Lago di Garda is our lake, our favorite. David fell in love there. Not with me, but with Italy in 2004. We stayed in Room 411 … quattrocentoundieci was David’s first word. We decided to buy our house while we were here … canceling a visit in Venice to return to Florence to make an offer, sign a contract, own a home under the Tuscan sun.

We our first stop was Desenzano to eat at the legendary GATTOLARDO. Well, legendary in the Mancini family. But it was closed [sad face] … shut for a break after the angst of August.

We wandered the charming cobblestone streets. On one side of the piazza was PIADINERIA. We love piadina, the flatbread from Romagna. My pick was the special of the day … salmon, Philadelphia, avocado, and lettuce. David opted for prosciutto, arugula, squacquerone (a wonderful, super creamy cheese). They were warm and tasty … good choices.

Next stop was VIVALDI BAR GELATERIA. The gelato was fabulous! Each flavor was unique with great bursts of flavor. Salted pistachio (lightly salted whole nuts in intense pistachio-flavored cream) … bacio (rich milk chocolate with chunks of hazelnuts) … penguino (classic cremino with layers of thick, dark, fudgy chocolate and soft, luscious cream) … tiramisù (coffee and cocoa and mascarpone blended to perfection, it was better than many traditional tiramisù).

We checked into HOTEL RESIDENZE SAN ROCCO in Soiano del Lago. Our large room had a door opening onto a spacious patio, down some stairs to the swimming pool … and a view of the lake beyond. No sooner was that door open than a black cat appeared … walked into our room … curled up on the bed … purred.

We were happy. We called him Dude.

It was getting late as we reached downtown Soiano for dinner. We didn’t know where to go. There was a pizzeria close by … one of those to-go only places. But a few pizze coming out of the oven, and the rim of the crust, the canotto, didn’t pass muster. We left, leaving the pizzaiolo confused.

This village is small. And closed. But the lights were on at a place in the next block, people eating and drinking at tables outside. If we didn’t stop here, we’d have to drive to who-knows-where.

It was called BARATTOLO … and pizzoccheri on the chalkboard caught my eye. Inside was quaint, and the two owners were lovely. We sat outside, knowing the cool weather would arrive soon and al fresco would be finished until next spring.

My pizzoccheri was okay with lots of cheese, chewy buckwheat pasta, and sautéed chard (a reasonable variation on the usual leeks and celery). David’s casarecce with pesto had cubes of potatoes, but the flavor was weak, with no evidence of basil … we thought we tasted mint. When we asked, the owner brought a wrapper (pre-fab food … oy! … oioi) … thus revealing it wasn’t olive oil, but sunflower, and there was no mint. The secondo was roast veal … not a thick, grilled piece I had envisioned, but three very thin slices covered in gravy. I don’t do gravy. I nibbled at roasted potatoes. For dessert, David had affogato … espresso poured over vanilla gelato, with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Back in our room, I ate a few biscotti.

Breakfast on the hotel’s terrace was traditional … cappuccino and croissant. But we watched a cast of falcons soar overhead. We heard them first, then saw them high above the trees … sailing, soaring, gliding, using every current of air as they looked for their own breakfasts.

David golfed. I hung out … with Dude.

That evening, we ate at the hotel’s fancy schmancy restaurant where the staff outnumbered the few tables of diners.

Amuse bouche was the starter. A radish with a bit of black garlic (who knew?), crunchy and very good … crostini with roasted tomato puree, a nice twist on the omnipresent bruschetta … seeded roll with local olive oil, classic … yellow pepper gazpacho, sweet and cool … seppia ink-lime butter topped with pink peppercorns for the bread, the delicious standout.

Next, antipasto. A tuna tartar/sashimi on avocado and shoyu was amazing … tuna cut into long spaghetti-like strands, then topped with radish, spring onions, violets, and mint. Delicious!

Two (minus one) primi. The carbonara with zucchini flowers had a good cheese-bacony flavor, though I prefer the condimento to be more creamy, more luxurious. The other was cappellacci … pasta packets stuffed with baccala and potato, then sauced with sweet peppers and sitting on seppia ink. But the extreme sweetness of the peppers and the fish aroma was so off-putting, I actually asked the waiter to take it away because the smell was so, um, unappetizing.

Our secondo was grilled fish … some from the lake, others the sea. Grilled-charred octopus and moist, flavorful spigola were the flavorful, juicy stars … with luccio (pike), seppia (cuttlefish), anguilla (eel), and corgone (whitefish) tasty co-stars. I have to confess that I am not sure which was which. A small square of this looked a lot like a four-sided piece of that.

Of course we had dessert, but … only 1 tonight. We picked a warm chocolate cake. Surrounded by chopped pistachios, it was a yummy finish, rich and fudgy and creamy.

Before heading home the next day, we drove north along the shoreline to Gardone Riviera. It was a perfect Chamber of Commerce day … bright blue sky, beautiful blue water.

Our destination was OLIO BONASPETTI. It was at this oleificio that we first tasted the delicious olive oil from this micro-climate nestled in the shadow of the Dolomites. One is bright and lively, the other has a great peppery kick on the finish. You can still go into the back room with the big wooden barrels, see the glimmering green-golden elixir, taste the shimmering liquid as it lovingly coats your tongue, your throat, your tummy. We bought a few liters … duh.

Our lunch would be with our friends who own VILLA CAPRI. We sat on the terrace overlooking the sparkling lake. We sipped rosé … such a perfect sitting. I had to drink a second glass. We all had penne arrabiata … tomato-y and yummy, it had just the right amount of spiciness and just the right amount of condimento. Good to the last drop, we used bread to soak up every delicious drop. As we were about to leave, I noticed that the display case in the lobby had a sign “30% sconto” on designs by a local jeweler. The ones I liked seemed reasonably priced before the discount … gosh, I bought two.

Homeward bound … but we didn’t tell our kitties about Dude.


1–½ cup flour
¾ cup cornstarch
2–½ tsp. baking powder
1 Tbl. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup plain yogurt
1–½ cups sugar
¾ cup oil
3 eggs
1 oz. (2 Tbl.) milk
Approx. 12 pieces candied ginger, cut in half

- Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350° F (170° C).
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, ginger, and cinamon.- In a large bowl, mix yogurt and sugar until well blended. Slowly add the oil.
- Add eggs, one at a time.
- Add the flour mixture, stirring well until smooth.
- Fold in the milk.
- Pour into the prepared pan.
- Around the rim of the pan, place the pieces of candied ginger
- Bake for 30–35 minutes.
- Serve at any temperature.
- Enjoy!