LAKE COMO, ITALY: Vista Palazzo Lago di Como is an elegantly fabulous luxury hotel on the shores of Lake Como. This magnificent property, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is the only 5 star hotel in the town of Como itself. Open just since 2018, it features the magnificent rooftop Ristorante Sottovoce, featuring the outstanding Chef Stefano Mattara.
Vista Palazzo Lago di Como: The Hotel
With just 18 rooms and suites spread across 3 floors, there are only 6 rooms per floor. The building dates back 300 years, and was formerly a series of private apartments. A lengthy renovation by owners Lario Hotels has turned Vista Palazzo Lago di Como into a destination resort that exudes class and glamour. Lario owns a number of hotel in the Lake Como area. This is the crown jewel of the collection.
The hotel towers over one corner of the central square of Como. Occupying a space closest to the lake, it has an imperial air of classic design and modern aristocracy. Pink stone exteriors are accented by granite corniches. An intimate lobby on the ground floor is accented by a 5 story staircase spiraling with a crescent design to the top of the building.
Vista Palazzo Lago di Como: The room
Our second floor suite is palatial, gorgeously appointed, with stunning views overlooking Lake Como and the surrounding hillsides. Hardwood floors with chevron patterns and inlays are spectacular. 12 foot trey ceilings with exquisite crown molding are accented by the recessed inlaid apexes lit with gorgeously reflected light.
Modernist art deco furnishings, couches and chaise lounges adorn the living room. Light floods in through the large windows, the harbor in Como and the shimmering waters of the lake undulating in the background. Gorgeous light fixtures complete the art deco look.
The bedchamber is equally resplendent. A sumptuous king size bed set under an interwoven modern art piece stretching to the ceiling. A marble rolling wall conceals a beautiful walk in closet. Outside the large window the boast are bobbing in the harbor as light steams in. It is a stunning chamber of stunning fine design elegance.
The bathroom is a masterpiece of white and marble. A large modernist bath tub set in front of the window is the centerpiece of the room. Beautiful art deco green grey marble sinks are a gorgeous design touch. A rain shower with a hand held body spray set behind smoked glass doors is a glorious experience all to itself.
Ristorante Sottovoce at Vista Palazzo Lago di Como
Dinner at Ristorante Sottovoce is a grand experience of brilliant Haute Cuisine, under the direction of Chef Stefano Mattara. Chef Mattara creates innovative cuisine taking elements of classic Italian cooking and gicing them new aspects of viewing them both visually and as cuisine. It may not have a Michelin star yet, but it is certain to in the next year.
Set on the entire 5th floor of the hotel, it was once a penthouse apartment. Now it is a glorious art deco chamber fine dining and impeccable interior design. The elevator opens onto the reception area, a collection of settees and lounges in front of a crescent shaped bar.
The room cascades like a vision down the length of the hotel, accented by a series of balcony terraces overlooking the lake. A row of elegant tables set against one wall is the principle dining area. It seats perhaps 20 people, a green design covering the upholstered bench stretching the length of the tables.
A private dining area called The Library occupies the far end of the former penthouse. It has a soft elegance all its own, and a private terrace for before dinner drinks or after dinner coffee.
The roof is an apex of a long white beam extending the length of the restaurant. Recessed lighting on either side of the central beam is a lovely ethereal touch, giving added depth to the feel of the room. One can only imagine living here in a penthouse. As a restaurant, it is spectacular, cozy, gorgeously romantic, with the feel of being in a golden age of interior design.
Dinner begins at Ristorante Sottovoce
As stunning as the restaurant is, the cuisine is even more spectacular. Chef Mattara repeatedly delights and surprises with delicious selections, creative innovations, and extraordinary Haute Cuisine.
Portions are delicate and on the petite side. Graciously emphasizing the central ingredient but not leaving you overstuffed at the end of the meal. It is the confident expression of a Chef in command of his element. Enthralling with a dish with enough to satiate, but not overwhelm. While leaving the diner expectant of what’s to come.
The staff is brilliantly efficient, friendly, multilingual, and bursting with warmth and hospitality. Restaurant Manager Dario Munaretto has movie star good looks, and an air of suave elegance. He guides the evening with a commanding presence. He and Chef Mattara have created a dining experience that exhilarates, in a space and atmosphere of singular eloquent grandness.
