnings. Good seafood, even venetian calves liver.Id be lying if I said it was the greatest food in the area but we had some very enjoyable lunches there.

          In Salo, the place we liked Osteria di Mezzo is too small for a group of 20, I think, unless you take it over, and does not have a view. However, Trattoria alle Rosa, another slowfood (and Gambero Rosso) recommendation in Salo has a terrace and garden and I would be tempted to give it a try. I didnt see any watefront places in Sale which appealed. A very nice town for a bit of exploration and shopping, too.

      3. When you dine at La Rucola, see if they still have Bradisismo on the wine list. It is a fabulous red from the Veneto, similar to Amarone (the producer is Inama, and it is not expensive). We had it when we were there and have been buying it in the US ever since (not easy to get here but at least they do export it).

        4 Replies
        1. re: rrems

          thanks again Jen--I don't know why I always forget about Via Michelin for restaurants, I use them for driving directions! A good list which I'll print out.

          Rrems...thanks for the wine suggestion, I will look for it, maybe even look for it here in the states before we go. We will be staying at a winery outside of Verona for three nights and need to start drinking more Veneto wines in anticipation :)

          BTW rrems I seem to recall you gave us great recommendations for our Barcelona trip last year!

          1. re: jinx

            Reporting back on our Sirmione dining experiences. We had two GREAT meals, as well as a very good lunch. Due to an extensive flight delay, we arrived too late for lunch our first day, and I was anxious that we wouldn't make our dinner reservation either, as our plane was delayed five hours! But luckily we made it and had an excellent meal at Ristorante Pace. I chose this as I really wanted to eat on the water our first night, and while the only reviews I found were on TripAdvisor (not the most reliable source for dining info) the gist sounded good. We were not disappointed. We had reserved a table on the jetty and email correspondence was warm and efficient. We opted for the 7 course meat and seafood tasting menu with the wine accompaniment, as the wine was only 10 euros additional per person, very reasonable! I'm afraid I was too spaced-out to record everything we had but every course was delicious. Standouts I do remember was the plate of marinated fishes and the porchetta. I really wish I could remember more ;) Service was also very attentive and I would definitely recommend this restaurant. The wines were all local Veneto wines and quite good. They also have a lovely garden with lake views, if you can't get a jetty table.


            Our plan to lunch the next day at another Lake Garda town was thwarted by a boat strike on the lake--always a distinct possibility in Italy! Oh well, we actually quite enjoyed walking around Sirmione, and the Grotto of Cattalus was way more extensive and interesting than we'd imagined. So lunch was at a simple trattoria in town, recommended by our hotel: La Nuova Botte, right next to the church. Very good, simple and traditional pasta and not overtly touristy.

            Sunday night was our much-anticipated meal at La Rucola. What a great meal! We did not have the tasting menu--we ordered a la carte--but there were so many amuses that it seemed like we were doing a tasting menu! And so many inventive presentations, it rivaled some of the creativity we found in Barcelona (not as molecular, but creative in presentation.) It started off with a huge bread plate with about 7 different types of breads, and the best grissini I've ever tasted, I couldn't stop eating them. Then the appetizer amuse where dishes just kept coming...and when we thought that must be it, another was brought over. A few I remember were a puree of zucchini served in an eggshell cup, and a clever take on coke and sliders. After the wonderful antipasti and mains, and before our desserts, we were brought another never-ending parade of dessert amuses, including a two-layer box of chocolates and cookies, mini-ice cream cones and mini-popsicles, toasted marshmallows on a stick, and more. And all of it tasted as good as it looked. Really a wonderful, whimsical meal which we thoroughly enjoyed. Also the most expensive meal of our trip by far, but worth it! Worth a detour if you are in the area.


            1. re: jinx

              Thank you for the excellent report. I'm so glad you enjoyed La Rucola, and that it is apparently as good as when we dined there seven years ago. It is still one of the most memorable meals I have had in Italy. Nice to hear that there are other worthy choices in Sirmione as well.

              1. re: jinx

                thanks for the full report and so glad you ate well!

