Valchiavenna: gone to the ‘crott’

Gone to the what? Back in the old days, and still today, a crotto (or crott in lombard dialect), was a natural cave formed as a result of a landslide. Cold air streaming through cracks in the rocks allowed the cave to breath, maintaining an environment of 4-8°C that was ideal for storing foods such as cheese, wine and dried meats. These locations eventually gave way to restaurants where people could come to savor the local dishes, and crotti establishments abound in Valchiavenna, Lake Como and the swiss canton of Ticino (incidentally, crotto is called grotto there). I’ve always known about crotti since moving to this area, but the idea of dining at one never crossed my mind until recently.

Crotto Quartino

The more elaborate crotti will have a wider menu to choose from, but as an ambitious, impulsive, come-on-let’s-go-find-some-snow effort during the first week of 2012, we drove 50 miles north to Crotto Quartino in Santa Croce di Piuro. This place definitely looks the part with green moss growing everywhere and even on the roof, but once inside, the ambience is suddenly inviting with a fireplace smack in the middle of the room and light streaming in from large windows. The menu is as simple as it gets: salumi, chiavenna-style pizzoccheri, polenta, cheese, grilled veggies, ribs and sausages. Plates range in prices from 3-9€ and coperto/bread only 1€ per person. We ordered a half liter of wine to go with several dishes plus coffee and housemades dessert to end the meal. Total: 42.50€. Unfortunately no dogs allowed inside and FYI (because some people like to know) – turkish-style toilets.

Lunch at the crott
Salumi with pickled onions; grilled peppers and zukes.

Pizzoccheri chiavenna-style
Pizzoccheri chiavenna-style: flour, milk and bread dumplings (gnocchetti) served with cheese and butter.

Lunch at the crott
Grilled sausages, potatoes and an order of sciatt that are cubes of the local cheese dipped in a buckwheat flour batter and fried. Awesome stuff.

Lunch at the crotto
A simple cake (it had the flavor of anise) made inhouse and the locally produced cookies from Prosto that reminded me of butter shortbread.

Crotto Quartino
Strada dei Quartini, 5, Santa Croce di Piuro (Sondrio) | no credit cards


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