Lake fish & Franciacorta at the “dispensary”

best fish restaurant italy

Marinated coregone (Coregonus lavaretus, European white fish) served with an “ice cream marinade.”

When you really get down to the thick and thin of it, “there’s really nothing unique about the terroir of Franciacorta,” as one prominent producer told me when I was visiting there over the Thanksgiving weekend.

With its marittime influence (thanks to Lake Iseo) and its alternance of morainic (glacial-era) and calcareous subsoils, it is indeed an ideal place to grow acidity- and minearl-driven Pinot Nero and Chardonnay. But in fact, those conditions can be found in many spots of the pre-Alps.

italian perch

Gently fried perch (Perca fluviatilis) served over a potato “millefoglie.”

The tradition of sparkling wine there is owed to a small group of wealthy, industrialist landowners who began making classic-method wines in the 1960s (Franco Ziliani of the Guido Berlucchi winery was the first).

In my view, the thing that really sets Franciacorta apart as a producer of fine bubbles is the local, fresh-water cuisine there.

European white fish

Vittorio called this superb however simple dish “bread and salt” coregone fillets.

And there is no one who can rival the fresh-water fish mastery of chef Vittorio Fusari at his amazing Dispensa Pani e Vini (“Bread and Wine Dispensary”) in the village of Torbiato di Adro (in the province of Brescia).

The restaurant is a temple to locally sourced lake fish and sparkling wine (including many French labels).

Especially when Franciacorta is made in a mineral-dominant style, the pairing can be sublime.

barone pizzini brut nature franciacorta

We paired with Barone-Pizzini Franciacorta Nature. In my notes I wrote: incredible balance, very nuanced nose, some tropical fruit, some red fruit, extreme freshness in the mouth, great balance here.

I had the great fortune of being treated to lunch at the “dispensary” by colleague Silvano Brescianini of the Barone Pizzini winery during my recent and very short trip to Italy.

I love the intelligence and elegance of Vittorio’s cooking (I ate there once before, in 2008, with Franco and Giovanni).

And he expresses his devotion to local fisherman through the eloquence of his menu.

I can’t recommend his restaurant highly enough. This meal alone would have made the trip worthwhile…

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