RISTORANTE GUSTO, GRAND HOTEL DI COMO
The Grand Hotel di Como is a little way out of the centre of the city. This gave me the excuse I needed for a brief trip on one of the public boats which move gently around the lake throughout the day. The journey lasted, at most, ten minutes. The evening was warm, the water was calm and the glow of the sinking sun was kind. When we arrived at my stop, I was tempted to stay aboard. But I was soon glad that I had stirred myself to re-establish contact with terra firma. For the evening demanded a good dinner. And that is what I found at the Grand Hotel di Como: a good dinner.
The building I reached at the end of the drive off the main lakeside road was large, white and modern – its straight lines and sharp angles softened by the trees in its park and by carefully placed pieces of contemporary sculpture. The gentleman at the Reception desk was friendly, and directed me to the first floor. Here was my destination: the Ristorante Gusto.
The charming Patrizia, who was to look after me very well throughout the evening, greeted me and showed me to my table. This was in a space of the open-plan sort, with a modernist atmosphere. The tables were round and of grey marble. Upon them were silvered table mats. The banquettes were upholstered in yellow leather. The floor was of light wood. The lighting was subdued. It took me a few moments to acclimatize myself to this particular aesthetic, but soon I felt comfortable and entirely at home.
The food of Chef Roberto Cabras is described as “Italian, with a modern twist”. For me, the twist came at the end of the meal. I began with a classic – crayfish and citrus fruit. This was well-cooked and pleasingly presented, and the main danger of this combination – that the orange and grapefruit would over-power the crayfish – was avoided. For my pasta I went for the spiral sort – tortiglioni – with duck and juniper, sprinkled with bread and cheese. This was rich and satisfying, as all pasta dishes should be. My main course was an excellent fillet of sea bass, served with a crisp skin, with basil and sautéed vegetables. Then came the modern twist, and a very pleasing modern twist it was, too. The strawberries for my pudding arrived not only with a balsamic dressing and a sweet yoghurt mousse but also with tomatoes. This sounds an odd mixture, and I had certainly never met it before. But it worked remarkably well. (These four courses were 67€.)
The wine list is straightforward. There are 50 offerings, all Italian apart from the champagnes. Prices run from 18€ for a bottle of rosé to 190€ for the 2000 Dom Pérignon champagne. Into the Zwiesel glasses I had poured a decent bottle of chardonnay from the Veneto (Kellerei – Kaltern – 23€).
To take me back to my lodgings I summoned a taxi. But the memory of the boat ride to a good dinner still lingers in my mind.