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There are some places in the world with the power to make you feel penniless even when this is not the case. Cortina, the Queen of the Dolomites, is one such place but with a good guide, you can find your way to the trendiest places and enjoy fine dining experiences without breaking the bank. From world class cocktails over apres ski to refined dinners in exclusive mountain spa resorts, like Mulsanne (pictured above), with hypnotic mountain views, there’s an eating and drinking option to satiate the most discerning of skier. The secret is to sacrifice a good part of your budget on tips, which will make for smooth sailing whenever you return. It is hard work grabbing the right table at high altitudes.
Where to eat in Cortina from 0 to 25 Euros
The shoppers’ paradise is Corso Italia, which is a bit like via Montenapoleone in Milan: everything happens here. The bar counter of the mythical Hotel de la Poste of Cortina has been frequented by everyone that counts. So, why not join them? Italian businessmen and the jet set, not to mention the ubiquitous Hemingway. If you are lucky, you will find barman Antonio Di Franco – born in 1941 – who lends a hand to younger members of the staff from time to time. Order a Puccini: champagne and mandarin juice, the answer to peach Bellini à la Harry’s Bar. While still managing to keep within your budget, after the last ski slope of the day, drop in on the happening at largo Poste 32 in Cortina for an aperitif at the Vip Club Aprés Ski, wine accompanied by a plate or two of nibbles.
Where to eat in Cortina from 25 to 50 Euros
The most exclusive parties are held in private homes, but prior to a few holes of golf or after a polo game, you cannot possibly miss a visit to the terrace of the Cristallo Hotel Spa & Golf, the most time-honoured and acclaimed establishment complete with 4 restaurants. The Gazebo restaurant run by Fabrizio Albini is well worth seeing for its amazing view of the mountain peaks. There are no signs of experimental cuisine here, but a reassuring dish of excellent Malga cheese risotto with boletus mushrooms will set you back 23 euro and, if you throw in the cover charge and a glass of wine, you will certainly have used up your allocated budget. But can you put a price on sitting where Brigitte Bardot used to be a regular customer?
First opened in the early 1900s, the Miramonti Majestic Grand Hotel is every tourist’s dream. If you cannot afford a room, just enjoy the view which, from the hillside, opens up onto the valley and the natural reserve. When sitting at the bar in front of the fireplace or on the scenic terrace looking out onto the mountain range, order a Cocktail Miramonti: a mix of bubbles, citrusy flavours and one of a number of prestigious cognacs available. On your budget, you can even afford a second drink but if you decide to stay on for dinner, I recommend the Spaghetti with onions and the deer meat in blueberry sauce: the two cult dishes (20 and 30 Euros) of the venue. But I warn you, if you order a glass of wine, you can only afford a first or a second course dish.
However, the most breath-taking view can be enjoyed from the Baita Pie Tofana, at the departure point of the Tofane chairlift. Here the mood is rustic chic with sledges hanging on the walls and lamps made out of copper pans. Pluri awarded by the guides, this venue is a mountain hut with prices worthy of downtown restaurants, but it does offer a unique experience. Here you can order a couple of dishes (about 20 Euros each) such as the Sorbet with mustard and juniper butter, braised oxtail tortelli or deer sirloin and cereals served with Storo-style polenta and mushrooms. The desserts include Lavender flavoured burnt cream and the cellar managed by Ms Wolly offers 300 labels.
Where to eat in Cortina from 50 to 100 Euros
On this budget you can afford to splash out on a dish at one of the best restaurants in town, Il Tivoli, at the foot of the Tofane mountains. Graziano Prest and his wife have been awarded one star, also thanks to their preference for local products such as Alpago lamb (30 Euros) presented side by side on the menu with spanking fresh fish from the region of Veneto, such as the Lobster tartar with marinated fennel, salt cod stuffed gnocchi, polenta with boletus mushrooms and fondue.
In San Vito di Cadore, next to Cortina, an impacting gourmet experience marries a light cuisine at the starred Aga restaurant managed by a husband and wife team: Oliver Piras and Alessandra Del Favero. The harmony of their personal and professional relationship is reflected in the eight course menu priced at 85 Euros (or 5 courses for 65 Euros). It is well worth trying even if you do have to go without the wine pairings (five glasses for 35 Euros). A joy for the palate with dishes such as Deer tartar, Jerusalem artichokes, parsley stalks and amaranth or the daring proposal of beef heart, Lacinato kale and Sichuan pepper. There are just 4 tables, so it is essential to have a reservation.