July 2 – 4, 2015
We stayed in one of the balcony rooms at the Casa Rossa, a few doors down from the main hotel.
The room was basic but comfortable with great views overlooking the hazy Lake Como. The first week in July it was hot without much of a breeze. An overhead fan provided some relief. The Wifi connection in the building is very slow.
Breakfast is served at the main hotel and includes a modest selection of oven warm breads, pastry, cereal, bircher muesli, cheese, ham and whole fruit. Coffee is self-serve from large thermoses and not very good. The views from the terrace, however, are some of the best in town.
We lunched twice at Varenna Caffe, a bustling lake front bistro. Both the food and drink menus are long with lots of quick bite entrees. Everything we tried was well prepared. The salads are a bit on the small side for a main, but paired with a brochette they make a nice lunch.
We tasted the mackerel, chickpea and red onion salad, and the fennel salad with apple gruyere and poppy seeds. On a different afternoon we ordered the gorgonzola, pancetta and anchovy sandwich – a rich and heavenly combination – and the pasta fagioli – a hearty bean soup.
Nulis is another lunch option with great lakeside seating. We tried one of their pizzas and were disappointed with the super tough crust. Other items coming out of the kitchen such and their salads and cheese and charcuterie platters looked great and plentiful.
Al Prato, a new restaurant in Varenna, has already climbed to number 2 on TripAdvisor. The restaurant is situated on a quiet piazza of the same name just behind the water front bars. No lake views, but a lovely and tranquil setting on a warm summer evening nonetheless. Service is friendly and the small menu is prepared with attention to detail.
To start we split the tagliatelle with lake fish, fava beans, tomatoes and turmeric.
For mains we tried the grilled lake fish and the lamb chops. Both beautifully done.
Ristorante La Vista, the restaurant at the Hotel Albergo Milano, is also highly rated on TripAdvisor and boasts outstanding lakeside views. Unfortunately a heavy thunderstorm forced all dining indoors for the evening.
The menu is more contemporary than at other restaurants in town. The baccala (salt cod) appetizer served with barley was our favorite of the evening. For the primo piato we split the hare ragu pasta which was nicely done, but we’ve tasted more sumptuous versions at other restaurants. For the secondi piatti we tried the golden mouth bass served over black rice and the guinea fowl wrapped in bacon and oven roasted. Both were nicely done, except the fowl was drier that it should have been be for bacon infused dark meat.
Varenna Mon Amour is located on a quiet side street just up from the harbor and has a sharp contemporary interior on multiple levels giving each small dining area a sense of intimacy. There were just five tables on our level. The walls are a blend of old brick and dark wood mixed with contemporary accents such as animal print chairs and dark stone floors.
While the restaurant gets good reviews on TripAdvisor, especially for the service, we found the service OK but a little too absent with long stretches where no one was in sight. The food was also a mixed bag. The beef carpaccio with arugula and parmesan was not the most attractive version I’ve ever seen, although it was made with quality ingredients.
The baby octopus on toast with olives and tomatoes was tasty except for the burnt toast. The sea food pasta was light on seafood, however,
the orata (a type of bream fish) served Mediterranean style was excellent and perfectly cooked. They will debone it for you, but we asked to eat it whole.