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The best chefs and restaurants in South Tyrol

The best chefs and restaurants in South Tyrol

by Great Italian Chefs 18 April 2016

Our definitive guide to the people and places that are making this part of Italy one of the most important culinary hotspots in Europe covers everything you need to know about this beautiful mountainous region.

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The more you learn about South Tyrol – Italy’s most northerly region, bordered by Austria – the more you realise that it’s one of the best kept foodie secrets in all of Europe. While the area has always been popular with tourists, this was usually thanks to the ski resorts dotted throughout its stunning alpine landscape. But for many years, it has also been home to more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else in Italy. Combine that with the incredible wine, incredible views, unique foraged ingredients and a slew of PDO-protected products and you’ve got a must-visit region for anyone interested in food.

With twenty-three Michelin stars across nineteen restaurants, it’s clear that the chefs are the ones who are driving this incredible local food scene. Many of them take foraged ingredients unique to South Tyrol and cook them using modern techniques, marrying traditional flavours with truly innovative cooking.

Thanks to the region’s proximity to Austria (over half the population speaks Austrian German as a first language), dishes are influenced by both Italian and Germanic cultures, while the cold, mountainous landscape means food is often hearty, earthy and warming. The genius behind many of South Tyrol’s chefs is the way they take these flavours and present them in a refined, elegant way.

Read on to find out more about some of the chefs bringing South Tyrolean food to the international stage, as well as the best places to eat in the region – you’ll soon realise why this remote alpine area is quickly becoming a bucket list location for foodies worldwide.

Norbert Niederkofler – St Hubertus

If there’s one person who can be thanked for bringing South Tyrol’s food to the fore, it’s Norbert Niederkofler. As a born and raised South Tyrolean, he’s always been surrounded by the wild berries, fish and herbs that have come to represent the region’s cuisine.

However, it wasn’t until travelling around the world that Norbert realised how special the food and drink of South Tyrol truly was. He returned home to open a small restaurant with the sole purpose of celebrating local ingredients, refusing to put anything on his menu that wasn’t grown, reared or produced locally. This gave birth to a cooking philosophy called ‘Cook The Mountain’ which soon became famous throughout Italy, and Norbert was awarded two Michelin stars for his incredible cooking.

Norbert’s restaurant St Hubertus is based at the Rosa Alpina mountain retreat in San Cassiano, a town with less than a thousand residents. It’s South Tyrolean through and through – stag heads on the walls, a roaring fire to keep the cold at bay, a small number of rustic yet immaculately presented tables – and every dinner is preceded by glasses of local wine and salumi with Norbert. If you’re after the ultimate example of why South Tyrol’s food is so special, you can’t do better than a meal at St Hubertus.

Heinrich Schneider – Terra (Auener Hof)

Another local who decided to dedicate his life to food is Heinrich Schneider, whose childhood obsession with the wilderness led to the discovery of all sorts of herbs, plants and wild vegetables which now feature in the dishes at his restaurant, Terra. With one Michelin star and a style of cooking reminiscent of René Redzepi’s work at the legendary Noma, Heinrich shares many of the beliefs and philosophies of Norbert – to celebrate local ingredients and push South Tyrol’s unique cuisine to new heights.

As an expert forager, many of the ingredients in Heinrich’s dishes can’t be bought – they can only be found growing wild in secluded spots throughout the mountains. Herbs like Lady’s Mantle, Silene and Iceland Moss are just a few examples of the fifty rare ingredients he likes to use throughout the year, preserving many of them so they can still be served out of season. The dishes themselves are often otherworldly, making a table at Terra a truly coveted thing among diners wanting to experience something completely new.

Gerhard Wieser – Trenkerstube (Hotel Castel)

Gerhard Wieser is a chef that really knows how to combine tradition and innovation. At his two Michelin-starred restaurant Trenkerstube (named after the Italian film star and mountaineer Luis Trenker) he takes the robust, hearty dishes of South Tyrol and combines them with light Mediterranean flavours; a perfect combination of northern and southern Italian cuisine.

Martin Obermarzoner – Jasmin (Hotel Bischofshof)

Continuing the two-starred chef line-up is Martin Obermarzoner, who bases the majority of his dishes on produce grown in Hotel Bischofshof’s own kitchen garden. He takes a look at what’s ready to be picked and combines it with the finest ingredients from all over the world, creating stunning menus presented like works of art. Since 2011 he has held two Michelin stars, and the hotel is the perfect place to spend a few nights nestled within the incredible Dolomite mountains.

Matteo Mettulio – La Siriola

An alumnus of Norbert Niederkofler, Matteo Mettulio may not have grown up in South Tyrol but he has made the region his home. He doesn’t restrict himself to using nothing but local produce – with a very Mediterranean cooking style, he happily gets the best meat from Piedmont, fish from Veneto and lemons from the Amalfi Coast, serving them alongside local ingredients. He’s also passionate about Asian flavours – it’s not uncommon to find matcha, wasabi or yuzu on his menu at the Michelin-starred La Siriola.

South Tyrol
The incredible South Tyrolean landscape is wild, remote and home to all sorts of indigenous ingredients
Vineyards
The region also produces some very special wines thanks to its unique climate and high altitudes

Other places to eat

Pretzhof, Val di Vizze – this rustic family-owned tavern set in the beautiful Val di Vizze valley dates back to the seventeenth century. All the meat on the menu comes from the family’s own farm, and there’s a wine shop and butchery if you fancy taking a taste of South Tyrol back home with you. www.pretzhof.com

357, Merano – while South Tyrol has a cuisine unlike any other region of Italy, the locals still enjoy a good pizza. With fantastic relationships with every single one of their producers, the team at 357 – headed up by Michelin-starred chef Andrea Fenoglio – offers some incredible food at very good prices. trecinquesette.it

Culinaria im Farmerkreuz, Tirolo – overlooking the bowl of Merano and Tirolo Castle, this informal restaurant has a terrace boasting some of the most spectacular views in all of South Tyrol. The food is immaculately refined, taking inspiration from both the local area and further afield. www.culinaria-im-farmerkreuz.it

Gompm Alm, Scena – right in the heart of South Tyrol’s hiking country, Gompm Alm is the perfect place to enjoy a gourmet breakfast before a day out on the mountains. The kitchen also puts together food baskets for picnics, if you want to take some away with you. www.gompmalm.it

Südtiroler Gasthaus – this group of traditional inns found throughout the region are of the highest quality, serving traditional dishes alongside local beers and wines. If you want a rustic, hearty meal that’s typical of the area, any of these taverns are guaranteed to please. www.gasthaus.it/

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