Most of the mountain restaurants on the slopes of the Brenta Dolomites serve traditional dishes. Some dishes reflect an Austrian heritage, such as two types of dumplings: canederli – large bread dumplings generally flavoured with speck, a dry, cured ham served in a broth and strangolapreti – smaller spinach dumplings often served in a sauce of melted butter. Goulash in both soup and stew form and the apple strudel desert are also local favourites.
Here is a selection of restaurants I have patronised grouped under the five walking areas.
Mountain Restaurants in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy
Ristorante Viviani is a welcome sight for anyone who is walking to the peak of Pradalago or arriving there on the Pradalago cabin lift (purchase the Dolomeet Guest Card for unlimited use of lifts). Situated beside a small lake, this popular restaurant has three sections, self-service, restaurant and bar. All three operate in winter, but only the restaurant is open in the summer. This large, light, beautifully decorated room offers a comfortable ambience where patrons can enjoy their choice from the ‘menu of the day’. This menu changes regularly, and I always look forward to seeing the new pasta sauces on offer. A good variety of wine is also available, and the delicious home-made desserts include an excellent tiramisu. Those who chose to eat outside on the large wooden decking area are treated to views across the valley to the peaks of Grosté and Spinale. Too early for lunch? Snack here on coffee and cake before walking down to the town or following the path to Lago Malghette.
A short detour on the path from the peak of Pradalago leads to Casino Zeledria, a family-run restaurant on a farm – but the buildings are entirely separate. Diners here can enjoy produce from the farm next door, including an excellent selection of cheeses. The menu includes hearty traditional dishes popular in this region, several of which feature a local favourite, polenta. The Roman army marched on polenta cakes, and it has long been a staple for farmers and foresters here. This restaurant offers a super lasagne as a ‘special of the day’ – worth requesting this when booking as it is so good. Browse the farm shop before leaving. A special treat is the parmesan known here as Trentingrana.
Rifugio Lago Malghette
Good food is also available at Rifugio Lago Malghette, and it is worth the walk there for the views of the lake on which it is situated. But, the only way back to Madonna di Campiglio is on foot. On nearing the town, there are two options for a restorative break – Cascina Zeledria or the restaurant at the hotel Casa del Campo on the main road. The latter may be roadside, but the tables outside overlook the golf course and lake in the valley below. It is also conveniently located by a stop for the local bus (ask your hotel about the Trentino Guest Card for free use of local public buses) back into the centre of town.
Mountain Restaurants on Cinque Laghi in Madonna di Campiglio
Ristorante Bar and Cinque Laghi
Sitting on the terrace outside the Ristorante Bar and Cinque Laghi at the top of the Cinque Laghi cabin lift it feels as though you are on top of the world – mountains above and a valley carpeted in green below. This restaurant features both a bar and a large restaurant. A welcome break for those with the energy to walk to the top of Cinque Laghi and good for a tasty self-service lunch after returning from the short walk to Lago Ritorto or the longer Five Lakes walk.
Malga Ritorto – a farm and traditional restaurant – occupies a small plain below Cinque Laghi at the end of the path that descends from the peak. The restaurant offers many popular regional dishes both in the rustic restaurant and on the large terrace outside. Patascoss is a half hour stroll along the road from Malga Ritorto towards Madonna di Campiglio and is ideal for those who prefer a quick, self-service meal.
An easy, level path from Patascoss goes through the woods to Lago Nambino and is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
Rifugio Lago Nambino
Rifugio Lago Nambino has been run by the same family since the 1930s and specialises in tasting menus.
The Lake Menu is created from freshwater fish collected from their own tanks every morning. The Territory Menu is entirely based on local products linked to the region. Advance booking is necessary for this special treat. The restaurant is also accessed from the car park near the Zangola.
Mountain Restaurants on Spinale in Madonna di Campiglio
The slopes of Spinale feature two restaurants, Chalet Fiat on its peak and Malga Montagnoli on the lower slopes. These restaurants offer both restaurant service and self-service.
Chalet Fiat specialises in fine dining in its elegant restaurant, where diners can relish the fabulous views across the valley to the Brenta Dolomites as well as a constantly changing gourmet menu. The large self-service section is open and light, with a spacious terrace outside. The food here is always good, and they serve the best chips on the mountains.
Ristorante Malga Montagnoli
Ristorante Malga Montagnoli takes a more traditional, rustic approach, and its menu features an interesting selection of local favourites, some featuring cheese from its own cows and which is sold in their farm shop. A good variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes is available and for the meat eaters, I would recommend the slow cooked pig’s cheeks with polenta and mushrooms.
Mountain Restaurants on Grosté in Madonna di Campiglio
Ristorante Boch at the mid-station of the Grosté cabin lift is a large, very popular self-service restaurant as it is conveniently placed on the path to the top of Grosté and a very pretty path from the top of Spinale. This is my favourite stop for coffee and cake. My personal favourite is their version of the traditional Linzer torta (cake) very popular in this region. This Austrian cake is thought to be the oldest known cake in the world and is named after the city of Linz in Austria.
Stoppani is perched on the peak of Grosté at the top of the second stage of the Grosté cabin lift. This large building offers delicious gourmet dining on the highest of its three floors and self-service on the lower two levels. Surrounded by grey scree speckled with the brilliant blooms of alpine plants Stoppani is perfectly appointed for a sweeping panorama of the peaks and valleys around Madonna di Campiglio.
Half-way between these two restaurants is Graffer, a SAT (Società Alpinisti Tridentini) rifugio and distinguished by the blue and white shutters representing this society. SAT maintains the paths, organises events and owns a variety of refuges and restaurants on the mountains.
Mountain Restaurants along Vallesinella in Madonna di Campiglio
Rifugio Cascata di Mezzo
Rifugio Cascata di Mezzo is a charming little cafe that retains the character of its origins as a mountain refuge although it is snuggled in the valley known as Vallesinella. Its shaded terrace overlooks the waterfall Cascata di Mezzo. A great place to sip a frothy cappuccino and indulge in a homemade cake like the popular crostata similar to the English jam tart. A lovely spot for lunch as well – pre-booking recommended.
Follow the path rising up beside the Cascata di Mezzo and you will arrive at Rifugio Vallesinella. Originally a mountain refuge that has been completely rebuilt, modernised and extended. But it blends perfectly into the forest landscape that surrounds it. The new Rifugio Vallesinella is both a lovely hotel and a large restaurant offering its own delicious versions of the local cuisine. The perfect place for lunch after completing the waterfall walk. Relax and enjoy the friendly service and welcoming ambience, secure in the knowledge the regular shuttle bus service will whisk you back into town when you are ready to leave.
Rifugio Vallesinella is not the only eatery on the mountains around Madonna di Campiglio that offers accommodation. Many of them offer varying standards but they are all in amazing locations. However, that would be the subject of a whole new article. Meanwhile, enjoy feasting on the high-quality food the mountain restaurants of Madonna di Campiglio are offering.