When I moved to Italy, I underestimated the emphasis put on local food. Over time, I’ve come to realize that the food of northern Italy varies between the smaller regions, and different towns even within Lombardy put their own stamp on the regional cuisine.
Skip the brash Como and Bellagio eateries with their tourist menus, and seek out the trattoria that discreetly display piatti tipici della zona (typical dishes of the area) or cucina comasca (Como cuisine) in their windows. You’ll be rewarded with lake fish and alpine fodder like polenta and stews. And if that isn’t to your palate, there’s no shortage of pizza and pasta joints around. These classics rarely disappoint, especially when dining against the backdrop of Lake Como.
Temperate Lake Como is often home to mosquitoes in summer, so bug spray is essential for outdoor dining.
If you only have time for one thing, make it the tóc, a polenta dish hailing from Bellagio.
When in Italy, it’s always worth dedicating a day to wine. While Lombardy lacks the wine-producing prestige of its Piedmont and Trentino Alto-Adige neighbors, the region has its own unique viticulture. Lake Como’s vineyards are concentrated around the northern branch of the lake, specifically in the Montevecchia hills and around Domaso town.
To understand and taste a variety of local ingredients, make like the locals and head to a market. The Como covered market showcases fare from farmers and artisan producers, and most stallholders offer samples of salami, cheese, and even torrone—a nougat that’s popular around Christmas.
If you prefer, spend your morning in the woods that surround the lake, and get your fill of nature on a truffle adventure. With a local chef, you can visit the places where prized truffles and mushrooms are often found, then head to a Bellagio restaurant where a funghi-themed lunch is the star event.
Discover the food around the central lake area of Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio. With a free-circulation ferry ticket you can hop off at the main ports, timing your visits around lunch, coffee, gelato, aperitivo, and dinner, too. Private boat cruises often offer on-board dining options as you cruise past the handsome villas of the lake.
If you’d like to stretch your legs, disembark at Tremezzo and hike up the steep hill (about an hour) to La Fagurida, a rustic restaurant with lake views and a menu with regional dishes—there’s no pasta here. Be sure to book in advance.