Best Places To Stay And Eat In Como, Italy

VIsta Palazzo Lago di Como is just yards from Lake Como and within the city's prime piazza.

VIsta Palazzo Lago di Como

COVID or not, the beauty of Italy’s Lake Como region endures, and, after Italy beat back the pandemic with swift action, all its hotels and restaurants are again open. For the time being Americans cannot take advantage of the discounted prices of the bounce-back without being quarantined, but when it lifts, Como is one of the loveliest cities in the north .

Over the last five years the small city of Como in Lombardy has become one of my favorites in Italy. Its size makes it far more appealing than tourist-overrun cities like Venice, Florence and Siena, and, while it has a great history and splendid architecture, it has none of the crumbling, decrepit look that passes for antiquarian charm elsewhere.  I shall be writing sometime soon about the attractions of the city itself, but for the moment let me tell you about its best hotels and restaurants, two of which are one and the same.

Vista Palazzo Lago di Como (Piazza Cavour 24; 031 329111)

A combination of classic and modern Italian decor is seen throughout VIsta Palazzo Lago di Como's … [+] public and private rooms.

VIsta Palazzo Lago di Como

is not yet re-opened, because like all hotels in the region, it is starved for American tourists. Set right on the curve of the lake and right on the city’s main piazza. It is a true villa that has kept the best of its history in its façade and interior while adding all the modern amenities and décor you expect from a luxury hotel. There are beautiful balustrades, glass walls, parquet floors and marble bathrooms, and the bedrooms are large and positioned to receive plenty of Lombardian light. There are four floors and only eighteen rooms, so you feel you are at a marchese’s home rather than a cookie cutter hotel. From the top floor terrace you have a grand panorama while the Infinity Bar at twilight has a breathtaking view of the lake, the mountains, and, if you’re lucky a ripening moon. 

At VIsta Palazzo Lago di Como's bar facing the lake you can enjoy antipasti with cocktails.

Galina Dargery

My wife and I began our meal here (pre-COVID) with cocktails and 

Small appetizers of fried eggplant balls with a mozzarella dip; croquettes of perch with aïoli sauce and kumquat; spicy, chile-rich n’duja raviolo with mushrooms and black olive powder. 

The strikingly modern, very comfortable small restaurant named Sottovoce is adjacent to the bar, and Chef Stefano Mattara’s menu is a mix of tradition and la nuova cucina. So, we began with a “fake egg” craftily made from carrot jelly with pecorino and Gorgonzola fondue. A fillet of hare was scented with mountain pine and sweet pumpkin puree and chestnuts, and fresh sardines in a tangy-sweet saor of onions cooked on ash.

VIsta Palazzo Lago di Como's Soto Voce restaurant serves Lombardian cuisine with innovative flair, … [+] like they "Gin and Tonic" dessert of gin-lime jelly and chocolate cream.

Galina Dargery

Risotto was laced with a lush smoked burrata cream, red 

prawns, pistachio crumble and bergamot aroma. Odd but interesting was a wild rabbit ragu' mixed with shell-shaped pasta, a chocolate reduction, sweet and sour pomegranate, finished with Parmigiano foam.  Octopus is made velvety by being cooked at a low temperature with mushrooms, hazelnuts, bread, parsley “caviar” and aïoli, while a dish called “Cubismo” was beef braised in red wine in a squared-off bread crust, with creamy white polenta and dark chocolate sauce.

The first of the desserts was dark chocolate praline with figs, ginger and pistachio crumble, then a “Gin and Tonic” made from gin-and-lime jelly, white chocolate cream, that fizzy rock candy and tonic water. The last dish was beautiful “Red Velvet” of chestnut mousse, pomegranate sponge, caramelized cherry, pomegranate coulis and dark chocolate.

I know this sounds like a Lucullan gorge, but portions were of modest size and my wife and I each received different dishes with each course. There is an à la carte menu but the €130 (wines €70), €100 (wines €50) or €90 (wines €50)tasting menu is the best way to appreciate Sottovoce’s range.

All these were matched with Lombardian wines by bar manager Alessandro Rabolini.

Beautifully composed Italian food is featured at the soon-to-be re-opened Gusto restaurant at the … [+] Sheraton Lake Como.

Sheraton Lake Como

Sheraton Lake Como (Via Per Cernobbio 41A;031-5161), which is owned by the DeSantis family that owns Hotel Grand Tremezzo on the lake, is much more modern, with 137 rooms, three restaurants, two bars, swimming pool and spa, and conference rooms. I did not stay here, but the rooms look to be about what you’d expect of an upscale Sheraton hotel in Europe. Upon entering you are greeted at the top of an impressive white marble staircase. The Kitchen Restaurant overlooks the garden; Kincho offers all-day dining and pizza, while Gusto is where Executive Chef Carlo Molon works his culinary magic.  Gusto has not yet re-opened (later in the fall is the goal), but it will maintain the hotel’s dedication to fine dining with menus full of dishes like the one we enjoyed last fall, including the snack called sciatt made of fried cheese with fennel; spaghetti alla carbonara; veal shin morsels in a rich reduction; veal alla Milanese cooked in clarified butter, and a dessert made exclusively from vegetables named orto dolce (sweet garden). 

One caveat: the hotel is not in Como but outside of it by several miles, and taxis are difficult and expensive to hire round-trip. 

Osteria Gallo is a small, always busy spot with a short menu of perfected Lombardian dishes.

Galina Dargery

In Como one of the best trattorias is Osteria Gallo (Via Vitani 16; 031-272-591) has been in the di Toma family for 37 years, so they’ve had plenty of time to perfect the traditional food they cook to an always-packed house. Their motto is “Good taste and originality.” Located near the Cathedral of Santa Maria, Osteria Gallo (gallo means rooster, and the motif of fowl is carried through the decor), with three rooms, is very cozy—you have to move the chairs to let people by—and the food comes out apace. The owner will relate the day’s menu of four or five dishes to you (his English is almost non-existent, but order anything he suggests and you’ll be happy). 

Osteria Gallo's crespelle are stuffed with meat and lavished with a béchamel sauce.

Galina Dargery

We began with a very hearty plate of housemade penne quill pasta with braised meats and sausage. Luscious crespelle (crêpes) stuffed with a forcemeat came lavished with a béchamel sauce that had a subtle smoked cheese flavor. Succulent braised pork had sweet prunes and chestnuts in the sauce and potatoes to soak it up with. The vegetables are, typically, overcooked. The wine list is exemplary. A three-course meal per person without wine but with tax and service will costs about €35.

Napule is a Neapolitan-style pizzeria with two stores in Como.

Galina Dargery

Lombardy may not be known for Neapolitan-style pizza, but Como is lucky to have two NapulePizzerias (Via Luigi Dottesio 22; 031-307-932; Piazza Domenico Croggi 10; 031-307-824) to make a completely authentic array. It’s run by “Papa” Umberto and his three children, Ciro, Antonio and Katiuscia, In two bright, baby blue rooms, with white tablecloths, this fast-paced but wholly amiable spot is the pizzeria the concierges around town always recommend (especially if he comes from Naples), and aside for a delicious pizza, Napule also serves a first-rate mix of fried seafood. The pizzas run €7 to €12.