Casunziei? Kaiserschmarrn? Canederli? Puccia?
This doesn’t sound like Italy but it is.
This is the Dolomites and its vibrant village heart, Cortina d’Ampezzo. Here you can get to know this spectacular stretch of Northern Italy with its strong Austro-Germanic influences. In fact, this part of Italy belonged to Austria for more than 400 years. We suggest venturing out with one of our guides – Egon or Karin for instance – and you may find yourselves tramping across the old border. This was the site of skirmishes in WWI – invisible under a thick blanket of snow in winter, the site of an interesting small museum in summer.
Tyrolean and Austrian influences are not all that directs the nature of Cortina’s cuisine–family plays a role as well. Chef Gaspari of Agriturismo El Brite de Larieto, one of our personal favorite restaurants in the area, begins developing each of his menus with a conversation with his father to determine what their farm can produce and when. The secret to Italian cuisine is in its focus on local and seasonal ingredients.
Plentiful fine dining opportunities elevate what it means to vacation in the Dolomites. The young and dynamic chef at SanBrite, has managed to create a relaxed friendly atmosphere while sending out Michelin-star-worthy plates, each is an exquisite work of art. The restaurant is located in a handsomely restored barn. The cheeses and salumi are crafted just below the dining room, so your meal is guaranteed fresh. Adjacent is their small shop so you can leave with some of their prized cheeses and cured meats.
Northern European influences still run deep in Cortina, particularly in the distinctive regional cuisine with its unfamiliar words. Before sitting down to enjoy your first meal in Cortina, here are some dishes worth seeking out. We even encourage sampling multiple times to get a feel for each chef’s special twist on long-standing favorites.
Casunziei: (pronounced cah-ZOON-z’yay) A fresh, much lighter-than-it-sounds, half-moon shaped pasta filled with beets delivers a delicious earthy sweet taste. This dish demonstrates the strong influence Austro-Hungarian cuisine has on the region. It is served topped with poppy seeds.
Canederli: Derived from the German and Austrian ‘knödel’ or dumpling, these are large tender dumplings made with variations of bread, ham, cheese and spinach, served in a broth. Canederli are considered part of ‘cucina povera’ or cuisine of the poor as they are made with simple and inexpensive ingredients. A hearty and filling dish, it is best suited for lunch during a day of outdoor fun.
Kaiserschmarren: (pronounced Kah-y-zer-shmahn) A dessert dish that is either a pancake-like omelet or very eggy pancake, depending on your point of view. The “emperor’s mess” is essentially a thick crepe that usually includes raisins, sometimes apples, and is cooked in a skillet and then torn into bite-sized pieces before serving. It is served up with jam-like fruit and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
Puccia: This is the daily bread that in the local dialect translates to ‘came badly’ as it did not rise as much as a regular loaf. It is prepared with rye flour and fennel seeds. The large, round, flat loaf starts out soft but then hardens, so it keeps well in the open wood racks that are a traditional fixture in local homes. As in Tuscany, bread is often cooked into traditional dishes.
The Dolomites are not only known for their spectacularly unique cuisine. The area is also on the short list of exceptionally beautiful landscapes, even in a country with as many celebrated places as Italy. An acknowledged destination for ski holidays, the Dolomites welcome all abilities. Whether you prefer cross-country or downhill, are an amateur or expert, Cortina offers an abundance of options for ski enthusiasts. Superb skiing conditions from December to April make Cortina an excellent destination for adventure seekers. Well-maintained pistes compensate for Mother Nature’s whimsy… so a long day on-mountain is nearly always an option. And then there’s the cultural norm of enjoying a coffee before getting back on a swift lift, or chilling out for hours on a sun-soaked terrace at one of the many ‘rifugios’ serving up excellent food with breathtaking panoramas.
Whether a history enthusiastic, food lover or sports seeker, Cortina has something for all ages and interests. Andiamo!