If you’re served herring that’s been sun-dried for three months then pressed flat before being presented as a local speciality, you must be on the banks of Lake Como. Each year, car and motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the world congregate at this exquisite location to admire the wealth of two- and four-wheeled finery on show at the unique Concorso d’Eleganza. But there are also local delights of the culinary variety to be enjoyed exactly halfway between Villa d’Este and Villa Erba – at the Osteria del Beuc.
‘Beuc’ doesn’t sound very Italian, does it? Listen to the locals saying the name of Cernobbio’s legendary osteria and you’ll find it’s pronounced ‘burtch’; the dialect spoken in the Lake Como region bears no relation to standard Italian. “It basically means ‘small meeting place’,” explains Beuc boss Claudia Visconti. Which makes it a fitting description for this modestly sized osteria at No. 1 Via Cavallotti, its home of 92 years directly behind the town’s lakeside promenade.
Beuc’s two dining areas are mainly populated by locals. In late May every year, however, there’s a big influx of Concorso fans – for whom the crème de la crème of classic car and motorcycle events on Lake Como’s western shore goes hand in hand with delicious gastronomy. And that means sampling the region’s traditional cuisine, the cucina Lariana.
In the local Como dialect ‘Beuc’ means ‘small meeting place’, which is rather apt.
‘Sex on the Beuc’ – you’ll find a sprinkling of humour on the menu alongside the delicious regional specialities.
Missoltini, polenta uncia, gnocchi alla lariana – you won’t find an ‘English spoken’ sign or a pre-translated menu here. But there is always someone on hand who can explain the dishes in English. The staff at this inviting place with seating for about 100 people are remarkably friendly and unhurried, even at very busy times, which is less surprising when you realise that Beuc is part of the fabled IOC COOP LA VITTORIA cooperative. Claudia Visconti has been running the gourmet venue for the past four years. Going back ten years, though, Beuc was not the dining haven of today, just a popular billiard bar.
Today, it is a small osteria with a big reputation – one that extends far beyond the shores of Lake Como. And judging by the culinary delights conjured up by Claudia’s team of cooks, it’s easy to see why. Take the bitto casera scimudin for instance – a polenta made with three types of local cheese, butter and garlic. Or the famous missoltini, a dish unique to this region: herring caught in Lake Como are then hung up to dry in the sun and wind for up to three months before being pressed flat with salt and bay leaves, allowing them to be stored for several months. This was originally a way of satisfying local appetites through the harsh winter of the Lake Como region. Today it’s a speciality served on a bed of polenta – and for a very reasonable price of €13.50 at Beuc.
The local specialities are an invitation to linger and enjoy.
Even when juggling plates, boss Claudia always has a smile on her face and an eye on the job at hand.
Local wines, cosy lighting. Many a Concorso participant has traded another stint at the wheel for a seat at one of Claudia’s tables.
“Many of our regulars are also big fans of our gnocchi, another example of typical Lariana cuisine,” Claudia tells us while carrying another plate to another table. For this, Italy’s traditional potato dumplings are prepared using Taleggio cheese, pancetta, red onion and tomatoes. As you’d expect, there is a selection of wines from Northern Italy to wash everything down, and even the ‘Chiarella’ water on the osteria’s tables is local. Indeed, it’s bottled in Plesio, 30-odd kilometres (20 miles) north of Cernobbio.
Claudia Visconti raves about the Concorso d’Eleganza, and not just because it means even more patrons than usual for a few days each year. There is one BMW in particular she adores: “The white 507 roadster that Elvis once drove is my absolute dream car,” she confides while we indulge in yet more Como specialities. Her acclaimed eatery lies exactly halfway between the event’s two venues, which makes it just a five-minute walk from both. What better way to enjoy another taste of la dolce vita than with a visit to Beuc. Until next year then…