TREMEZZO, ITALY: La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi is an exquisite restaurant in the exceptional Grand Hotel Tremezzo on the shores of Lake Como. It pays fitting tribute to its namesake, the founding father of modern Italian cuisine, Michelin starred legend extraordinaire Gualtiero Marchesi. A legend in culinary circles since the 1970s, this stunning restaurant serves the great dishes he created over the decades in a lasting tribute to the man who put Italian Haute Cuisine on the map on its own terms.
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo rises like a beacon on the western shore of Lake Como. It lies just outside the little town of Tremezzo. An extraordinary 5 star luxury hotel, it exudes a magnificence reminiscent of the grandest luxury hotels in Europe. Its signature yellow exterior is a reminder of the golden age of the Grand Tour of Europe. It has been described as an iconic art nouveau masterpiece.
Built in 1910 it stands as a monument to the glory years of the Belle Epoch era. It retains that exquisite feel of luxury and grandeur in every corner of the hotel. Approaching from Lake Como it looms over the waterfront like a stunning palace of a lost era.
Its signature floating swimming pool is an engineering marvel. An aquamarine picture of beauty bobbing in the shallows of Lake Como. Looking up from the furthest corner of the pool, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo is a vision of architectural wonder. Majestically rising 7 stories above the lake in all its glory.
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo: a history of grandeur
An elevator rises from the street to open on the massive Belle Epoch lobby. Adorned in shades of Burgundy red. Surrounded by marble interior pillars. It captures the imagination and transports the mind to the turn of the early 1900s. Modernized to exacting standards, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo is an exquisite getaway to a world all its own in the midst of the modern clamor that is Lake Como in 2020.
Grand salons and sitting rooms are the entranceway to the glass enclosed bar area to one side of the lobby. It has three swimming pools, hundreds of luxurious rooms including grand suites, and acres of secluded private parklands on the hill above the hotel.
Down a gorgeous corridor filled with memories across the decades, La Terrazzo Gualtiero Marchesi is an enclosed glass terrace that looms over Lake Como with exquisite views of Bellagio across the lake and the surrounding mountains. Suspended in the air like a beacon of hope. This stunning glass menagerie of cuisine is as special a location as the storied career of its namesake.
The legend of Gualtiero Marchesi
It is the fitting place to locate this epic tribute to the genius of Chef Gualtiero Marchiesi, who died in 2017. Gualtiero Marchesi was a legend in Italian cuisine since he received his first Michelin star in 1977. He was awarded a second star in 1978. Marchesi was the first Italian chef to receive 3 Michelin stars in 1985. He held three stars for 12 years until 1997. He held two Michelin stars from 1998 until 2008.
Between those years he had moved his signature restaurant from Milan to an area outside of Bergamo, and the Michelin stars, which are awarded to the Chef and not the restaurant, followed him.
In 2008, just as he was reportedly to be awarded 3 stars again, he memorably turned down the Michelin stars. Marchesi returned them, in the vernacular. He complained of meddling by the head of the Michelin guide. Denounced a system that was biased toward France. He memorably declared that he would be happy to receive comments but not ratings. This was blasphemy to the Michelin system.
Gualtiero Marchesi: Cementing his legacy at Grand Hotel Tremezzo
Several years ago he agreed to a collaboration with the Grand Hotel Tremezzo to create this magnificent restaurant that would pay tribute to the greatest cuisine and signature dishes he had developed across the decades. Like his namesake, La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi will not allow itself to be rated for Michelin stars. He demanded that the cuisine and service speak for itself.
His son in law, Enrico Dandolo, CEO of the Gualtiero Marchesi Group, oversees every detail of the restaurant. An entirely new expanded kitchen fitting of the best on Europe had to be built. It rivals those of Alain Ducasse in Monaco and Paris, or Bruno Oger’s Villa Archange in the hills above Cannes.
Chef Osvaldo Presazzi, one of numerous disciples of Marchesi who have created their own culinary visions in his wake, does the honors in the kitchen. The evening is a glorious excursion into the culinary wonders of the man who left his mark on Italian cooking as a distinct varietal of Haute Cuisine. Chef Presazzi succeeds magnificently with preserving the legacy of the master through the mastery of his own talents as Chef de Cuisine.
La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi: an electrifying environment
The evening begins with the awestruck wonder of walking into the crystal palace that is La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi. The lights of Bellagio and the surrounding towns twinkle in the distance through sheer walls of glass windows. Soft yellow light glows from original outdoor fixtures 100 years old recalling the Belle Epoch and the grandeur of the past. A full moon rises over the mountains in the distance, adding epic wonder to an already glorious environment.
Enrico Dandolo, Marchesi’s son in law, is on hand personally to greet each guest. To explain the menu and the history of each signature dish. An elegant man with the looks of an Italian movie star, he is the keeper of the flame that manages the legacy of his late father in law.
