The grotto as a place where people like to meet

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.

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.

Grottos (or rather grotti in the plural!) are typical of Canton Ticino. In the 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.

The Ticino is rich in typical products: risottopolentaminestrone, cheese, cold cuts, luganighetta (grilled snail), gazzosa (a soft drink), beer, wine, nut eau-de-vie, grappa

Here in Ascona-Locarno we're proud to have two 'slow food' products: cicitt, long thin goat sausages from the Maggia valley, and farina bóna, roasted maize flour from the Onsernone valley. But we're also home to the only 100% Swiss rice and the famous Vallemaggia pepper.

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, nettle soup, polenta with milk (adored by children), polenta and sea trout, polenta and cicitt, tripe, risotto and luganighetta (grilled snails), rabbit, amaretti and torta di pane. The gastronomy is at its best in the autumn, when the region is full of festivals and gastronomic celebrations.
Chestnuts were an important part of our forefathers' diet. Then as now they're still dried in the grà in October and November.

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