There is something special about al fresco dining, especially when it involves sweeping lake views, terraces surrounded by century-old trees and blooming flowers, and a nice fresh breeze coming from the nearby mountains.
With its bright yellow umbrellas, reclining chairs and lush vegetation, Grotto Descanso is located in a lovely position at the Cantine di Gandria, across the lake from Lugano. Here you can relax in the shade under the beautiful pergolas and enjoy a cold drink while taking in the views. The grotto also serves typical local cuisine and wines, perfect to quench your thirst on a hot summer day. Grotto Descanso is only reachable by boat, with a quick ferry ride from Lugano, or by water taxi.
Chalet San Giorgio
Chalets are usually associated with mountain peaks, but in Brusino you will find a typical Swiss chalet right on the shore of Lake Lugano. Reachable both by car and boat, Chalet San Giorgio features shabby chic furnishings, a large terrace and incredible views of Morcote just across the lake, which has been voted the most beautiful village in Switzerland. The menu is varied and there are food options – such as pizza – for those travelling with kids.
A vintage lakeside hotel and restaurant, Stella d’Italia is located in San Mamete, on the Italian shore of Lake Lugano. The original furnishings from the 1950s give it a unique atmosphere and the large outdoor terrace, lined with lush ivy, is the perfect place to enjoy a seafood lunch. Stella d’Italia prides itself on serving refined, locally sourced dishes such as the sautéed perch with risotto, which is a real delight.
A very traditional grotto with a small but pretty terrace, Pojana is the perfect spot for a quiet lunch or dinner by the lakeshore. Some tables sit under large trees outside, while others are in the dining room, which has an airy feel thanks to its large windows. The menu is traditional and yet has very sophisticated and original touches: the pasta dishes, especially, and the fried fish, which is freshly sourced from the lake, are local favourites.
Il Crotto del Lago
A family-run restaurant on the Italian shore of Lake Lugano, Il Crotto del Lago has been a popular destination with locals and tourists alike for many years. Easy to reach by both car and boat, it features a large garden and terrace, with tall century-old trees that cast their shadow over the tables. The cuisine is typical northern Italian, with both freshwater fish and seafood options, as well as meat. Their speciality, the “trionfo di spaghetti”, is the largest and most delicious shellfish pasta you will ever try.
Grotto dei Pescatori
Only reachable by private boat or by taking a ferry from Lugano, Grotto Dei Pescatori is a delightful place with traditional granite tables and benches, picture-perfect views, and blooming flowers all around. The cuisine is based on local favourites such as pasta with locally caught fish and sautéed perch, and the dishes are prepared with an incredible eye for detail and only the freshest ingredients. The wine selection, too, is worth checking out.
Osteria del Carde
This wonderful spot on the strait in Lavena changed owners a few years back and has become the go-to place for young gourmands ever since. The menu at Osteria del Carde is modern and varied with many seafood dishes, including carpaccios and shellfish as well as pizza, and the atmosphere is equally good, with smiling, competent servers and very pretty water views. The restaurant, located on the Italian shore of the lake, can easily be reached by car and by boat and provides parking for both.