A chat with Mario Cornali is a crash course in lake cuisine as much as a lunch in his ‘ristorante‘ in Almenno San Bartolomeo (Bergamo).
Collina’s owner is a passionate advocate of lake flavours, historically limited by the poor terrain, and yet authentic and originally enhanced by the chef’s creativity, free of tradition’s constraints and prejudice in combinations.
So it all begins with a complimentary pike perch,
to go on with lake starters, from the right to the left
among whom the delicious “missoltino”, a local fish, with polenta chips.
The way this cream looks may remind Venetian cuisine fanatics the legendary “baccalà mantecato”, L’aspetto di questa crema può ricordare ai fanatici della cucina veneziana il leggendario baccalà mantecato, creamed stockfish, but this is different indeed: a smoother taste, less salty and much less thick.
This sophisticated recipe has deep roots in the old local cuisine, but tradition would have missoltino grilled and eaten with polenta, after having being cured and dipped in vinegar.
I am in love with traditional cuisine, however I am glad I tasted the reinterpreted version.
The frightening name ‘Squartone’, ‘big ripped’, is an excellent filleted dried chub.
Let’s take a short break with the view from the window in the main hall,
and taste the rich bread basket.
Tasting the chanterelle soup with lake trout and shrimp, I realize how the mushrooms’ cooking water the local products.
In fact, given the geographical proximity, why should we limit the lake with its flavors to water only, excluding the surrounding environment? Mario is right here.
And even though summer has not been so hot, we can appreciate whitefish ravioli
with a sauce of fresh tomatoes, to continue with the a fried fish plate, evocative of all the flavors of Lake Como, which started becoming familiar now.
Sometimes we order a dessert to draw conclusions on an excellent meal, sometimes for simple automation.
I still had to decide which of the two situations I was in, when I heard about the King’s Garden.
Like all gardens turned into masterpieces, this garden had flowers, herbs and trees.
Or at least one representative of each. The whole selection resting on a bed of two different crumbled cookies and embellished with thyme leaves.
From the right, I started actually with a rose jelly, sided by petals crystallized in sugar.
In the center a magnificent herbs pudding, I am not kidding, it tasted like herbs, memories of a walk in the midst of a garden of medicinal herbs, topped with a few drops of basil-flavoured oil, made from a secret and complicated procedure in the kitchen.
All to preserve the freshness and aroma for several months.
I even enjoyed the outlandish pine ice-cream stranissino pine, like the rest of the dessert, mind-blowing.
Congratulations to Mario and his staff.
via Ca’ Paler 5
24030 Almenno San Bartolomeo (BG)
+39 035 642570
This post is also available in: Italian