His reverence for the task is readily apparent. He has made sure that every element of the restaurant reflects the standards and expectations of Marchesi himself. A genial presence with a quick sense of humor, Dandolo is a living connection to the culinary excursion that lies ahead in tribute to Italy’s greatest chef.
La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi: Dinner begins
The room is abuzz with excitement as diners enter and fill up the tables. The air is electric with the energy of the setting, the beauty of the surroundings, and the grandeur of the meal to come.
The opening dish, Dripping di pesce, is a tribute to modern artist Jackson Pollock, and one of Marchesi’s most famous signature preparations. It literally resembles a Pollack painting. Squids and small carpet shell mussels are arranged in a pastiche of light mayonnaise, basil sauce, and squid ink.
The visual effect is a modern art hallucination. Beautiful to look at and admire. Delightful to taste. It is a tour de force of Marchesi’s legacy reflecting his tongue in cheek sense of humor and respect for cuisine as modern art. It is a brilliant opener to a fabulous meal.
La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi: Scallops, lobster, and tagliolini
Seared scallops in a Reisling sauce with pink pepper is simple, delicious and extraordinary. The scallops are seared with just the right edge of firmness on the outside, but juicy and succulent on the inside. The sauce complements the scallop without overpowering the delicate taste.
Lobster with macaroni is far more sophisticated than it sounds. The lobster is succulent, perfectly braised. The macaroni is more like a tube pasta or penne than the American idea of macaroni. The savory broth resonates against the delicate lobster flavor and the heartiness of the pasta. It is consumed voraciously in a flurry of minutes. A grand reminder of the simplicity behind the power of Gualtiero Marchesi.
Homemade tagliolini pasta with porcini mushrooms and lesser calamint is phenomenal. The porcini mushrooms are tantalizing and hearty, while the pasta is a delicate web of exceptional taste and flavor.
La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi: Wine and fillet
The evening is accompanied by an extraordinary Serpico Feudi di San Gregoria 2010 Aglianico wine form Campania. Aglianico is one of the original grape varietals from Greece, prominent in Southern Italy and Sicily. Overlooked in the rush to Brunello and Barabaroso wines that are more famous, this heritage wine from an outstanding vintage and winemaker is a welcome surprise.
It opens beautifully over the course of the meal to flower into a deeply textured red wine of impeccable character, rich flavor and full bodied taste. It is a perfect complement to the meal, and a particularly the meat course to come.
Veal fillet with foie gras and black truffle Gualtiero Marchesi style is another brilliant signature dish that recalls the glory days of the master and its namesake. A thick cut of perfectly cooked veal fillet rests under a stunning piece of foie gars topped with black truffle in a rich wine sauce.
It tantalizes with each phenomenal bite as the combination of tastes explode across the palette. It is a perfect accompaniment for the Aglianico wine, whose rich peppery undercurrents is like an extra ingredient in the dish. Served with a side of spinach and pine nuts, it is a high point of the meal.
La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi: Sea bass, and soufflé for desert
Sea bass in a tarragon sauce on a frisee salad of chopped endive is exceptional. The sea bass is grilled perfectly and spread out across the frisee below. Delicate and flaky, yet firm, it is a magnificent preparation of fish served almost everywhere, in Italy and France, but never quite like this.
A dessert of passion fruit souffle with dark chocolate sauce is the perfect finale to an amazing evening. The souffle is bountiful and beautifully cooked, with a firm outer crust and an explosively exquisite interior. The chocolate sauce is poured through penetrated crust in a pas de duex of flavors. The passion fruit in the souffle emerges prominently, but not too sweet. The chocolate counterpoint giving a fabulous example of dessert Gualtieri Marchesi style.
The evening draws to a close all too soon. The hours have whirled by in a cascade of gorgeous surroundings and extraordinary cuisine. The back story of Gualtieri Marchesi makes the meal all that much more special.
La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi: An epic night at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo
As Enrico Dandolo takes us through a tour of the kitchen we are enthralled by the collective effort it takes to run a restaurant of this caliber. It has been an evening in the presence of the shadow of a culinary giant. He is instrumental in seeing that it continues for decades to come.
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo looms like a glowing beacon in the sky in the distance as the ferry to Bellagio leaves Tremezzo. Basking in the glow of an exquisite evening, it is as much a tribute to this amazing hotel that it is the caretaker of the legacy of Gualtieri Marchesi. The man who turned down three Michelin stars.
As Marchesi himself once wrote: “Beauty and perfection do not make themselves manifest, and I love cuisine as a pure form of art. To cook is not my ambition. It is a way to express myself.”
At La Terrazza di Gualtiero Marchesi at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, the history and grandeur of all the culinary art that Marchesi created is preserved in a restaurant as timeless as it is masterfully contemporary.
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles. @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds. @BigAlPeoplesPal