Which are the gastronomic delights of the Garda area? There are different possibilities to choose every day, between the numerous typical local products. A richness of food due to the position of the lake, which extends over the Lombard, Venetian and Trentino shores: as a border area, the Garda area boasts a varied culinary tradition that takes its cue from all cuisines and combines different recipes, among the best in Northern Italy.
The tastiest Garda, for food and wine tourism
The joys on the table on the lake are many, ranging from the dishes of a cuisine characterized by the goodness of the lake’s catch, by the products of the Lombardy-Veneto hinterland and by the delicacies of the Trentino mountains. A variety that makes Lake Garda cuisine one of the richest even if, wrongly, not among the best known in Italy.
This is why it is a pleasure to discover it, for the palate and to expand the gastronomic knowledge of our land. For those who love food and wine tours, Garda reserves refined dishes, delicate in flavors but certainly highly nutritious, which never disappoints especially in the re-edition of centuries-old recipes. A true Garda food and wine tour, in reality, must include all the areas that overlook the lake, to comprehensively embrace the flavors and panoramas of this territory.
The four significant areas of Garda are:
- the Brescian coast – the dishes of this area are tasty with risotto and soups, stuffed pigeons and medieval specialties such as sweet persicata.
- the Valtènesi area – adjacent to the Mantuan hills, this area mainly offers traditional home-made pasta such as tortelli in pumpkin.
- Trentino coast – the typical dishes of Lake Garda further north reserve carne salada, polente, lake fish to be tasted, perhaps, before a typical apple strudel.
- the Veronese coast – an area that reaches up to Monte Baldo, where fish dishes mix with mountain cuisine including polenta, bigoli and broths.
Typical fish dishes
The traditional first and second courses of Lake Garda, now offered by restaurateurs from all shores, include excellent fish cuisine that has lived off the catch of the day for centuries; protagonist of historical dishes that bring to the table fish such as grilled whitefish, grilled sardéne or grilled carpione.
Other fish-based recipes include those with lake trout (reappeared after the risk of extinction), tench, perch, bleak and pike. Cod in Veneto and Trentino is a must, often paired with polenta, in more traditional recipes such as baccalà alla Veronese with onions and tomato.
Pike in sauce, a typical dish of Mantua and Verona, is prepared with the boiled pulp of fish, seasoned with a sauce made from bleaks in brine (aole salè) in Garda oil – all served with toasted polenta. This sauce is also used for the typical recipe of bigoli (it’s a kind of pasta) with aole. These fresh egg pasta spaghetti create one of the best known typical dishes of Lake Garda, bigoli with sardines – sardines are used as a condiment to “jump” 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.
Among the first courses, the risotto with tench stands out, present in different versions including the classic with grated parmesan and chard, or with rice dipped in sautéed carrot, celery, garlic, onion, rosemary, parsley, herbs and a sprinkling of pepper – everything will be creamed with Monte Baldo butter!
Among the second courses of the lake, the fillet of perch is cooked by browning it floured in butter and sage, or alla mugnaia. For those who love the “mix” of flavors from the garden, in modern gastronomy there is the now famous lake fish soup, an exquisite specialty of Benaco!
Typical dishes of Lake Garda
The substantial difference between one area and another is given by the land cuisine, which changes a lot according to the crops and livestock of the Benacense regions. In the past, meat was eaten little among fishermen, except that of pig farms and small farmyard animals, which gave rise to some typical recipes (often reserved for holidays and great occasions).
In the Verona area, however, the most common meat-based dishes are those of beef such as the dish of the holidays, boiled with pearà, or boiled cotechino, head, tongue and beef pulp, accompanied by a sauce of grated bread, marrow of ox, 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 hinterland.
The Trentino area reserves the exquisite mortadèle, large sausages cooked with sauerkraut or in the famous polenta and mortadèla. In Trentino, strangolapreti are famous, gnocchi with boiled spinach, grated parmesan, eggs and stale bread, or canederli in meat broth, balls made with stale bread, speck, bacon, eggs, flour, chives and milk.
On the other hand, the Brescia side offered spit-roasted meat recipes from game or, in less fortunate cases, from pork, chicken and rabbit. The spit still alternates between meat, slices of lard and sage leaves – cooked on charcoal for at least five hours. To season it all, Garda extra virgin olive oil with its inimitable flavor. It is obtained from olives harvested by hand and then pressed, without the addition of chemicals, and gives life to a low acidity oil much appreciated for its delicate flavor.
In the lower Mantua lake, filled pasta reigns like pumpkin tortelli also flavored with amaretti, nutmeg, parmesan, egg and melted butter. Another goodness are the capunsèi, gnocchi of breadcrumbs sautéed in butter, served with boiling broth.
A specialty of “poor” dishes? La Carbonèra, food of the charcoal burners in the Veneto Garda area, created with a simple recipe of oil, polenta and cheese from the mountain huts on Monte Baldo: a polenta called “consa”, ready to be stored and then toasted as needed …
The wines of the Garda cuisine
DOC wines such as the classic Bardolino for white meats and soups, fish soups and fried fish from the lake. For the more substantial typical dishes of Lake Garda, both fish and meat, you can choose Bardolino chiaretto or Bianco di Custoza Veronese. In the area of Peschiera del Garda and Desenzano, Lugana is preferred, a perfect white for fish dishes from Benaco.
The aperitif can be made with both Lugana and Nosiola della Val del Sarca, which also goes well with desserts. A famous “sanguine” is the red Garda Bresciano, perfect for second courses of meat and grilled dishes, while the white Garda Bresciano with floral tones blends with risotto and vegetables. You just have to order and … enjoy your meal!