Just a short ferry ride from Bellagio along the legendary shores of Lake Como, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo creates a world unto itself. The striking art nouveau masterpiece harkens back to the Belle Époque when it served as a refined hideaway for French aristocrats, czarist Russian royalty and Italian nobility. Since its official opening as a hotel in the early 1900s, it has also hosted international celebrities like Greta Garbo and Cary Grant, as well as George Clooney, who has been known to take his coffee on the terrace.
As you step off the traghetto and move through the palatial lobby, with its Doric columns and plush velvet furniture, it’s immediately clear why this hotel is considered by many to be the jewel of the “Riviera Delle Azalee.” Celebrated for its historic design and patrician elegance, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo has also begun to draw curious visitors for its gastronomic charms. And this past spring, the hotel unveiled its new state-of-the-art kitchen and fine dining restaurant, La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi, in homage to the late chef Gualtiero Marchesi, considered to be the "founder of modern Italian cuisine." A fixture at the hotel before his passing in 2017, Marchesi was the first Italian chef to obtain three MICHELIN stars and was beloved internationally for his mix of traditional cooking and modern technique. Now, his friends, collaborators and protégés hope to honor his legacy through an exceptional dining experience.
Following a recommendation from his friend, the sculptor Nicola Salvatore, Marchesi visited The Grand Hotel Tremezzo in 2011 and, according to legend, fell in love. The maestro saw in this gracious historic hotel an opportunity to open his dream restaurant and kitchen, developing a friendship and eventual partnership with the De Santis family, current owners of the hotel. Marchesi continued something of a residency at the Tremezzo, working closely with its chef, Osvaldo Presazzi, on crafting the hotel’s fresh, seasonal dishes. When the maestro passed away in the winter of 2017, the hotel, determined to honor his wishes and culinary legacy, redesigned the kitchen. This spring the space reopened, showcasing Carrara and French red marble, Venetian terrazzo flooring, ceramic walls embellished with copper and boasting the latest cooking and preservation technologies. “We had to dig into the hill to make room for the kitchen,” explains Valentina De Santis, the third generation in her family to run the hotel. To build the spacious, efficient and visually striking kitchen, the team also removed part of the back office of the hotel and the previous cafeteria. “It was a challenge, but in the end we did it, and we did it the grand way,” she says, citing the stunning views and advanced culinary techniques made possible by the new space.
Under Presazzi, the menu honors the late chef’s legacy by offering signature dishes like red and black spaghetti with caviar, veal fillet with foie gras and black truffle, Marchesi’s famous saffron risotto topped with 23-karat gold leaf and a tasting menu adapted to the changing seasons. “Since the moment I met him in autumn 2010, my way of cooking was revolutionized,” says Presazzi. “Little by little, I began to embrace Marchesi’s principles,” he explains, recognizing the late chef’s emphasis on the importance of local, seasonal ingredients and cooking techniques native to Northern Italy. “He passed down a great respect of ingredients in made-to-order dishes,” says Presazzi, who, in addition to his work at the GHT, has collaborated with the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, Hôtel Martinez and La Palme d’Or restaurants in Cannes and the Four Seasons Hotel in Milan. Presazzi says the new kitchen has enhanced the cooking experience for chefs—almost all stations now overlook the water—and inspires tours of its kitchen. “We are no longer just the behind-the-scenes team, we now interact with our guests,” he says. Today, La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi is the only restaurant in Italy to offer Marchesi’s signature dishes.
In addition to La Terrazza, the hotel also provides a relaxed eatery, L’Escale Trattoria & Wine Bar; the T Bar, a jewel-toned seating area outfitted in the famous Como silks of the Ratti family; T Pizza, featuring pizza made in an authentic wood oven; and T Beach, an open-air barbecue on the sands of the Palace beach overlooking the famous Villa Carlotta. In the Regina Room, an ornately upholstered dining space opening onto a large terrace with sweeping views, the Terrazzo serves a lavish buffet breakfast of locally cured meats and cheeses, egg dishes and omelettes to order, fresh seasonal fruit and traditional Italian pastries.
"One of our core values at the Grand is to make our guests experience the Italianness,” says Valentina De Santis. “It’s a stereotype, but it’s true: in Italy, there is simply nothing more important than food.” And in building the new space, the team hopes to have finally realized the Maestro’s dream. “He always said that the kitchen had to make the many hours the chefs spend at work more pleasant,” she jokes. Having enjoyed a morning in the kitchen watching boats sail past, as fresh pasta was prepared by hand, we imagine Marchesi would be proud to see his dream come true.
Photos courtesy of Grand Hotel Tremezzo.