Despite its reputation for wealth and luxury, Cortina is a relatively inexpensive place to dine out. Perhaps it’s because the proliferation of restaurants all serving similar menus has possibly brought competing prices down, or maybe it’s the access to good primary ingredients, a waning of fame in the area, an aging tourist population… regardless, I’m not one to complain about happy budget surprises. Around 80% restaurants in the village are pizzerias, cafes or bistros. There are also plenty of bars with good snack food (cheese plates, panini, charcuterie). Then there’s a small number of hotel restaurants that offer a more classic (and expensive) service. Just outside of town are country restaurants with style and character, and the odd Michelin star.
Restaurants off piste (in town)
Veering from strict regional tradition, but still wholeheartedly Italian, generally local and seasonal food prevails here. Despite the desire to keep their produce local, the chef obviously loved his seafood, so you’ll find plenty despite its landlocked location. There are always several excellent game dishes, and the treatment of vegetables is almost holy – you cannot go past the caponata, which is enough to bring me back here year after year. The wine list is exciting and well varied. Although it’s a little casual, this is my choice for fine dining in the village.
Some would question why you would want to travel out of town for Sardinian specialities when holidaying in the Dolomites, but on those evenings when it’s dark at 5 and the weather is closing in, entering this place is like falling into a warm, velvety jewellery box. You’ll be hit by the restaurant’s warming, family-run feel from teh get-go. The interior is close and cozy, entirely wood-panelled with booth-like benches wrapped around the walls. Nooks and crannies are filled with treasures – both functional and collectable. Note that appetisers are on the table when you arrive, and yes, you have to pay for them. I’m unsure if you can ask for them to be taken away – they are so visually appetising, I have always eaten them without a second thought. Locals rave about the suckling pig (porcetto alla sarda), but also worth trying are the capretto (kid) and steak (filetto di manzo). The winelist is one of the best in the area, with boutique labels from the smallest corners of Italy, and a few international options too.
Classic dining rooms and wall art by Paolo Barozzi together with home-made pasta for €10 means this is always our first night out in Cortina. The blueberry tagliatelle mentioned in my Dolomiti cuisine post can be found here, along with most of the classics of the region. The menu never seems to change, but similarly never seems to disappoint. The strudel is as good as you’d find over the border, and they also do a spectacular poached pear. Make sure you book, or turn up right on opening (7pm), because even though the building is secreted in one of the back blocks, it packs out in season.
The front step of 5 Torre will take you back to a 1980s trattoria in the suburbs of any city with a large Italian diaspora, and for me and the kids after a full day skiing, that’s often about as much culture as we’re ready to handle. It’s a simple place with that lovely puffy thin-dough wood-fired pizza, cotoletta, soups and enormous salads that are a meal in themselves. Very cheap and cheerful (pizza from €7 and other mains from €12), loud, fast and at some times, a little brusk.
Restaurants on piste
Although not strictly on-piste, this one-Michelin star restaurant is only a hobble from the bottom of the Lacadel and Socropes tows, and a darn sight better than anything you’ll try on the immediate slopes there. It shares a chalet-like appearance like many of the eateries on piste, but the differences stop there. The interior is decorated with pristine old-fashioned linens, there’s waiters in whites, expensive cutlery, proper glassware and a wine list in a book. Ingredients are traditional and regional, but the dishes are modern and unique – it deserves its star. It’s a little more expensive, so don’t go in expecting €10 pasta and the like – it’s best for your last hurrah or a romantic day out. Fortunately, after a bellyful and gallons of fabulous wine, the bus out the front will take you straight back to town, and it’s included in your lift ticket price.
You need to be able to ski an easy red after a couple of Prosecci if you want some of the best views in the Dolomites over your spaetzle and speck. This traditional restaurant is divided into a dining room, outside terrace and even more casual bar. It’s a favourite of the locals, and has some of the most long-standing wait staff in the area, who tend to relate to all customers with the same sense of familiarity. Over holiday weeks, there is often a bloke standing outside in the sun (oh yes, lots of sun in season), flanked by dozens and dozens of oysters, which are shucked to order and served with beer or Fiano. Very well priced food and drinks – pastas around €9-12 and larger dishes all under 20. Because it’s at a position where even the most abysmal snow seasons delivers both natural and man made snow, it’s always incredibly busy. Don’t go in a hurry, or with an uppity attitude, or you’ll end up disappointed.