Sardines in soar at Sottovoce
Le Mie Sarde in Soar is a sensational opening dish, and the perfect example of Chef Matttara’s innovative approach to cuisine. Sardines in soar, or combined with onions, is a standard dish throughout Italy. Chef Mattara’s version is anything but ordinary, or standard.
Here he has crisply and lightly battered sardines set over the onions inside a braised onion shell. The top of the onion sits on top the sardines. Inside the onion shell are the cooked onions and sauce. The visual effect is glorious. The taste even more so. Each bite of sardine is accompanied by a fork full of the cooked onion. A pas de deux of flavor and taste. At the end all that is left is the shell of a braised onion.
Ristorante Sottovoce: The pasta courses
Quadrati pasta stuffed with Chianina and Cardoncelli is amazing. Surrounded by Roquefort cream, juicy ripe figs and speck powder, it’s a taste combination for the ages. Each bite is a journey into the heart of Chef Mattara’s imagination. It explodes across the palette with delicate intensity. Leaving the plate wiped clean in an act of sheer exhuberance.
Gragnano Linguine with bead sauce, thyme mussels, chile caviar and lemon breads is a tour de force of pasta and seafood. Gragnano pasta is renowned throughout Italy for its superior method of creation. Here it is the centerpiece of a mélange of tastes and flavors.
Accented by meaty tender mussels in a complex broth of spicy, salty, lemon zest. It is a perfect example of powerful cuisine meeting restraint in execution and presentation. It leaves the diner satiated, delighted, and wanting more. But then the main courses arrive.
Sottovoce: Fillet of deer, Red mullet, and wine
Fillet of deer with red wine scorpion fish, grape and chestnut chutney is simply incredible. Two towers of tender venison fillet are set against whole chestnuts in a red wine sauce that accents but never overpowers. The venison is outstanding, gorgeously accented by the chestnuts.
The meal is accompanied by a fabulous Chianti Classico Grand Riserva Badio a Passignano 2016. Delicate and made in a lighter Pinot Noir fashion, it opens up beautifully as the meal progresses. By the time the deer fillet is served it is a sumptuous counterpart to the main dishes. Accenting the venison perfectly, and becoming part of the cuisine with each engaging sip.
Mullet with red onion, mango and ginger sauce with a potato confit is the climax of an already epic meal. Red mullet is, again, a standard dish throughout Italy. In Chef Mattara’s hands it becomes an innovative revelation of taste and presentation. The mullet is presented rolled into a circular shape, wrapped around the core ingredients. The tastes is a pratically religious experience. Delicate and flaky, with a hint of ginger, it exemplifies the pinnacle of all that Chef Mattara is seeking to create.
Sottovoce: A panna cotta to die for
Dessert is a continuation of innovative food design and elegant cuisine. Red Velvet Autunnale is a mellange of pomegranate and chestnut mousse, caramelized celery, and dark chocolate. A rich ruby red in presentation, it is light and delicate to the taste. Not too sweet. A fabulous creation.
Fresh ingredients and farm to table cuisine is tonight exemplified by the chestnuts, pomegranate, and figs used throughout the menu. Clearly these are in season, and used at the height of their powers and flavor. It is a recurring theme throughout the dinner.
Panna cotta with chestnuts, white chocolate, date gele and pomegranate seed is the single greatest panna cotta this writer has ever tasted. The subtle chestnut flavor in the pannacotta is spectacularly amazing. Molded in a ring around the pomegranate seed, each delicate bite is an explosion of taste. It is the perfect climax to an amazing meal. I could easily have eaten two of them.
Vista Palazzo and Ristorante Sottovoce: In the heart of Lake Como
Sottovoce is the epitome of fine dining and classic yet innovative cuisine in Lake Como. Only open for little more than a year, it is destined for culinary greatness. Chef Mattara will almost certainly win a Michelin Star this spring when the new ratings are issued. He has certainly earned it.
Two gorgeous days pass at Vista Palazzo Lago di Como like a fever dream. Hours are spent just looking out the window at the shimmering lake below. Time spent simply enjoying the suite is as memorable as time spent wandering the lovely streets of Como, or strolling along the lakeside.
An elegant palace of sumptuous delights. A definitive member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Vista Palazzo vaults to the forefront of 5 star luxury hotels in Lake Como, and deservably so. Between Lake Como at its doorstep and Ristorante Sottovoce on its roof, it is a destination hotel worth savoring, indulging, and creating the kind of memories that will last a lifetime.
Small Luxury Hotels of the World www.slh.com @SLHLuxuryHotels
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds @BigAlPeoplesPal