Italians do like large meals - menus in Italian restaurants give you the option of five or six different courses: antipasti (starter), first main, second main, a cheese course, dessert and then coffee. All the restaurants in Malcesine never batted an eyelid at us ordering either just one course for lunch, or a couple of courses for dinner, although one restaurant did try to convince us to have coffee (neither of us are coffee drinkers).
We ended up eating at Al Gondoliere twice during our stay, as it impressed us so much the first time. We decided to stop there for lunch one afternoon after perusing the menu posted outside.
Most Italian restaurants charge a "bread and service" fee. This is usually about €1 - €2 each and you get as much bread as you want and breadsticks. At Al Gondoliere, we were also brought some olives - I was very taken with how green and fresh they were - a couple of them even still had their stalks on!
We both order a 'first main' course on this occasion. I had some delicious gnocchi in a tomato sauce. The only gnocchi I'd had before this occasion was shop-bought stuff, which can't even compare to what I had in Italy. It was so soft and creamy.
My fiancé had tagliatelle with Italian sausage and mushrooms, which he enjoyed very much (I didn't get a chance to taste any of it myself!).
We then decided to have pudding, as we'd had a relatively small meal for lunch. I had Bavarian cream with chocolate and my fiancé had a mint mousse. I was very impressed by the presentation!
I couldn't fault the taste, either. My Bavarian cream was delicious and very more-ish.
With our bill they also brought a small chocolate liquer each in edible pastry cups. Yummy! If you ever happen to visit Malcesine, I definitely recommend this restaurant - it is good value for what you get and the quality of the food. The staff are also very friendly, although a mixture of English-speaking and Italian only, so it's handy to have your phrasebook with you if you're not already fluent in the language!
Another lunch we had was overlooking the lake itself at Ristorante Pizzeria Lido Paina - a beautiful location, although the restaurant itself was so-so. I ordered my first (and only) authentic Italian pizza. There was nothing wrong with it - it was nice (and huge!), but just not as stunning as I was expecting for pizza in Italy. Perhaps I just didn't pick the best restaurant in which to have my only pizza from the holiday. My fiancé had breaded veal, but we were a little suspicious it might be pork in there. But I'm not an expert, so we could of course have been wrong. I tried a bit and it was delicious anyway!
On our final night's stay we decided to sample a restaurant just a few yards from our hotel, as I liked the look of the menu and it was recommended in our guide book. Al Cosaro, uses freshly caught fish from the lake it overlooks as the basis for many of its dishes, although they do plenty of other things too.
For my starter I ordered pike with polenta. Polenta is something I have had limited success with at home, so I wanted to see (and taste) it done properly. It was good, particularly with the strong taste of the pike to accompany it.
My fiancé had pate de foie gras. I tried some and it was seriously good - so light and creamy. I just had to blot out of my mind how they make it...
For my main, I had beef with asparagus and 14 month matured parmesan. Could there be a more indulgent meal? I was a bit scared of the cheese at first, as it smelt (and tasted) really, really strong, but it went very well with the strong flavour of the asparagus and the beef. The beef was also wonderfully tender.
My fiancé had lamb cutlets, which were presented really nicely and were cooked really well too - pink in the middle, nice and brown on the outside.