          2. Am I right in thinking that La Rucola is only open for dinner?

            And, if so, would folk concur that the next best option for lunch would be Michelin "three fork" Speranzina? I can't think of anywhere in the town that matches the food and the lakeside location. We ate there on our last holiday in Bardolino and, again, will be getting the ferry over to Sirmione to eat.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Harters

              I dont see any indication on the viamichelin link above that La Rucola is closed for lunch - except Friday. you can email them through their website link

              1. re: jen kalb

                Thanks for that. I'll try and come up with an email that's at least halfway intelligible in Italian. I'd been basing my question on the fact that I hadnt seen any only comments about the restaurant where folk were mentioning they'd had lunch - it's all dinners.

                1. re: Harters

                  my experience is that usually restaurants in italy serve both lunch and dinner - if they dont they will say dinner only. Google translate is great for this type of thing. just keep it simple - and why not just ask for a reservation for lunch on the day you want?

                  ps a couple other dining websites seem to say dinner only - heres one reference

              2. re: Harters

                I would just email and ask. When I emailed for my reservation, they responded promptly, and in English. Shouldn't be a problem. However, I don't recall them being open at lunchtime...we did pass by to look at it on our first afternoon and it didn't seem to be open.

              3. LA SPERANZINA

                It’s some years since we were last at Lake Garda. Then, we got the ferry from Bardolino and just happened across La Speranzina for lunch. It was a good lunch and, returning to the area, we decided on a repeat trip. We’d considered making a reservation at Michelin starred La Rucola but they didn’t reply to my email asking if they were open for lunch (they are). So we’d made the booking at La Speranzina and are really glad we did. It occupies an enviable position on the lakeside and, had the weather been kinder, it would have been great to sit outside. As it was, the weather was pissing down so we ate inside. As well as the main carte, there are three set menus on offer, as well as the “Big Degustation” tasting menu, which is what we opted for.

                It’s always difficult to remember exactly what you eat with such a varied multi-course menu, particularly when it’s being explained to you in a language of which you have very little grasp. But this is the best I can do:-

                1) An amuse bouche of a soft and delicate mozzarella mousse. It sat on a little disc of wafer thin crispbread and was garnished with strips of sundried tomato and pepper.

                2) A “fish finger” of sea bass, in a crisp breadcrumb coating. To accompany, paper thin slices of a variety of fruit – melon, kiwi, peach – and asparagus. The fruit really shouldn’t have worked, but it did.

                3) A small slice of foie gras. Not something we would usually order, but we put ethical considerations to one side. It was served surprisingly rare – perhaps just too rare – with some toasted brioche.

                4) Gnocchi came stuffed with pistachio, shallots, pine nuts and were delicious in themselves. There was also a small piece of an unknown white fish and a single king prawn. Poured into the bowl was a rich seafood broth. An absolute stunner of a dish.

                5) A small filet of turbot was perfectly cooked. Alongside, a tiny squid, stuffed with mushrooms, tasted excellent. The plate was decorated with a slick of vanilla infused potato puree and a single slice of truffle. Another really good dish of varying tastes and textures.

                6) Veal fillet came topped with a mild cheese sauce which, itself, was topped by shards and crumbs of grissini. A really clever dish although, as often with continental veal, it was very mild in flavour and somewhat overwhelmed by the cheese. Thinly sliced asparagus put in its second appearance, and there was a dab of yoghurt decorating the plate which added just a welcome touch of sharpness.

                7) Pre-dessert was amazing – in fact, an offering of eleven different items. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it before at any level of cooking. I can’t recall them all – several came more as petit fours, others in a more familiar pre-dessert format – a coffee cup of mint cream, for instance, or a strawberry shot, a wonderful pistachio ice cream and a classic zabaglione.

                8) These were closely followed by dessert proper. Or desserts as there were, in fact, four different ones – a chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache encased by a lovely bitter chocolate coating, a millefeuille encasing cream patisserie and a vanilla custard. Again, a very diverse set of flavours which, perhaps a bit surprisingly, did work well together.

                Perhaps almost needless to say, service had been formal and faultless. A really good lunch. Really good.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Harters

                  The gnocchi dish (#4) sounds absolutely wonderful! Your entire lunch sounds amazing!