A 30 minute drive west of Milano, near the town of Arluno, lies a tiny, gastronomic oasis of green and tranquility just waiting from those adventurous enough to leve the city, get off the autostrada and find it.
I discovered Osteria del Laghetto on www.tripadvisor.com last year and stopped there on a drive from Milano to southern France, and this place is definitely worth going out of your way for. The restaurant feels more like a sprawling ranch house, situated in the midst of a park-like setting with lots of willow trees, grass, shrubs and even a children’s playground. If the weather is good and it’s possible, try to reserve a table outside on the porch or under the gazebo to enjoy the view.
I’d heard that the restaurant was noted for its risotto, and the special risotto on my first visit was fresh asparagus. But, like so many places in Italy, the menu indicated that this could only be ordered for a minimum of 2 people, which is a constant source of frustration and sadness to someone like me who is dining alone. I mentioned it to the waiter, and he said he’d check with the owner and the chef, and to my delight, they agreed to serve me a single portion. I am forever grateful, because I would not have wanted to miss that for all the gelato in Italy! Stunning. I also had an appetizer called “The Perfect Egg”, which was a poached egg arranged on a bed of fresh pea puree and cheese. Fanastico! For dessert I had an Italian version of “apple pie”, and that didn’t disappoint me either.
Because this restaurant is within a 30 minute drive of Milan’s Malpensa Airport, I decided to stay in the vicinity for my last night in Italy this summer and reserved an outdoor table for my “last supper” in my beloved Italy. My waiter was Stefano, a kind and good humored guy who guided me through my menu choices. As much as I wanted to repeat my risotto experience of last year, the special risotto of the day was made with nettles. When you look them up online, you find they are actually called “stinging nettles” and can irritate the skin when touched. Evidently the stinging property is neutralized when cooked, and nettles are often used in the same way spinach is. Still, I was hesitant, so I decided on pasta instead. However, Stefano graciously slipped me a small plate with just a taste of the risotto, and I have to say, it stung my tastebuds in a very positive way. Wow!
I started with an appetizer of mozzarella di buffalo with anchovies and sun dried tomatoes, followed by a simple, but amazingly flavorful house made spaghetti with fresh tomato and an onion sauce. It was every bit as good as the risotto. For dessert, Stefano directed me to the gelato that is also made in-house, and I chose a cinnamon gelato with lemon zest and crumbled amaretto biscuits. He said it was his favorite, but that he could not eat it often because “It’s not good for the abs.” Laughingly, I thought, “Well thank God I don’t have any abs I have to worry about!” And given the choice between that gelato and abs, I think I would opt for the gelato!
Finally Stefano offered me an after-dinner digestive and simply said, “Trust me”, as he presented me with a beautifully green liqueur called Storica Verde, poured over ice and made from sage, of all things. After his earlier suggestions, of course I trusted him and while I am not a huge drinker, I would seek out a bottle of that stuff to have at home.
People ask me why I always rent a car instead of taking trains around Italy, and the answer is simple: without the freedom a car provides, I would never have discovered a place as wonderful as Osteria del Laghetto. If you want to experience a taste of the real Italy, hop in your rented Fiat and head directly for Arluno and tell Stefano I sent you!