In Ticino going to a grotto is like going to your grandparents to eat. Wonderful moments in good company with traditional dishes just like your grandmother used to make.
Summer time is grotto time
There is nothing better on a hot Sunday than having lunch with the family in the shade of a cool grotto and enjoying the delicacies of the house on your tongue or meeting up with friends on a warm summer evening for some fiery costine (spare ribs) from the grill. The grotto, typical summer, typical Ticino!
Inthe old days they were used to store food, which is why they're usually tucked away in the shade where the temperature remains pleasantly cool even in summer.
Over time, they've lost their original purpose and have turned into restaurants featuring characteristic terracing equipped with stone benches and tables, where typical Ticino dishes are served in a welcoming family ambience. The grotto can also be where the locals like to meet, for instance for a spontaneous bianchino (glass of white Merlot wine). This can lead to a card game called scopa and/or reminiscing (more or less accurately) about the good old days.
What to eat at the grotto?
The Ticino's cuisine has its roots in the prealpine tradition, characterised by simple yet tasty recipes and the use of local ingredients. The recipes are passed down through the generations: minestrone alla ticinese (soup), nettle soup, polenta with milk (adored by children), sea trout, alpine cheese, gorgonzola, spezzatino (ragout) or rabbit, tripe, risotto and luganighetta (grilled snails), amaretti and torta di pane. What not should be missing are juicy costine or puntine from the grill (spare ribs).
In addition to the many typical products produced in Ticino, such as wine, beer, grappa, chestnut flour, dried meat and cheese, Ascona-Locarno is particularly proud to have two Slow Food products: cicitt, long thin goatrr sausages from Vallemaggia and Farina Bóna, roasted maize flour from the Onsernone valley. But you can also find the only 100% Swiss rice, the famous Vallemaggia pepper or tea from Monte Verità.
Since these are often hidden, it is not easy to find a grotto. Grotti (plural of grotto) can be found in elevated areas (maybe even with a view of the lake) or in the valleys. So, it's worth taking a look at the list beforehand. Enjoy your meal!
As a well-known song goes: I was born in the Ticino and am called Boccalin; red and white, I bear proverbs and hymns of praise to the wine. The typical plump white jug with red and blue stripes, from which a good Ticino Merlot is sipped, is a must on the table of every grotto.