Switzerland enjoys an excellent culinary reputation mainly because of its exacting standards, meticulous presentation, and correct service.
Of the four regions (French, German, Italian and Romansch), the French part provides the best food and restaurants of the country, closely followed by the German speaking part.
The Italian speaking part, Ticino or Tessin in German, offers a cuisine mainly gleaned from Lombardy in Italy, with which it shares the national border.
Geographically, Ticino is an anomaly. Located on parallel 46 North, in theory it should be cold, at least cool (Toronto’s location is parallel 44 North), but the Alps and Lake Maggiore provide excellent shelter. The region’s climate is mild enough for palm trees to grow in abundance lining streets and embellishing parks.
German speaking Swiss and Germans clamor to buy property overlooking the beautiful valleys and Lago Maggiore.
Ticino is typically laid-back and its inhabitants are more interested to enjoy life than those of the other parts of the country, but when it comes to civic organization, Swiss precision prevails.
The region is mountainous and was quite poor until the turn of the 19th century to 20th. The food was generally monotonous, based on
few ingredients farmers could raise or grow (pork, beef, potatoes, chestnuts, grapes, hazelnuts and a few other fruits). Most of the original dishes are based on what the region produces, and a few from Lombardy, like risotto, polenta, minestrone, zuppa de zucca e la busecca, roast rabbit or goat, baked or sautéed fish, cazzola (pork stew with cabbage, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes), and prosciutto.
Tourism started to thrive in 1950’s shortly after the end of the World War II when the German economy picked up steam, thanks to the Marshall Plan.
Tourism in major cities like Lugano, Locarno, Domodossola, and Bellinzona necessitated fine restaurants and hotels.
Entrepreneurs, particularly from the German part of Switzerland, were quick to establish hotels and restaurants and serving their guests sophisticated dishes. Lamb in thyme, sautéed hake, roast wild game, stews flavoured with chestnuts, almond cake, stuffed pastas, veal piccata, even dried turkey.
Traditionaly, Ticinese winemakers prefer merlot that yields a light fruity wine of good quality in good vintages.
Younger farmers now grow gewürztraminer, pinot noir, pinot blanc, chardonnay, pinot gris aka pinotgrigio in Italian or grauburgunder in German and cabernet franc for experimentation, but still 85 percent of the production is merlot, grown on terraced vineyards.
Ticinese and tourists often enjoy grappa and ratafia in these parts.
Travelling in Ticino will remind you of Italy, but offer Swiss hospitality, comfort, quality with matching prices.
Getting there: There direct flights to Zurich from most major North American cities.
Excellent train connections from Kloten airport in Zurich to Ticino will get you there in two hours.