I had a work trip in the very north of Italy in the province of Belluno. We were far north, close to Austria, up in the Dolomites mountain range. It was absolutely incredible to be surrounded by so much lush greenery (and fresh air). I can only imagine how beautiful it would be in the winter, covered in snow.
If you want to visit this area, you definitely need a car. I’d recommend taking the train to Venice, renting a car and then driving 1.5 to 2 hours to the area. Unlike the rest of Italy, the restaurants close very early, around 9pm or before. We had a difficult time finding a place that was still open and were frantically calling different places. We got very lucky when one restaurant, Trattoria Ski Bar, agreed to stay open even though we didn’t arrive until 9:45pm.
I had to write about Trattoria Ski Bar because it was literally one of best meals of my life. The owner was super friendly and greeted us warmly. Rather than have us order from the menu, he suggested to let him take care of the meal and pick and choose his favorites. We started our meal with a plating of different types of pasta. The first one was an eggplant gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce and cheese. Rather than using potatoes, there was only eggplant in this pasta. This gave the gnocchi as wonderfully light, but flavorful consistency. It was my first time having eggplant gnocchi and now I want to learn how to make it! The second pasta dish was a beetroot-filled gnocchi with a brown butter sauce, topped with poppy seeds and cheese. This was my favorite pasta dish. I loved the contrast of the sweet beet with the savory cheese and sauce.
Next, we had a plate of carbonara-style linguini with lardons and cream sauce. For our main meal, the owner suggested deer with pan-seared polenta and mushrooms. However, he also mentioned that he had tagliata, which is grilled steak. Whenever I’m outside of China, I can’t pass up the opportunity to have red meat. Steak is so expensive in Shanghai and it’s all imported from Australia/Canada (I miss my American steak). While the rest of the table had deer, the owner happily substituted my main for steak. My meat was cooked perfectly. It was tender and so good with the mushrooms and polenta. The other highlight of the meal was the pan-fried cheese. I wish I knew which local cheese it was, because it was deliciously gooey and rich. While the apple strudel is a specialty of the region, you can pass on it at Trattoria Ski Bar. It was the only sub-par item of the whole night. I was honestly too full to care and could barely eat it anyway.
If you have the opportunity to visit this area, I could not recommend Trattoria Ski Bar any more. Let the owner take care of you and you will not be disappointed. Also, I’d recommend staying in the Hotel Belvedere, which has amazing views, comfortable rooms and a great breakfast buffet.