Thanks to Isabella Rega, I had an opportunity last week not only to learn much more about the exciting research ongoing at the Università degli Svizzera italiana in the field of ICT4D (NewMinE Lab and webatelier.net), but also to enjoy something of the culinary and vinous traditions of Ticino.
Hence, some additions to my periodic listing of interesting restaurants:
- Canvetto luganese – this really good small restaurant is owned and managed by the Fundazione Diamante, which provides support and work for people with disabilities, integrating them into a diversity of different enterprises. Since 2003 it has been recognised by the Osterie d’Italia di Slow-Food, and offers a range of delicious regional foods. Its handmade pastas and ravioli are particularly good, as was the steak tartare!
- Grottos – the hillsides around Lugano are replete with small restaurants, originally built around caves (hence the name ‘grottos’), but now offering some excellent freshly grilled meats and local foods in open air surroundings. I particularly enjoyed dinner at the Grotto Circolo Sociale Montagnola, which had really excellent grilled grilled costine, as well as lunch at the Grotto Ticinese, where we shared risotto, grilled meats and salads, sitting under the trees on an otherwise very hot and humid day!
- In Lugano itself, La Rosa dei Venti is situated on the lake shore by a small yacht club – a heavy rainstorm forced us inside, but the seafood risotto was good!
As for wine, Ticino often suffers from rain and dampness in October which has a tendency to cause rot – but sadly not of the noble kind – the Botrytis cineria here in Ticino is far from benevolent! Hence, grape growers have been keen to plant early ripening varieties, most notably Merlot. In recent years, these red grapes have also been used to make the white wine Bianco di Merlot, which can have complexity and subtle flavours – when well-vinified they have a fresh acidity that goes really well with the local food.
- Tenuta Bally & von Teufenstein, with vineyards and winery at Vezia, a short distance from Lugano, produces a good range of interesting wines. As well as a rich and fruity Bianco di Merlot, their red wines (Cresperino 100% Merlot; Riserva Ernesto 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon) are generally much fuller and with better tannin structure than many of the rather light Merlots that can be found in Ticino. Their Tre Api Merlot Riserva from the excellent 2007 vintage is made from old vines, and has fine soft tannins with a real richness of flavours – combining redcurrants, blackberries and violets. They also make a rosati wine (Sarabanda) and a sparkling Spumante di Merlot, as well as a white (La Piana) that combines Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon, and an 100% Chardonnay (La Sfinge)