While touring the spectacular Isole Borromee, one works up an appetite. Luckily, one of the islands (namely, Isola Pescatori) presents an oasis of eateries for passerby to indulge in during a day of sightseeing. Sadly, many of these are horrendously mediocre, which restaurant owners can get away with since the island is quite literally the only option tourists have off of the mainland.
That being said, Alessandro and I settled on Osteria Ara 36, as it seemed a cut above some of the other choices without being overpriced. While not a horrible option, I wouldn’t acclaim this restaurant as being one of the better that I’ve eaten at in Italy.
Any proper meal begins and continues with a glass of wine. Being lakeside, we knew we’d be eating seafood, which meant the only logical option was white wine. This variety was simply the vino bianco della casa (house white wine).
While I’m not sure of the exact varietal, my best guess is that this was a glass of Arneis. (Reminder – we are in the region of Piemonte; Italian cuisine is hyper-regional and this is the house wine. Hence, it’s rational to assume the house wine is a Piemontese grape.)
I found this white to be a delicate balance of sweet and dry; minimally acidic with notes of almond, vanilla, and subtle citrus. You could say it’s a drier Sauvignon Blanc. Overall, a decent glass that paired appropriately with our meal.
By far the best course of the meal, our primo piatto was tagliatelle al ragù di trota. In layman’s terms, that would be thin noodles with trout ragù. I loved how the buttery noodles and the fatty fish worked together to create a melt-in-your mouth bite, every time. Also present were subtle notes of sage that were used sparingly throughout the dish.
Worth noting is how quintessentially NORTHERN Italian this pasta was. It was laden with butter and earthy sage, a stark contrast from the lemony, fishier, parsley-covered pasta dishes of the Italian South. One would have to have some pre-existing knowledge of Italian gastronomy to pick up on this nuance.
All that being said, this Piemontese plate was still lovely. I’ve never eaten Italian seafood prepared in such a way, and was quite delighted. It combined robust and rustic flavors with delicate trout and noodles to form a hearty summertime dish.
Less delightful was our main course, which was pan-fried luccio with vegetables. The pike fish is native to the lake, so I was curious to try it for this reason. I’ve also sampled luccio elsewhere and was crazy about it. This dish, not so much.
The fish was bland as could be with an uninteresting outer coating. Absolutely nothing made it stand out. It’s the kind of last-minute dinner I’d whip up for myself on a weeknight (snooze fest). The peppers and spinach were acceptable, but again, nothing to write home about. Womp, womp, womp.
Dolce (not pictured)
Our dessert (included with the pre-fixe menu) was apple strudel. I know what you’re thinking – we’re in Italy, not Germany. I was a little surprised myself, as I know Italian cuisine is regionally-based, and while strudel can be found in the Italy’s German-speaking region of Trentino-Alto Adige, it’s rare to see it outside of this of context. Nevertheless, Piedmont is a Northern region and “close enough” to Trentino-Alto Adige, so there is some logic.
The strudel itself was nothing more than average. Tasty, fresh, and not too sweet, but just too boring for my standards.
- Pleasant option in an area with limited choices
- Fair prices, with a pre-fixe lunch menu
- Not terrible, but not exceptional