Como is an attractive city. Apart from its location at the southern end of the eponymous lake, it is full of charming and interesting buildings. Those obsessed with the Rationalist strand of architectural modernism will want to seek out the Casa del Fascio (1932-36) by Giuseppe Terragni – a startling cube of white. Others will be fascinated, as I was, by the magnificent cathedral – a near perfect example of the way in which the craftsmen of the Renaissance went about their work of imposing their ‘new’ style upon mediaeval Gothic churches. Historically, this has been a town of considerable wealth, and that aspect of its life continues, for the grand hotels and villas in the area are full of those for whom the pennies are plentiful. This means, of course, that Como is a good place for shops. But, whether you go to Como for its beauty or for its shopping, you will need to eat. Allow me, therefore, to recommend a good restaurant.
The Bar della Terme is to be found within the Hotel Terminus, a 19th Century building on the road which is next to the shore of the lake. It is a small dining room – with seating for only twenty – but the terrace means that in summer its size is magnified considerably. The weather was clement for my visit, so I was able to sit in a comfortable wicker armchair, at a table with beige napery and a single candle guttering in the warm evening air, and look out at the boats making their sedate passage across the calm water.
I had just been to look at the cathedral, and – remembering the stern instructions I had received long ago as an undergraduate when I was reading the History of Art – I had walked around the whole exterior to try to understand the changes wrought upon the building throughout the centuries. I therefore needed a dinner which was not only good, but also substantial. And that is what I found at the Bar della Terme.
The food here is Italian and straightforward. It is served by waiters in white open-necked shirts. I stuck to the classics – prosciutto, tagliatelle, beef and an iced pudding – and ate well. The parma ham and melon set the pattern: good quality ingredients, carefully prepared and served in generous portions. The pasta with mushrooms was even better – the soft tagliatelle full of the dense, exciting flavour of the porcini. The fillet of beef came with roasted potatoes, steamed vegetables and really delicious sautéed onions. (Is not the combination of beef and onion one which was made in Heaven?) The concluding amoretto parfait was as tasty as it was self-indulgent, and it was very self-indulgent. (Allow around 60€ for four courses.)
The wine list is short – just 30 offerings. Prices run from 16€ for the house wine to 240€ for Dom Pérignon champagne. Those seeking super-Tuscans will find 2006 Tignanello for 105€ and Sassicaia for 150€. I drank the 2010 vintage of Sassicaia’s third wine – Le Difese, Tenuta San Guido Bolghieri (33€) – and found it young, fruity and tannic.
If you are going to the attractive city of Como, you should seek out the Bar della Terme for a good, substantial dinner.