Favorite Places: Da Vittorio in Bergamo, Italy
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Time for another installment of our weekend series ”Favorite Places,” featuring beloved travel destinations, attractions, restaurants, hotels and more from different members of the TPG team. TPG Contributor Leigh Rowan recently traveled to Italy for the Milan Expo, then took a delightful detour to Da Vittorio, a three-Michelin-star restaurant located on a farmstead outside of Bergamo, about 45 minutes from central Milan. (All photos by the writer.)
At €250 (about $278) each for lunch, dining at Da Vittorio is by no means cheap, but you do get a lot for your money — I’m talking 17 courses' worth, spread out over roughly three hours. If you use a credit card that earns extra points for dining, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, this splurge can help you rack up some rewards, as well.
If you’re looking for something a bit less extravagant, the €70-100 business lunch might be more up your alley. It’s not often that you get to experience beautiful, high-end cuisine in an unpretentious and welcoming environment, though, so my meal was definitely something to write home about.
Da Vittorio is a family-run affair, with second generation master chef Enrico "Chicco" Cerea running the kitchen, while other family members operate the ten-room Relais & Chateaux hotel property. The grounds and restaurant are immaculate yet approachable; we arrived from Bergamo (15-20 minutes by taxi, €25) to be greeted by a butler in a top hat and tuxedo.
Even though the servers were wearing three-piece suits, my wife and I felt comfortable (and not at all out of place) in our more casual attire. Da Vittorio was full when we stopped by for lunch, with all eight outdoor tables occupied. We ate in the restaurant's lovely outdoor area, though inside seating is also available, and can accommodate considerably more.
During our meal, Chicco made several visits to our table to chat with me and my wife, ensuring that our meal was amazing (it was). We wrapped the meal with a half-hour-long, grappa-infused chat about northern Italy, Michelin stars, San Francisco travel and more.
Now on to the most important part: the food. Anyone who appreciates a beautifully presented meal, incredible ingredients and playful composition of both individual courses and the whole menu will find plenty to love in the plethora of dishes.
We started with a "marshmallow" of parmesan with pear, gin cream and lime meringue. (See what I mean about the presentation?)
The sea bass carpaccio with truffle was also wonderfully presented, not to mention quite tasty:
Fashioned into some sort of gourmet log, the "barbecue" leek, oysters and champagne sauce (topped with caviar) was definitely one of the highlights for me:
And I couldn't omit this cloud of caviar:
If you've ever wanted to try scorpionfish, Da Vittorio has just the thing for you — my wife and I received two different pieces of the same fish, cooked and presented differently but equally beautifully:
Overall, the meal was a "Top 10" for me. Beyond the highlighted courses above, every other course we ate was exquisite, thoughtful, beautifully presented and incredibly tasty.
The Bottom Line
If you make it to Italy for the Milan Expo (which I highly recommend for its travel geek-friendly features; more on the Expo and my experience there coming soon) — and even if you don't — I definitely recommend making the trip to Da Vittorio. The exquisite food, the welcoming staff and the quintessentially Italian atmosphere make it a real treat. And, hey, with a card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred that charges no transaction fees and gets you 2x points for dining (and travel) purchases, you can even maximize the benefits of this extra-fancy meal and hasten your return to Europe!