Story: Melide: between lake and cellars

I was not partial to lake fish

In Melide, Lake Lugano's fishermen's paradise, Gabriella prepares appetising dinners using local ingredients: 0 km and sometimes even closer!

For guests of Swisstavolata at her historic wine cellar, enjoying her “Nidi di coregone” or “Agon in bogia” is a treat for all the senses.

THE CHARACTER

Gabriella Monfredini Rigiani, host swisstavolata.ch

Gabriella Monfredini Rigiani, host swisstavolata.ch
As a child I only ate bleak and sunfish, then, one day, I tried a pike Venetian style ... and it was really delicious!

5 am. The alarm rings. But who talked us into this? Now we're awake: let's go and catch our fish for dinner. It's still night, but dawn is coming and the water is calm and flat as if it were still sleeping. Trout, pike, whitefish and many other kinds of fish abound in Lake Lugano, especially in front of Melide. Gabriella Monfredini Rigiani knows this well, as her life is bound to the water and the lake.

Raised in Melide she began fishing when she was 5, following the example of her mother, a fishing enthusiast. Later on, she was the only one using the boat that her father bought and, later still, she worked for years as a guide on the boats of Lake Lugano Navigation Company. Did her relationship with the lake end after that? Of course not! Quite the contrary!

Gabriella likes to row and that's always useful on a boat, especially if the owner is a fisherman who needs to cast or draw in the nets. Gabriella has a pleasant personality, always with a smile on her face. She has so much to tell and her floral clothing is like a breath of spring.

To properly experience the lake, you need to be there and breathe in the scent of the air, while swaying quietly on the water perched on the fibreglass bench of a Gandria, the kind of boat mostly used by fishermen, but also by many locals who like to go out on the lake in the evening after work or on Sunday.

 

From the lake, you see the world with different eyes: looking at her Melide overlooking the lake, she makes out the Garni hotel on the lakefront and looks for the cellars hidden behind the main road.

Many people have already heard about the cellars in Gandria, now 'occupied' by grottos serving guests who want to eat a local dish in a beautiful setting, but did you know about the cellars in Melide?

I was the last guide in flesh and blood on the boats of Lake Lugano Navigation Company, after me they used a cassette!

The origin of the cellars is lost in the mists of time, but they have been an important factor in the town's history. Over the centuries, Melide made its fortune on trade, transport, industry (cigars, beer, bells, etc.) and, eventually, tourism. In the cellars, wine and food were kept cool, friends and buyers met there to be in good company (and some soon became taverns) a place to enjoy a good fish from the lake.

Pro tip
To taste what the lake has to offer you can go to Gabriella's cellar thanks to swisstavolata.ch.
Thanks to the air coming from the bowels of the earth, cellars, grottos and nevere keep everything cool in the summer and prevents temperature from falling below zero in the winter.
Merchants, travellers and pilgrims used to cross the lake between Melide and Bissone before the construction of the bridge-dam in 1847.

As we will too! Ready for baked trout en papillote?
Gabriella prepares the fish caught this morning at dawn, but now her focus is on the oven in her splendid cellar.

Let us mention another tasty detail. Right in front of the place where she welcomes guests of Swisstavolata – a project that in Switzerland brings tourists and locals into the kitchens of rural female farmers, fisherwomen and cooks to enjoy Swiss cuisine using local products – there is a vegetable garden with plants loaded with tomatoes, luxuriant basil and fragrant aromatic herbs.

Some of the ingredients of Gabriella's exquisite cuisine come precisely from this plot of land that is cultivated with love by her mother Bruna.

“I enjoy helping people know better kinds of fish, different tastes and flavours that are little known, but are very important in our region.”

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And to think that as a child Gabi didn't like fish and only ate bleak and sunfish. Then, one day, her mother caught a huge pike and her grandmother cooked it Venetian style... and “it was really delicious!”, Gabriella assures us with a smile. So, let's not let the dish cool off: a little white merlot in your glass and “enjoy!”.

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