The Ticino grotto

Discover the dishes of the Ticino grotti. What could be better than spending a sunny Sunday afternoon at the stone tables of a nice grotto, enjoying the delicacies of the house, or a nice barbecue with friends? Or enjoying a delicious meal after a long hike in the mountains?

The grotti are a unique feature of Ticino and the Italian Grisons. Originally the grotto was a cave used to store food. For this reason, the grottos are usually located in shady, remote places where the temperature remains pleasantly even in the hottest months.

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. When the needs of the population changed thanks to the discovery of new methods to preserve food, the grottos gradually lost importance, and many farmers chose to turn their cellars into tasting rooms for their wines, cheeses and cold cuts. So, in the end they have become real restaurants, characterized by the fact that they offer their customers typical regional seasonal products. Even though they are very popular with tourists, the grottos have managed to maintain their authenticity and have continued to be one of the main meeting places for the locals: especially in summer, the people from Ticino are happy to go to the grotto to enjoy a barbecue with friends, a game of cards or an aperitif with a “bianchino” (white Merlot) or a boccalino of red Merlot. The typical, plump, red and blue striped jug is a must on every grotto's table.

What to eat at the grotto? The choice of the dishes in a grotto depends on the location, the season and the house specialities. The Ticino's cuisine has its roots in the prealpine tradition, characterised by simple yet tasty recipes and the use of local ingredients.

In addition to the many typical products produced in Ticino, such as wine, beer, grappa, nocino, gazzosa, chestnuts and different types of cheese, Ascona-Locarno is particularly proud to have unique products such as cicitt, farina bòna flour, the only 100% Swiss rice and Vallemaggia pepper. 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 sausage) as juicy costine or puntine from the grill (spare ribs), amaretti and torta di pane make part of the traditional Ticino cuisine. But in Ascona-Locarno you will also find some absolutely unique gems. For example, the cicitt - long, thin goat sausages from the valleys - and the farna bòna, roasted maize flour from the Onsernone Valley., which are both Slow Food products. But you can also find the only 100% Swiss rice, the famous Vallemaggia pepper or tea from Monte Verità.

Advice from the expert

To make sure you find a grotto on your hike, take a look on our list of grottos before you leave. It's not always easy to find them. They are often in remote or elevated areas, with magnificent views of the lake or valleys below. If you're still at home and can't make it to a grotto but have a craving for Ticino, try our recipe for Ticino risotto. Enjoy your meal! 

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