Varenna, Lake Como: Albergo del Sole

by gigi on December 4, 2008

For the first leg of our trip, Jenkins and I stayed in the small town of Varenna at Lake Como.  Lake Como is one of the many lakes in the northern part of Italy just south of the Italian-Swiss border.  If you have been to Las Vegas, you’ve probably heard of the Bellagio Hotel, which is actually named after one of the towns on Lake Como of the same name.  Bellagio also gets more press than Varenna, partly because of its most famous resident, George Clooney.  :)

Jenkins and I decided to have pizza for our first meal in Varenna.  We are big fans of the pizza made in Italy because we like the light crispy crust and how the ingredients are all assembled more sparingly on the pizza than what we are used to in Vancouver.  We heard that the Albergo del Sole was one of the best pizza places in town and conveniently located right on the town square so we decided to give it a try.

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First off, we ordered a bottle of mineral water with gas.  We normally just drink tap water when we travel through Europe, but we read specifically that the water in Lake Como was not suitable for drinking.

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Jenkins and I decided to start by sharing a small plate of trofie pasta with pesto.  Pesto sauce actually originated from the nearby region of Cinque Terre (which I’ll blog about later) so we figured sticking with the trofie would be our best bet pasta-wise.  We also learned that trofie is specially made to be eaten with pesto because it picks up the sauce in its ridges better than other pasta shapes.

The pesto had a very earthy and slightly woodsy taste to it.  It was different from some of the creamier based pesto sauces I have had but I really enjoyed the strong basil taste.  The trofie was also made perfectly al dente and I liked how it picked up all the pesto sauce and didn’t leave a puddle of pesto at the bottom of my dish.  :)

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Albergo del Sole had a very extensive pizza menu.  It took us a while to figure out what we wanted but I settled on Sole pizza, which I guess was their house special.  It had Parma ham with fresh mozzarella cheese and an egg in the middle.  I suppose it may be odd, but I really like pizzas with egg.  :)  The pizza crust was light and crusty, just what I had hoped for.  It was also slightly chewy and made for a nice texture contrast with the almost creamy texture of the ham.  The egg was barely cooked and I spread the runny yolk over the pizza, which offset the saltiness of the ham.

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Jenkins opted for regular cooked ham and cheese on his pizza.  His crust was a bit less crusty than mine and we suspect it was because our server thought he would eat his pizza and trofie separately and our two pizzas were probably made at the same time.  Although Jenkins enjoyed his pizza, he told me later that my combination of toppings was tastier than his.  :)

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By now, we were quite full from the pizza and the trofie.  However, we had to order dessert since it was our first evening in Italy!  Jenkins chose the chocolate profiteroles, which were cream puffs smothered with a creamy chocolate sauce.  As you can see below, it wasn’t much to look at but was actually very tasty!  The chocolate sauce was light and airy – we could actually taste the bubbles on our tongues as we took each bite.

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I knew before even arriving in Italy what dessert I was going to have when I got to Lake Como.  My friend Janice had just gone to Italy shortly before me and came back raving about the affogato.  Affogato is simply two of what Italy does best combined together: vanilla gelato drenched with espresso.  As soon as I took my first scoop, I could understand why Janice was so crazy about it.  To this day, it is one of my favourite desserts and it’s super easy to make at home too.  The espresso cut through the creamy coldness of the gelato and went great together.

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Albergo del Sole is actually situated on the ground floor of a small hotel and had a steady stream of customers throughout the evening.  As with most small family-run establishments, they only had a couple of servers on hand throughout the evening so service can be a bit slow at times.  This wasn’t a problem for us though because most meals in Italy take their time through the evening and you can definitely see people relishing their meals.  Even though I think the servers spoke some English, my broken Italian was clear enough for them to understand what I was trying to order.  :)

Details:
Piazza San Giorgio 17, Varenna 23829, Italy

Summary:
Food: [rating:4]
Service: [rating: 3]

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