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H2O, a Garda “tavern” challenging tradition

Osteria H2O
Claudio Andrizzi
Written by Claudio Andrizzi

It ‘a new restaurant that is born from an already established experience: that of the Osteria Suer and Garbino in Moniga del Garda, Valtènesi, which for five years has been a particularly innovative reference point for the dining scene of Garda Lake. For several months, the “three bald ones”, ad they used to be called, chef Saulo Della Valle, his brother Francesco (pastry chef) and Manuel Lombardi moved on the road that links Desenzano to Salò, always in the territory of Moniga, where, in the premises of the historic restaurant Olivo, they opened in the first weeks of 2015 the Osteria H2O, a sign that is certainly destined to enter the agendas of every gourmet visiting Lake Garda.

Managed for over 65 years by the family Orioli, Olivo has been for years a place of great success, specializing in simple cuisine made mostly of the tradizional spiedo and grilled meat. The owners, however, have decided to sell it while maintaining control of a lovely six roooms bed and breakfast located in the same building. From here began the contacts with Della Valle and Lombardi, who had long been looking for a new space more suitable to their growth ambitions.

The new H2O Osteria has been rethought and designed completely by Saulo and Manuel, who opted for a furniture at the same time modern and bright, with a predominance of white, perfectly matched to the large window overlooking a splendid view of Lake Garda. The cuisine follows a line of continuity with that of Suer and Garbino despite having possibly made more precise and extremist choices due not only to larger spaces but also to a renewed availability of the staff and in the equipment.

“I now have access to a kitchen of 90 meters while before I used to work in a space of about 25 meters  – explains Saulo-. Here I can finally realize what I had in my head for years but often could not put into practice. ”

The main innovations involve the use of liquid azote in the kitchen, where the young chef of Lake Garda, grew up at the court of Uliassi Senigallia as well as in the kitchens of Porto always Moniga, is a fan. “I have studied it for almost four years, the costs are high, but I think that this choice can help distinguish H20 from other rooms of the area – says Della Valle -. Here, for example, I prepare desserts with azote at the table, even if the person in charge of pastries, breads and breadsticks is always my brother Francesco. ”

Saul insists on defining its own kitchen as a remake of the old home kitchen traditions of Garda, revisited for the contemporary world. It’s the case of the now famous Whitefish with olive oil, or the Risotto with field herbs of Valtènesi and three milks robiola, or the “Ricordo D’Infanzia” (Childhood Memory), a dessert made with grated apple fried in nitrogen and then puree, served with foaming og fava tonca and caramelized sugar. “It’s one of the most delicious desserts we’ve ever made, perhaps because it reminds me of the apples my mother used to give me grated when I was a child”.

However, there is also a lot of seafood, especially raw, “because you’ve got to have a variety in you menu.” The choice of raw materials is fundamental: these wild herbs for risotto as well as all the vegetables come from a farm of Soiano, a few steps from the place called “Field of Dreams” (Campo dei Sogni), the oil is produced in the olive grove that can be admired from the window while dining and many are the local products and the goodies offered by the Menu. That, at noon, offers a dynamic and agile formula dubbed Easy Lunch that does not betray the quality and is getting great success: you pay a fixed price of four euro including water, ice cream or fruit and coffee final, and you can choose from a list of very simple dishes, all at ten euro, from the Tagliolino meat sauce to tartare of Fassona Piedmont. In the evening we go from 40 to 70-80 euro, excluding wine, with four tasting menu; Solo Primo (34) Lake (45), Earth (58) and Sea (70).

“I started with a very simple cuisine, trying to grow the customers with me, but often certain hazards were not understood when I was in Suer & Garbino- Saul concludes -. In H20 there’s a whole different approach, more curious and opened to the strangest things. I think it’s  the environment itself that makes the difference: I did not expect it could happen this way”

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