I had a taste of Italian culture in Switzerland when I visited Locarno, a resort town on the northern shore of Lake Maggiore. While spending a few nights at the Hotel Belvedere Locarno, a conveniently located upscale hotel offering views of the lake, I enjoyed meals at the hotel’s La Fontana Ristorante & Bar.
Since I was participating in a Hiking in Style media trip sponsored by Switzerland Tourism, most of my time was spent exploring the region’s trails and local culture. My trip coincided with the Risotto Festival Locarno, but my tight itinerary did not permit a visit to the Piazza Grande where 12 chefs prepared their Ticinese Risotto recipes. This fall (2020), sixteen chefs are planning to participate in this juried competition featuring this regional favorite food. Check the website for more details.
Dining at Belvedere Hotel Locarno
My mornings were fueled by selections from the daily breakfast buffet. The homemade breads were delicious and photogenic.
On my first evening in Switzerland, I joined a small group of international journalists at La Fontana Ristorante. Jet lag didn’t prevent me from enjoying a memorable multi-course, Mediterranean-inspired dinner filled with regional produce. La Fontana Ristorante & Bar usually serves an à la carte menu.
The La Fontana Ristorante & Bar kitchen is run by Chef Carlo Ponti Greppi, a young chef who spent his youth across the border from Ticino, in Stresa where he attended Scuola Albergiera, a hotel management school. In 2015, he started working at Hotel Belvedere Locarno as a sous-chef. Within a year he became the executive chef. Today, Chef Greppi works with a team of 15 people. In October 2019, he was awarded 13 points by Gault Millau.
His flexible kitchen accommodates a wide variety of requests.
“Let’s take risotto with gambero rosso di Sicilia. I leave out the gambero for vegetarian and add more herbs and vegetables so it becomes a vegetarian dish. If I substitute oil for butter, the vegan is delighted.”
After my positive dining experiences, I reached out to the Hotel Belvedere Locarno to see if Chef Greppi was interested in sharing one of his regional specialities for The Traveling Bornsteins’ series focusing on chefs and recipes. With international travel restrictions still in place, it is not possible to visit Ticino. Today, this site offers a taste of Italian/Swiss cuisine by sharing Chef Greppi’s recipe for Risotto Gambero Rosso.
Chef Greppi’s Recipe- Risotto Gambero Rosso, Zucchine, Burrata e Basilico
Serves 4 People
Ingredients for the Risotto Gambero Rosso
- 360 grams of Riso Carnaroli; preferably the selection “Acquerello” (or other)
- 50 grams of fine chopped shallot
- 0.1 dl white Merlot from Ticino
- 1.2 liter vegetable stock
- 8 red shrimps from Mazzara (Sicily)
- 250 grams of Burrata di Andria DOP (special type of Mozzarella but creamier)
- 50 grams Grana Padano DOP
- 40 grams of good olive oil, preferably DOP
- 1 courgette/zucchino
- Coarse salt “Maldon” or similar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for the Basil Semifreddo
- 200 grams egg yolk
- 200 grams sugar
- 200 grams cream
- 200 grams mascarpone
- 200 grams bleached basil processed into very fine powder
Chef Greppi’s Preparation of the basil semifreddos
- Beat the egg yolk with the sugar until well frothy.
- Fold in previously whipped cream.
- Add the mascarpone and basil powder.
- Season with salt and pepper and fill into forms.
- Place in the freezer for at least 4 hours.
Chef Greppi’s Preparation of the Risotto
- Peel the red prawns and remove the head, intestines and veins.
- Then halve the shrimp lengthwise and spread them out on baking paper, slightly half round and always two next to each other.
- Cover them with another piece of baking paper and beat them with a meat chopping block until they get an evenly flat and round shape.
- Wash the zucchino, remove the inner part with the small seeds and cut the rest into very small cubes.
- Bring the vegetable stock to boil.
- Heat 20 g of good olive oil in a frying pan, add the shallot and melt until it is creamy but not brown.
- Now add the rice, turning and stirring it so that it is covered with the oil.
- Add the white wine and let it evaporate completely, stirring constantly.
- Then always add one or two ladles of hot broth and let it boil while stirring.
- Make sure the rice doesn’t set.
- When no more liquid can be seen on the sediment, add more stock.
- Repeat this process for about 15 minutes.
- Add the diced zucchino and bring to boil.
- Remove the pot from the flame and enrich the risotto with the burrata, parmesan and olive oil.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Fill up with broth according to consistency.
- Arrange the risotto on plates and place the raw red prawns on top.
- Put the basil semifreddo in the middle.
- Season with the crystal salt and garnish with pea sprouts.
Chef Greppi’s Tips for Vegetarians
- For the vegetarian risotto, leave out the red prawns.
- However, to give the risotto an interesting and fresh taste, the chef recommends mixing a few drops of lime juice into the risotto.
- If the risotto is to be for vegans, we have to adapt the recipe slightly:
- We replace the burrata with zucchini flowers, which give the risotto a slightly sweet note and thus replaces the burrata well.
- Olive oil replaces the parmesan cheese.
- At the end, the chef recommends spreading finely chopped basil over the risotto and adding a few drops of lime.
- The tasty vegan risotto is ready too.
Did you make this recipe?
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When Sandy isn’t trekking or writing in the Colorado, she is traveling. She has visited more than 40 countries and lived as an international teacher in Bangalore, India. Sandy’s award-winning book, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life, is a resource for people contemplating an expat lifestyle and living outside their comfort zone.
Sandy’s lifestyle and travel experiences are frequently shared with international and domestic online sites and print media. She has contributed stories to Hemispheres, Destinations Magazine, KUHL’s Born in the Mountain blog, Grand Magazine, Wandering Educators, Golden Living, AARP, Hadassah magazine, Localliz, One Travel, Miles Away, Canadian Jewish News, Getting On Travel, Far and Wide, Colorado Parent, Traveler Confidential, Family Circle- Momster, and others.