Between the pinnacles of the Tofana and Pomedes runs protrudes a smaller peak to the scale of 1778m. Reachable between the Socrepes and Ravalles areas, it’s the perfect stop for those who want a long, variable day of skiing (and for those who need to have the best example of beignets with lingonberries that’s available in the area). Routes in and out are easy – there’s the gondola for pedestrians from Freccia nel cielo at the northern end of the village, or down from Ravalles for the experienced skiers. For beginners, the rabbit run Muro de Ra Cioures (blue) leading from Socropes (which begins with the end of the Cacciatore red, but is wide and easily skiable) is a whole lot of fun, and ends in a ricketty 2-person chair with spectacular views of the valley. Food at Col Druscie is the standard traditional fare, with some hefty salads and good daily specials. The best part is the enormous terrace, a sun trap that you may not want to leave, especially as they serve Ferrari sparkling wine by the glass.
Like Tivoli, this is not strictly “on-piste”, but is definitely worth the hobble from the end of the Hidden Valley run (which begins at Lagazuoi), which culminates in a horse-drawn tow to Strada pre de Costa, a short walk from the Armentarola tow and hotel. There is an extensive deck, which does not catch sweeping views like the higher altitude eateries, but is nevertheless an afternoon sun trap, and provides a snowy rural outlook. The interior is comfortable and traditional, and the staff very well trained, but gorgeously amiable. Food and prices are a step-up from standard piste-fare, with an emphasis on organic produce and recipes aimed at the voracious carnivore. The Armentarola area also links with the enormous Alta Badia piste network, so it’s a good idea not to stay too long over your meal; there’s a whole heap of other slopes to explore nearby. If you’re heading back to Cortina or parked your car at Lagazuoi, there is a taxi and shuttle bus service that can be organised through the restaurant.
Ideally positioned between the Cristallo and Faloria slopes and with easy walking access to lifts (yes, even in ski boots), this is the best quality on-piste choice if you are looking for authentic, traditional and regional cuisine, and the locals know it. They have most of the specialties mentioned in my post on traditional Dolomiti cuisine, but there’s also a bar area where you can have a charcuterie board or a simple bowl of pasta. The exterior is a suntrap during lunchtimes and has some views of the spiny apex of Cristallo, but predominantly looks out onto the two large carparks servicing skiers who know this is the best place to leave the car if you need a refreshing ale as soon as you exit the tows. There is a playground for kids around the back.
And for drinks…
A prosciutterie with modern lines and contemporary cellar spaces, you might think this would all be about a glass of fine wine and a plate of delectable cured pork. And it might be, from 5pm to 7. After that however, this place definitely becomes a night spot, with Aperol spritz and beer the beverages of choice, chased down with burgers and pasta to quickly fill the stomach that is becoming alarmingly full of alcohol. Some nights there is a DJ, and in season, this place can heave.
There’s not really anything absolutely amazing about this little place except its location. Smack in the middle of Corso Italia, it’s always full to the gunnels at drink o’clock, even outside, where they have done their utmost to comfort alfresco drinkers by furnishing them with fur-covered benches and standing heaters. There are small snacks available (panini and the like), but just go for a grappa and a natter, and perhaps watch the array of beautiful and unusual people performing passeggiata.
In a row with the above recommended Cinque Torre and Pontejel, I stumbled into Baita Franca one evening while waiting for the pizzeria to open its doors. I found 25 wines by the glass and a list of around 500 by the bottle. Their glassware is expensive and unique, particularly as the wines start from just €3 per glass – I recall being lost in the five-petal pattern being made by prosecco in one of their Prosecco glasses after a particularly grueling day on the slopes. A very decent snack menu with lovely carpaccios means you may not need to move on after aperitivi.