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Sep 2, 2013 09:06 AM

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

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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  1. What a wonderful report! My husband and I will be vacationing in Italy beginning this Sunday. We'll be spending a week in FVG. We had been considering spending a few days in Trentino/Alto Adige after that, and now, after reading your report, we're convinced. We typically spend more time in the smaller towns, rather than the large cities. Are we likely to find many restaurants in that area closed by September 22?

    6 Replies
    1. re: CindyJ

      Glad you enjoyed the report.

      In the Alta Badia (San Cassiano, La Villa, Corvara, Pedraces etc.) all the good restaurants will be closed. The season has ended.

      In the rest of the Trentino/ Alto Adige the season has not ended, but really don't have anything to offer like the places in The Alta Badia e.g. Gran Ander.

      If you do go to the Alto Adige from FVG, the way to go (the most beautiful and the easiest) is to go through Cortina. If so have a meal at Tivoli in Cortina, mentioned above in the report. Then continue over Falzarego and you'll be in the Alta Badia, which is the most spectacular part of The Dolomiti. If you don't eat at Cortina, eat at Pre de Costa (also mentioned above) in Armentarola, which should still be open. Wonderful trattoria.

      Hope this helps.

      1. re: allende

        Thanks... yes, this is VERY helpful. Disappointing, but helpful. Are there any particular areas in Trentino or the Alto Adige that attract visitors during this time of the year?

        1. re: CindyJ

          The Trentino and The Alto Adige is always open for business. Bolzano, Trento Merano etc. Trento is Italian, Bolzano is mostly Italian, Merano German, and most all else is in between.

          1. re: allende

            The “Bistrot” at the Hotel Gran Ander in Pedraces, close to Corvara, San Cassiano and La Villa

            We went to the Bistrot at Gran Ander last Saturday for the first time this year (see above for last year's experiences). We hope to be there twice more over the course of the next two and a half months here in San Cassiano.

            The bistrot is every bit as good as it was last year and it really is a gem. Many of the usual dishes from the Alta Badia region of the Alto-Adige, but Andrea Irsara’s cooking skills are at a very high level compared to others up here. Very high, including desserts which is unusual in Italy. The only new twist as far as we can see are the incredible grissini, every bit as good as those at Coccinella in The Langhe. Andrea now mills his own wheat.

            The room seats about 12 depending on the configuration of the tables. Reservations are not easy to get, so if you plan to be up here this summer, make the reservation early. Ms. Andrea, aka Evelin, Andrea’s wife, runs the room with both charm and professionalism and no pretentiousness. It is a delight to see how at ease she makes her guests feel and how comfortable the room is.

            The blackboard tells what is available that day and it changes very often depending on the ingredients that Andrea finds. Good stuzzichini, on Saturday, zuppa di orzo; a tasty fresh local soft cheese. Among many other things on the board that night: timballo formaggio; stinco di vitello; carpaccio di manzo; plin with sugo carne; tortellini fagioli, filled with buratta; tagliolini neri con pesce; guancia vitello (excellent on Saturday); coda di rospo and much more. As I mentioned, excellent desserts. Among others on Saturday were a souffle’ di riso e gelato al caffe’; semifreddo Grand Marnier gratinato con salsa alle frutte; gnocchetti di semolina fritti con salsa alla frutta e gelato alla menta.

            Fantastic mignardises!!!

            Excellent, very reasonably priced wine list, particularly the selection of Lagreins and Blauburgunders. We had a 2011 Lagrein Riserva Fliederhof. Total check 127 Euros including 32 Euros for the wine.

            A very interesting menu, a high level of cooking skill, excellent service and a lovely dining room. This is as good as it gets up here and it is very good indeed.

            Don’t miss it. GO!

            1. re: allende

              Left San Cassiano for the day, over the Falzarego Pass and into The Veneto and Cortina. We used to spend a lot of time there until we discovered San Cassiano and The Alta Badia.

              We've been to Baita Fraina many times, but not for two years. We forgot how good it is. A wonderful trattoria (with rooms), in the south part of town (

              On a clear day, as was today, sitting on the lovely outside terrace, you've basically got a 360 of the mountains surrounding the town. In the far distance, as clear as could be, was the great Cinque Torre, just below Rifugio Averau (another very good place to have lunch).

              A Veneto menu of course, completely different from The Alto Adige dishes just 30 km and a pass away.

              Whether it was the spaghettini con cipolle, the funghi alla griglia, baccala three ways, the Casunzièi ai porcini, the carpaccio di cervo marinate, or any of the other dishes the seven of us had, they were all perfectly done with robust flavors from the first class ingredients. An excellent wine list mostly from the Veneto, great casual service, very good desserts and a very reasonable check, it was a delight to be back.

              Go if you're in Cortina!!

              1. re: allende

                Thanks for a great report Allende! We will be staying near Bolzano for a few days in late September, so was very interested to read this!

    2. At Passo Giao, try Da Aurelio. It's great.