Among the northern Italian Lakes, it is not quite as easy to stumble upon excellent casual trattorias as in many other regions of Italy. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of talented chefs making use of lake fish, heirloom Fassona beef and seasonal produce, as evidenced by the area’s many Michelin stars. Stuffed pastas such as tortellini and ravioli make regular appearances. And the mesmerizing water or vineyard views afforded by many restaurants never fail to add to the pleasure of the experience. (The following restaurants are organized west to east, grouped according to lake.)
Rather than dine in the Michelin-starred Locanda di Orta — we’d had an extravagant dinner at nearby Villa Crespi the day before — we opted to lunch on the roof terrace above it at AM Bistrot. Make a reservation for when the restaurant opens, in order to secure one of the two tables at the edge of the terrace, which have views of Lake Orta and Isola San Giulio beyond the slate roofs of the town. I started with a plate of meat-stuffed ravioli del plin, well matched with a glass of citrusy Falanghina by Marisa Cuomo, a favorite winery on the Amalfi Coast. Slow-cooked veal cheek followed, resembling high-end pot roast, served atop a light and creamy potato purée drizzled with veal jus. This unfussy but delicious food was just what I wanted.