No region of Europe offers dining opportunities quite like the Italian Dolomites. Whether it is in one of many michelin star rated restaurants, local farm to table restaurants, or in the alpine rifugios, where the food is prepared family style thousands of feet above sea level and miles away from civilization, the northern Italian chefs prepare unique, regional delicacies using only the freshest local ingredients.
If you like food and hiking, you can easily fit excellent dining in with the rugged beauty of the Italian Dolomites. Celebrate days on the trail with the freshest and most luxurious dinners offered in the European mountains.
Here are the five must-have meals in the Italian Dolomites:
The Hotel La Perla, located in the alpine village of Corvara, is home to Michelin star chef Nicola Laera. She is the daughter of Ladin parents and is a local culinary innovator, mixing traditional northern Italian cooking with new and exciting influences to be served in the gorgeous La Perla’s multiple restaurants. The La Perla is a firm favorite among both our guides and oldest clients, and the fantastic kitchen is responsible for much of the hotel’s praise. The menu features sections titled “The New Horizon’s of Nicol Laera” and “Nicol Laera’s Classics”, constantly mixing modern dining with tradition. Some of the most classic items on the menu are their risotto, served with apple and oysters, or their belly of lamb, sourced from neighboring valley, valle Karco, which we hike high above, served with pine nuts and locally foraged mushrooms.
Of course, not all meals are created equal, and the food prepared at the Chalet Del Sogno is simply some of the best in the world. The Chalet Del Sogno is a magnificent family run hotel located in the Brenta Dolomites. The Hotel’s cozy hand carved wooden interior is one of our favorite dining rooms in the entirety of Europe, with lovingly prepared meals, made almost exclusively from ingredients available in the alpine valleys around the ski village of Madonna di Campiglio. Often served family style, the dishes prepared by the kitchen are both traditional and elegant. In the Trentino region of Italy, with the Brenta Dolomite group towering above the vineyard terraces, cheese, dried meat, and wine are both staple and delicacy. The Chalet Del Sogno serves their charcuterie board with a massive section of ultra-local cheeses and dried meats such as prosciutto and speck. Eating the charcuterie, along with a bottle of local wine and the Chalet’s fantastic mint, berry, and Burrata fruit salad, you will feel less like a tourist and more like Trentino royalty sitting down for a completely artisan meal.
Gnocchi are the prime example of the success of the fusion of Germanic and Italian cooking traditions. Historically from the Northern Belluno region of Italy, Gnocchi are a midpoint between the pasta of Italy and the dumplings eaten in the Tyrol. Most popular in the Italian Dolomites is the Gnocchi Alla Cadorina which enriches the tiny dumplings with smoked ricotta cheese. Perhaps the most decadent item on the list, these plump dumplings melt in the mouth and leave us wondering whether we should ever leave the Dolomites at all.
Italy is famous for having a unique pasta for every region of the country. The Dolomites are collected in the northern regions of the South Tyrol, Belluno, and Trentino, where the food has a more Germanic influence. However, the neighboring region of Emilia-Romagna is the home of Tagliatelle, and it is a rare dinner in the Dolomites where homemade tagliatelle is far away from the table. Often made with egg in the Northern Italian style, this fresh and flat yellow pasta is best served “alla Tartufo,” (with Truffles). Truffles, which are traditionally gathered in the Northern Italian and Southern German forests, are not only fresh but bountiful in the dolomites. Served with butter and local cheeses, this dish is both a staple and delicacy of the region.
The Ladin culture in Italy is one of the most unique in the world. Historically, the Ladin area of the Dolomites has been fought over and claimed by Austria, Germany, and Italy, however the Ladin people have always imagined themselves as neither German nor Italian entirely, instead heralding their own isolated alpine roots. Similarly, their cooking has a distinct alpine flair that is unique from either the German or Italian traditions. Ladin cuisine draws directly from what their farming and ranching ancestors had available, creating a vibrant and traditional farm to table style restaurant culture. One of the most fantastic dishes from the unique Ladin cooking is the Blueberry Venison. Prepared in a heavy gravy made with mountain berries, this succulent venison dish is both primal and refined, often served with the thick crusted fresh whole grain bread endemic the region, and a hearty glass of red wine. This is the perfect dinner after a day of hiking among limestone walls into the village of Corvara.