youn little Lombardy, a bit of Veneto and a bit of Trentino. The lake garda It represents a union of territories and traditions that few other destinations in Italy and Europe can boast. As a border area, the Val Gardena can, in fact, propose a culinary variety that is inspired by all these cuisines and combines different recipes. Some who have made history. There are many joys at the lake table, from the dishes of a kitchen characterized by the kindness of fish from the lake, products from the interior of Lombardy-Veneto and the peculiarities of the mountains of Trentino. A variety that makes the cuisine of Lake Garda one of the richest, although, erroneously, not among the best known in Italy.
The lake fish is the absolute protagonist. Garda Trentino, Photo: Watchsome Fishing
Four Significant Areas
There are four major areas of the Lake Garda area. One is the Brescia Riviera, which offers savory dishes, risottos and soups, stuffed pigeons, and medieval specialties like sweet persicata.
Then there’s the Valtènesi area, adjacent to the Mantuan Hills: this area mainly offers traditional homemade pasta as i pumpkin tortelli.
The Garda Trentino area, on the other hand, offers typical dishes such as salted meat, polente, lake fish to enjoy, perhaps, before a typical apple strudel.
And then, last but not least, the Veronese Riviera, which reaches Monte Baldowhere fish dishes are mixed with mountain cuisine that includes polenta, bigoli and broths.
White fish, sardines, carpione
Obviously, being a lake cuisine, freshwater fish are preferred herewith the catch of the day, the main protagonist of almost all the menus in the area.
Among the most famous dishes are the grilled white fish, grilled sardines and grilled carpione. Other recipes based on fish are lake trout (reappeared after the risk of extinction), tench, perch, sapwood and pike. Cod in Veneto and Trentino is unavoidable, often combined with polenta, in more traditional recipes such as bacala alla veronese with onion and tomato.
The pike in sauce, typical dish of Mantua and VeronaIt is prepared with boiled fish pulp, seasoned with a sauce based on quail in brine (aole salè) in Garda oil – all served with toasted polenta. This sauce is also used for the typical bigoli recipe with aole. These fresh egg pasta spaghetti create one of Lake Garda’s best-known typical dishes, bigoli with sardines – the sardines are used as a condiment to “sauté” the pasta in a pan, and must be browned with oil, garlic, chilli and parsley. To eat them properly you can go to the Palio de la Sardela, held every June in Lazise (Vr).
Risotto with tench, a timeless myth
Among the most emblematic dishes of the Garda area, the risotto with tench stands out, a timeless myth. In this case, the people of the lake are divided into two: the one that follows the classic recipe with grated Parmesan and diet, and the one that prefers the less light version with rice bathed in sautés made with garlic, celery, carrot, onion, rosemary, parsley and herbs. Both recipes are still very fashionable throughout the area: in practice it is almost impossible not to find one of the two on the menu of the many restaurants on the lake, from traditional trattorias to gourmet places.
And whether it is the most classic recipe or the less light recipe, the ending is always the same: at the end of the recipe, the risotto must be beaten with Monte Baldo butter. Uncomplainingly.
Not only fish, but also land recipes
But in Lake Garda there is not only fish cuisine, but also from the land. In fact, there are many meat-based dishes that are offered in the kitchens of the area. In the Veronese area, for example, the most popular dishes are those of veal as boiled meat with peraà, or a cooked chorizo, beef head, tongue and pulp, accompanied by a sauce of breadcrumbs, beef marrow, pepper and broth. Also famous is the risotto with Amarone, or the risotto with Tastasal with pork and pepper, classics of traditional Venetian cuisine from Gardense and the interior.
Salted meat, Agritur Calvola. Photo: APT Garda Dolomiti
The Brescia side offered recipes for roast meat on the spit from game or, in less fortunate cases, from pork, chicken and rabbit. On the spit, meat, slices of lard, and sage leaves still alternate today, cooked over charcoal for at least five hours. To spice it all up, Garda extra virgin olive oil with its inimitable flavour. It is obtained from olives harvested by hand and then pressed, without the addition of chemical products, and gives life to a low-acid oil highly appreciated for its delicate flavor.
In Trentino sausages, polenta and sauerkraut
In Trentino, riva del Benaco reserves the exquisite mortadèle, large sausages cooked with sauerkraut or in the famous polenta and mortadèla. Estrangolapreti are also famous, meatballs with boiled spinach, grated Parmesan cheese, eggs and stale bread, or meatballs in meat broth, balls made with stale bread, speck, bacon, eggs, flour, chives and milk.
The inevitable polenta, Photo Malga Nabi, Garda Trentino
In the lower lake of Mantua, on the other hand, stuffed pasta such as pumpkin tortelli reign supreme. also flavored with amaretti, nutmeg, parmesan, egg and melted butter. Another delicacy is the capunsèi, breadcrumb gnocchi sautéed in butter, served with boiling broth.
A specialty of “poor” dishes? La Carbonèra, food of the charcoal burners in the Veneto Garda areacreated with a simple recipe of oil, polenta and cheese from the Monte Baldo mountain huts: a polenta called “consa”, ready to be stored and then toasted when necessary.