“The Dolomites have all the greatness of Italy, but transported to the mountains,” says Massimo Bottura, a habitual visitor to his country’s sharp-summited, northern territory in the Alps. The chef of Osteria Francescana in the small north Italian town of Modena, which topped the 2018 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Mr. Bottura has little interest in schussing down the area’s famously seductive slopes. “I hate to ski,” he admits. “But I love the kind of eating on offer in the mountains.” Lara Gilmore, his wife, business partner, and (unlike Mr. Bottura) an irrepressible ski enthusiast, insists they get there often enough to appease both of their appetites. Here, Mr. Bottura shares his five favorite places, on- and off-piste to eat in the Dolomites.
1. Restaurant St. Hubertus at Hotel Rosa Alpina
St. Hubertus, which is run by Mr. Bottura’s friend, the star chef Norbert Niederkofler, is like Osteria Francescana, one of the few restaurants in the world to be awarded three Michelin stars — yet it’s the informal affability of the staff that feels most familiar to Mr. Bottura. “It’s that super friendly Italian approach we like — simple, not stiff,” he says. “And watching Norbert at work in the open kitchen, and eating his special mountain flavors — it can change your entire vision of life.” While the peaks are gastronomically anchored by this long-running restaurant, Mr. Bottura notes that it was Mr. Niederkofler who “pushed these small mountain lodges to become ambitious restaurants.”
Strada Micurá de Rü 20, San Cassiano in Badia, Italy; +39 0471 849 500; rosalpina.it
2. Rifugio Col Alt
More than a mile up the mountainside, this sky-high ski lodge from 1938 is reachable by cable car and serves old-fashioned, calorie-dense Alpine food to famished skiers (as well as the ski-averse). “You go there and experience life like it was 40 years ago,” Mr. Bottura says of the traditional hearth-heated dining hall. “And the strudel they serve is unforgettable.”
Strada Col Alt 1, Corvara in Badia, Italy; +39 0471 836324; rifugiocolalt.com
3. Ristorante La Siriola at Hotel Ciasa Salares
Graduating from Mr. Niederkofler’s St. Hubertus kitchen, Matteo Metullio took charge of La Siriola’s decades-old restaurant on the same mountain, and in 2017 became the youngest chef in Italy to garner double Michelin stars. While Mr. Metullio’s ingredients are more international than his pointedly locavore mentor, his training and proximity “show how groups of chefs are working to create these high-quality territories,” says Mr. Bottura, who fondly recalls the vast bounty of La Siriola’s New Year’s brunch buffet. A similar buffet feast is served on Sundays, as is the housemade speck Mr. Bottura took home, vacuum-packed to enjoy again in Modena.
Hotel Ciasa Salares, Armentarola in Pre de Vi 31, San Cassiano, Italy; +39 0471 849445; ciasasalares.it/en/restaurants/restaurant-la-siriola
4. Rifugio Edelweiss
A classic, timberwood ski lodge with a straightforward mountain cuisine and servers in typical Tyrolean loden dress, Edelweiss is an oasis of a lunch spot on the slopes. Once a week, it becomes an evening restaurant as well, when guests ride snowmobiles up after the ski lift stops running, and dine on a menu focused on local game. “The venison there is cooked slowly, slowly, slowly over an open fire, and the meat maintains the scent of the fireplace,” Mr. Bottura says. “My mouth is watering just thinking about it.”
Via Altonn, 18, Colfosco, Italy; +39 0471 836024; rifugioedelweiss.it
5. El Brite de Larieto — Cortina
The young chef Riccardo Gaspari interns in Mr. Bottura’s kitchen over vacations to hone his cooking skills, but he began his gastronomic career as a cheesemaker. He still handcrafts his own cheeses, which are served at his family’s farmhouse restaurant where he cooks up what Mr. Bottura admiringly terms “local traditional food with contemporary culinary techniques.” Situated in the chic ski resort of Cortina, it’s become a destination for the fashionable crowd but, says Mr. Bottura, “When we go there, we prefer looking at the farm animals in their faded wood stables. It’s like a fairy-tale.”
Passo Tre Croci, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy; +39 3687008083; elbritedelarieto.it
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Laura Rysman, a regular contributor to T Magazine and The Times, shuttles between Milan and the tiny Tuscan town of Lucca, recounting a vast territory of local pleasures across Italy and beyond.
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