Osteria degli Amici

Lago Maggiore is one of the most relaxing places to be in all of Italy.  Posh hotels, small villages, and resplendent palaces in the middle of the lake makes it an ideal getaway spot.  The villages around the area are quite small, but in the middle of the village proper lies a great little restaurant that provides excellent lunch fare at a good price – Osteria degli Amici.

This will also conclude today’s huge rush of updates…more to come from Sorrento, soonish.

The osteria specializes in risottos, but for our excursion we stuck with classic pasta dishes and meat-based second courses.  We chose to sit outside, and we were greeted courteously and promptly.  The outside is given shade cover by kiwi trees and some foliage; this creates quite a nice atmosphere you don’t see in many restaurants, with most going straight to the umbrellas and plastic chairs.  Air-conditioned interior seating is also available if the afternoon sun beats through the foliage canopy, but this is often unnecessary at the lake.

We skipped the appetizers (although one did get a mixed salad) and went straight to the main courses, with the majority being pasta dishes.  The signature dish of the restaurant is a mushroom tagliatelle, which uses butter, olive oil, and mushrooms with the pasta.  No tomato sauce here to ruin the mushroom taste; with some parmesan cheese and some parsley garnish, this pasta is extremely simple to make, and very, very good.  The light ‘sauce’ is enhanced by the homemade pasta that is served al dente style.

Another pasta is a seafood linguini, which is topped with a light and very thin tomato sauce.  Clams, mussels, and fresh prawns are steamed in a garlic broth and added to the fresh linguine.  The presentation is amazing, but I will hold my thoughts on taste since I actually did not have any of this dish.  I was assured that it was amazingly good, however.

One of my favorite pasta dishes is cannelonni, and Osteria’s is one of my favorites.  The sauce is rich and creamy, and the cannelonni is amazing.  The pasta is cooked al dente, so there is strength in it, and yet it remains quite tender.  The meat filling inside is also well made, using just a small amount of salt to accent the meat.  With so much sauce available, there is no shortage of flavor in every bite.  It is not overly rich, but full of flavor.

The osteria also has an incredible variety of pizza.  For this trip, we chose a pizza with rocket salad (read: arugula) and parmesan cheese.  This reminds me more of the pizzas back in the US, with a good, thick crust cooked to a nice crispy finish.  The tomato sauce serves as a ‘glue’ to the salad and cheese, which dominates the pizza with strong flavors.  There is no bitter aftertaste from the arugula, so I was quite pleased with this dish.

What really pleases me the most out of all of the dishes, however, is the vitello, or grilled veal chops.  Seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and served with a side of ‘chips’, this is the simplest dish of the pack.  However, the cooking of the veal was done to absolute perfection.  The veal was thick, juicy, and thankfully not tough to detract from the incredible flavor.

The dessert offerings are varied, including Italian classics and some of the restaurants own creations, such as a fresh apple tart with chocolate powder coating.  This was the only dish we tried, and to be honest, I wasn’t very thrilled with it.  Although it had slices of apple clearly visible, there wasn’t a very strong apple taste to the entire thing.  The chocolate and glaze overpowered it, and the tart wasn’t very flakey at all.

Osteria degli Amici offers very good main courses, from the pasta to the meat dishes.  Their signature pasta course is very flavorful, but the chef really shows his mettle in cooking the veal.  When you dine here, stick with the early and main courses.  Fill up before dessert though, as you’ll want to end on a strong note.

Pros:
**Excellent meat dishes
**Fresh seafood
**Great pasta dishes

Cons:
**Desserts are not very good
**Hidden deep in a small town

Important Information:
Via Bolognaro 31
Stresa, Italy
Tel 0323-30-453
Closed Wednesdays, and January / November
http://www.osteriadegliamici.com/

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