Meals With a View: Family Joys at Lake Garda

A week ago, I returned from a magical fortnight’s holiday with family in Switzerland and Italy. The background is that as I was under medical advice not to travel to South Africa, my daughter Barbara in Johannesburg decided to bring her family to her sister Robynn in Switzerland (canton Zurich), where I could join them. Then, we all crossed the Alps to Italy, where they had taken a villa in Portese (part of San Felice del Benaco), right on the shore of Lake Garda.
villa-portesina

The major point of the holiday was to have some family time together, but also to experience as far as we could the Italian lifestyle.  This (and cost) was why we opted for a self-catering option. When not eating out, I made a point of providing as far as possible meals which were fully Italian (and regional), eating almost al fresco. With magnificent views over the lake and to the mountains beyond, how could we not?
This picture was the first snap Barbara took from the terrace in front of the sitting room, soon after arrival. She wrote
“After a long trip, finally achieved what I’d been dreaming of for the last three months. Vino with a view!”
On the lawn in front of the vino are her two children, Patrick and Emma. Beyond them, the ground dips to a pool terrace (seen in the picture at top), and beyond that, it dips down directly to the lake shore. The water you see is a branch of Lake Garda, to the South – west. We were in Portese (part of San Felice del Benaco), with Gardone directly opposite. To the left of the pic, at the head of the inlet, is Salo’. (For all the pictures here, I’ve shamelessly borrowed from Barbara’s facebook pages. Not only am I not accustomed to taking photographs, but I had carelessly left my phone at home, so had no means of capturing any images myself. Fortunately, both daughters, and a son-in-law, took numerous pictures themselves, for me to enjoy – and share).
To the side of the house is a dining terrace, where we took most of our meals – with almost all of us seated facing the lake, enjoying the view. (Exceptions were my two sons-in-law, who said their preferred view was their wives!).
meal with a view
I made a point of cooking and eating Italian style as far as I could. We dined al fresco for most meals (when not dining out), always with an antipasti course and  bread, and always with Italian foods, especially local dishes and ingredients. I’d made fresh pasta before, but a first for me was the advance to flavoured pastas (green spinach pasta verde, red tomato pasta rossa) and also stuffed pasta – ravioli with spinach / ricotta filling, and tomato tortellini stuffed with walnuts and gorgonzola).  Unfamiliar vegetables included stuffed zucchini fllowers, and braised fennel with lemon slices.  Done in this way, even the lemon becomes edible and delicious.
You can see the table here, as it was being set for the antipasti on the first evening (Patrick, my eldest grandchild, in the background).
frst meal, frst course
I also used this table for much of the food preparation, peeling vegetables, making fresh pasta and the like. (Robynn has said that when she and her family arrived from Zurich, a little later than the rest of us, what impressed her was to see me prepping vegetables at this table, facing the view, with a glass of wine. What better way to prepare a meal?) Here, I was slicing a sizeable chunk of prosciutto, with Emma shelling peas. Later, Patrick, Emma and Claudia all helped to shell walnuts for the tortellini filling.
I made a point of preparing one celebration meal with the “full works” – antipasti, primo piatti, secondo piatti (unforgiveably, without a dolce course to follow).  This is how Barbara described it:
My Dad wanted to make a proper Italian meal for our return from Sirmione, so he enjoyed a day at home with the girls while we explored. We arrived back to antipasti, followed by home-made (by Dad and girls) ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta, and pasta stuffed with walnuts and Gorgonzola.
stuffed pasta, before cooking
Stuffed pasta, uncooked
ravioli, with sauce
The remains of spinach / Ricotta ravioli on the plate, with tomato/garlic sauce
This was followed by veal parcels stuffed with prosciutto, cheese and sage, accompanied by finocchio e limone.
Veal parcels
Veal parcels on left, fennel and lemon on right
Sadly not followed by gelati, we ate it all in Sirmione! But once kids were in bed, we did treat ourselves to the traditional limoncello (lemon liqueur).
 It was not all eating though. Just beyond the lawn, was an (alleged) “beach”. To our South African eyes, the narrow strip of pebbles on the lakeside was a poor excuse for a beach (think instead long, broad  stretches of white sand in Cape Town, yellow sand in Durban). That didn’t stop the kids enjoying it immensely, especially as it was literally at the bottom of the garden. Here are the three older grandchildren paddling  together,
and here, Robynn with the youngest lad (Max), and myself with back to the camera.

I’ll have more, later.
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