La Veranda at the Villa d’Este on Lake Como
December 8, 2015
For a long time Linda and I have wanted to stay at the fabled Villa d’Este on Lake Como. We finally made it the nights of October 22 and 23, 2015.
This was the view from the balcony of our room up the lake when we arrived in the afternoon.
Here it was a few hours later as the sun set.
And this was the view down the lake to the city of Como.
Our room was spacious, comfortable and well equipped.
We dined that evening in the hotel’s La Veranda. This was the first restaurant I have been in for a while where men must wear coats and ties. I do not disapprove of that, but it should not lead to an awkward formality, as it seemed to here.
The enormous dining room was sparsely filled.
We ordered glasses of prosecco.
We also ordered a bottle of 2006 Marchesi Antinori “Pian delle Vigne” Brunello di Montalcino.
It was very good and a nice change after all the Barolo we had been enjoying for the last four days.
The bread basket arrived.
Linda started with
Animella dorata, capesante, cavolfiore e tratufo bianco d’Alba.
Linda wrote that she should have known better, but the promise of sweetbreads with white truffles was too tempting….and with scallops. The sweetbreads, unfortunately, were not crisp enough. If she tasted a truffle slice alone, there was a taste, but there was no aroma from the dish and little taste in combination with the sauce and sweetbread or scallops. The scallops were good.
My starter was
Cotto e crudo di wagyu, tuorlo alla carbonara e broccolo romanesco.
The tartare of wagyu beef was very good. It had been seared on the underside, which gave a nice internal contrast, an interesting idea I have never had before. There were little bacon bits on top of the egg yolk. The green mayonnaise and coarse red salt were nice additions.
Linda’s pasta course was
Tortelli di uova di quaglia, erbette, Formagella e tartufo Bianca d’Alba.
A square raviolo had been filled with a quail egg and dressed with Formagella, a soft, fresh cheese from cows in the nearby Alps. It was topped with wild chard leaves and white truffles which added more than they had in the sweetbread course.
My rice special was
Riso Acquerello “7 anni”
con vongole e infuso al prezzemolo.
A specially processed and aged local rice was used to make this quite runny, buttery risotto. (The aging is supposed to stabilize the starches and proteins so they are not lost in cooking.) It was topped with small clams and parsley foam, which had subtle flavors.
Linda’s meat course was
Lombatina e morbidella di agnello,
uva Nebbiolo e zucca caramellata.
Chunks of lamb loin, two of them topped with a lamb forcemeat, were served with a cube of caramelized pumpkin. The other garnishes did not match the menu description, but the lamb was top quality and cooked just right.
Anatra di Barbarie ai Semi di Lino, Raviolo Speziato, Funghi Shiitake, e Salsa Zenzero
Slices of Barbary duck meat were garnished with flax seed, shiitake mushrooms and a ginger sauce. On the left was a spicy ravioli. I guess that this was Italo-Asian fusion; I enjoyed it.
In the morning a buffet breakfast was offered in La Veranda. It was much busier than it had been the evening before.
I also took a photo of the second building of the Villa d’Este, the Queen’s Pavilion: this is what one sees from the long side of La Veranda in the daylight. From the end, the windows look out over the terrace to Lake Como and the opposite bank.
There were some enjoyable dishes in this meal, but the whole experience was unsatisfactory. The chef was trying to create luxury cuisine and Italian cuisine and did not succeed in either one. Both the kitchen and the dining room were trying too hard to impress, which becomes more irritating when we realize that they are not as good as they think they are. I guess that we should have anticipated this, but we were there for the experience. I think that most Italian or French hotels in this grande luxe category, with primarily international guests, do a much better job with their top restaurant.
However, the overall hotel experience: the welcome, the setting, the room and the amenities, was very nice.