Many are the dishes that can be prepared using fish caught in Lake Garda
It is a vital ingredient of Garda cuisine, used as ragù for first dishes, or served as starters or second dish.
In the past, no family went without alborella (also called agole or aole), small fish that fed the entire fish food chain of the Garda, and were fished in abundance. Fishers from Alto Garda Veneto still tell of lucky fishing nights when you could even catch a ton!
Today they have nearly disappeared, and to see them you have to visit the Museo del Lago di Cassone, in the Malcesine area. Here they have two tanks with various specimens of this fish, which spawns on the lake floor near the shore, which the fishermen call their “nuptial bed”. This habitat is now too busy and crowded, and therefore unsuitable for reproduction.
The famous salmo carpio too is difficult to find nowadays. It was introduced in the Garda as a scientific experiment, and immediately started competing with the coregonus lavaretus, another fish from the salmon family. The salmo carpio feeds off plankton, more abundant in the past than now, especially in the lower part of the lake, and spawns on stony ground at about 100-150 metres depth, where the waters are icy cold.
Today, the most fished are tench, trout and coregonus lavaretus. The latter is the most sold at the moment, and we suggest you try it in its simplest form: grilled with a drop of extra-virgin Garda DOP olive oil.
Also pike and pilchards have a major role in the culinary tradition of this land.
Luccio in salsa alla gardesana – Pike with Garda sauce
As the name suggests, it is a typical recipe of the Garda area, and uses a fish that is all the rage: pike. First boiled for 15 minutes, it is then strained, cleaned and plated. It is then dressed with a sauce made with onions stewed in extra-virgin Garda DOP olive oil, later adding garlic, finely chopped anchovies, capers and parsley. You can eat the pike on the spot, or let it rest in the fridge, so it better absorbs its condiment.
Sarde del Garda in saor, alla griglia o fritte – Garda pilchards in saor, grilled or fried
The sarde in saor, rigorously from our lake, are fried and served as starters, with onions stewed in vinegar, then caramelized with pine nuts and raisins. In this way, the Venetian fishermen, away for long periods, excellently preserved fried fish for days. Still today the fish is left to rest at least a day before serving it, to better appreciate its peculiar taste.
Another way to enjoy pilchards and their true taste is to fry them breaded in extra-virgin Garda DOP olive oil, or you can grill them and dress them with a drop of oil to enhance the taste.
Lavarello alla griglia – Grilled coregonous
Usually underrated because thought less tasty compared to more famed sea fish like bream or bass, coregonous has a big surprise in store for the uninitiated. Its meat is excellent, tasty and full of flavour, and the best way to appreciate it is grilled, with a drop of extra-virgin Garda DOP olive oil. We suggest you drink one of the land’s whites with it, like Lugana or Custoza, or even with some Chiaretto!
Filetti di pesce persico fritti o in padella – Perch fillets fried or pan roasted You’ll find this dish in restaurants’ menus the whole year round. You can try the lighter summer version (the fillets are pan roasted or baked with small tomatoes, zucchini, olives and mint leaves), or the more traditional one: fried.
The secret for a perfect fry is to use olive oil and coat the fillets in breadcrumbs made from finely grated common bread that is like bread flour, this way you don’t need either eggs or flour.