Italy #01: Crotto del Sergeant

It was with much relief that we pulled into Como Lago Nord station on a warm sunny afternoon. We had been crammed in a plane from early morning, and then jostled and jammed against our luggage on the Malpensa Express, leaving us restless (and hungry). As we had plenty of time until our dinner reservation, it seemed economical and a welcome distraction to stretch our aching limbs. We struck out along the length of Como, stopping here and there to admire the scenery and architecture or slipping into odd little bakeries and shops.

All seemed well with our holiday. Armed with GoogleMaps, we gaily followed the serene blue line tracing the route we should follow on foot through the town and leading up the hills. It promised us a bus-stop lined foot path, winding its way upwards, beside the hill road. A narrow winding road which repeatedly surprised and disappointed us at every turn, with no foot path and no bus stops. However, in google’s defence, it did have an abundance of buses… and motorcycles; and cars; and lorries; all swerving around us as we made our way up. We scuttled meter by meter, shuffled sideways or often pressed ourselves against the rock face, in the slowest and most nerve wracking 30 minutes of activity we’ve ever had to suffer pre-dinner. I’m very thankful for all those drivers who so carefully overtook us. Eventually, shaken but unscathed, we gratefully set foot back on paved civilisation.

With some backtracking, we wearily reached the end of a shaded path that gently sloped down Lake Como’s lovely hillside; finally discovering that there is nothing more therapeutic than languidly savouring one of Italy’s ‘slow cooking tour’ restaurants; the reclusive Crotto del Sergente. 

Accompanied with a friendly 'buon appetito!' our starters arrived. The first was Home made Ravioli with Edible Coal filled with Goat Cheese (top). The edible coal turned out to be squid ink tortellini. A delicious variation on the use of squid ink pasta which in the uk only seems to be served as spaghetti or linguine. The Trilogy of the Lake (Bottom) incorporate lots of local fish specialties to sample including Fried Bleak; Cold Angel Hair with Missoltino Fish; Courgette Cream; Trout with Fennel and Chicklings Salad.

Next up was the Board of Local Lard with Chestnut Honey and Boiled Chestnut. The mundane menu description does not do justice to this, our evening’s favourite dish. We rolled the softly sweet chestnuts in the delicate sheets of cured lard. Then added a dollop of honey, before popping the whole thing in our mouths to slowly melt and drown our tastebuds in an exquisite experience that was like the sweet love-child of foie gras and parma ham. We latter learned that this yummy lard is commonly used instead of butter with bread in this region of Italy.

We finished with the Fillet of Pike-Perch Breaded with Pistachios Served with Chicory Salad and Pink Grapefruit (top right) and the Venison Roast beef with Potatoes and Finferli (aka chanterelle) Mushrooms, Red Cabbage Salad and Foie Gras encased under the cap of juicy rare meat (bottom right).

After a fine first meal in Italy, we were content and ready for some hard earned Z's. We booked a taxi this time so the journey between restaurant and hotel was rather quick and boring. But for some reason, we didn't mind.

Website: http://www.crottodelsergente.it/