This month our #Dolcevitablogger topic is an Italian Hidden Gem. However the trouble with sharing a hidden gem is that it's no longer a secret!
There are some places you want to keep for yourself. But then you can't believe somewhere so wonderful exists and really want to share!
So I'm going to be sharing a restaurant and hotel. Except it's not just any hotel, to us anyway. As this hotel is where we ended up having our wedding reception.
How we found it
When I first met my Husband we would take off for weekends in Milan to visit his family and friends, but when we had a bit more time we would drive up to Lake Como as it's so close by.
One summer we decided we would have a holiday there and really explore. We were struggling to find accommodation on the main lake road (although we now realise this would have been too noisy to sleep!).
I did a bit of googling and found this restaurant with great reviews but set back above the lake in a village. We booked and didn't think any more about it.
The Western side of Lake Como is the most popular as it's very sunny and there is the George Clooney effect! But if you keep driving further along the main lake road, towards the north you'll find a village called Argegno.
Argegno is a very popular little village, it's very sweet has some lovely hotels and restaurants but just before you arrive in Argegno you will see a sign on your left with a road going up a steep hill. The signpost will say "Schignano".
Keep going up this winding, zigzagging road until you reach a little yellowing church on your right hand side with a sign "Sant Anna". Here you have reached the fraction of Sant Anna and if you turn right after this church you will see two small hotels. The first one La Griglia has an... interesting owner. Just remember I'm British and when we say interesting we mean something else!
And the second one is... Locanda Sant Anna. And this is where you want to stay!
This was a little stop off point for priests on pilgrimages and meditative journeys. In 1937 a priest sold the Locanda to the Peroni family.
The grandchildren and great grandchildren of Elena and Ernesto Peroni still run the business and it is a true family affair.
We know the owners very well by now as they've seen us as a couple, married, with one baby, commiserating a miscarriage, with a second baby and many other life changes. They've experienced a very mad mixed wedding of English and Italian family and friends, partying into the night and drinking their cellar dry. They were a bit shocked they had to restock the entire cellar the next day but it made them realise how lucrative British weddings could be!
They found us our Priest when the local one wouldn't marry us as we were too odd. Foreign, not both catholic, not both confirmed, not of that parish...
We go back every time we visit. I love that because it's a restaurant our wedding memories didn't end with that day. It wasn't a venue we couldn't return to. We can go back whenever we want and have now had our children's post-baptism meals there.
They also know the best pastierie ever and always make us to die for cakes when we need them! Everyone always talks about "That cake" from our wedding. It's funny because the cake was never something that bothered me very much in all the wedding arrangements but it has become one of the most talked about moments!
Why is it a gem?
Firstly location. You are set back from the lake but above it so you have a wonderful view without the noise and bustle of the main lake road. They have a great contained garden so the children can run around and stay always close by. You feel like you've found a secret place up the mountain that no one knows about and is quite special.
The team are really experts at hospitality. They know their restaurant so well and how it works, where everyone is with their meals, when they might end. Your food is never late, cold, and always tastes incredible.
The food is seasonal, delicious and local.
Even the tiramisu changes due to the seasons. The one with chesnuts is my absolute favourite.
What to eat
Sciatt = little balls of cheese dusted with buckwheat flour and fried until cripsy
Pizzoccheri = Thick pasta ribbons cooked with melted cheese, sage butter, cabbage and soft white potatoes
Lo sformatino caldo di patate e funghi porcini = A little cake made from sliced potatoes and filled with porcini mushrooms and delicious cream, wrapped in prosciutto.
I rigatoni di pasta fresca alla carbonara di asparagi = Rigatoni pasta tubes with a carbonara sauce, asparagus and hazelnuts.
La tagliata di “scottona” Piedmontese = A steak from Piedmonte, roast potatoes, duck liver and herbs.
There are also platters of local salumi and cheeses with pears and honey.
They also have a wine cellar where you can have a more rustic meal or a wine tasting. My British friends all ate here the night before our wedding and we've had my Husband's 40th here.
They have an extensive wine selection and really see themselves as a restaurant with rooms rather than a hotel. So the focus is on your food and drink.