Arcimboldo worth the short trip to scenic Sirmione
Some people scoff at vacationing at Sirmione on Lake Garda. It’s so close to Vicenza, they say. Just a 45-minute drive; so unadventurous.
Fine. They can have their ice-camping in Finland.
But if you want to swim, sun, read and walk your dog through olive groves, shaded lanes, Roman ruins, a medieval castle and masses of hydrangea and bougainvillea, Sirmione is a convenient paradise. And because it’s so close, it’s also doable for a weekend or even just dinner.
I’ve eaten tons of seafood pasta, grilled fish, lamb chops, salads, mussels, pizza and panini there; I’ve drunk multiple liters of the local white wine at scores of the island’s restaurants. Unlike in Vicenza, I’ve almost never had a bad meal.
But my favorite is Arcimboldo, a restaurant named for some reason after Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, best known for his trippy portrait heads composed of fruits, flowers, vegetables, fish and books. It’s hidden away in the central old town through an alley of souvenir shops.
The restaurant’s vista opens out toward the water. The best tables are on a terrace right on the lake, where you can watch the sun set as you sip a postprandial limoncello. But its other seating areas are also elegant and inviting.
The service is efficient in its teamwork, yet warm and friendly. I’ve never seen three plates of schnitzel arrive so quickly as they did one evening for some Germans sitting next to me. Servers also brought my dog a bowl of water without being asked. That was the one thing that was free.
Like most other Sirmione restaurants, Arcimboldo offers Mediterranean cuisine simply prepared from fresh, local ingredients.
The menu is large, with schnitzel, lasagna, numerous pastas, many pizzas, many salads, several fish dishes and steak with bearnaise sauce.
But despite the implausible variety, there’s a polish to the dishes, which are all beautifully plated. The linguine with seafood, tomato sauce and chili pepper is the best of many I’ve had in Sirmione over the years, though it is more expensive than at most restaurants — 17.50 euros (about $20).
I also love the appetizers. These include pan-cooked scallops oil served on broccoli puree topped with lumpfish roe (16 euros) and grilled octopus served with citrus fruits (13.50 euros).
Desserts, which are 6-8 euros, hit familiar sweet spots: creme brulee, panna cotta, chocolate souffle. There’s also a more unusual bread pudding and something called pineapple carpaccio, which is served with ice cream and berries.
And the house white wine is delicious.
Address: Vittorio Emanuele, 71, Sirmione, ItalyHours: Noon to 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays-Saturdays. Usually closed Tuesdays; occasionally closed on other days. It’s advisable to phone ahead. Closes for the season from Jan. 7 to Easter.Phone: (+39)030 916-409Prices: Moderate to expensive. Appetizers and pastas are 9-17.50 euros ($10-$20). Fish and meat dishes are 13-27 euros. Cover charge is 3 euros.Menus: In Italian, English and GermanReservations: Recommended, especially on weekendsAttire: Casual or dressyWebsite:ristorantearcimboldo.com