Expat-Italian South Londoner Ivan met Sabina in London while learning his trade, but it would not be long before they came back to Italy and took over a decaying ruin on the top of the mountain, to transform it into one of the best known restaurants in Piedmont.
The villa was built in 1880 as a hunting lodge, and was a private house until Donna Maura, Mayor of Stresa, bought it in 1952 and donated it to the church for use as a children’s holiday house. It was Donna Maura who named the villa after her nephew Edoardo Pizzini, who had died at the age of 8.
When Ivan and Sabina found the villa, it had been abandoned for many years, and they undertook extensive renovations to turn it into the special place that it is today. For them, the priority was to create a new lifestyle for themselves, and to share Sabina’s growing talents as a chef with visitors to Mottarone. Seating only 20 diners, who can stay in one of the five bedrooms with views of the woodland and lake below, the restaurant provides a chance to sample the best of Piedmontese traditional cooking, served with contemporary flair and the pick of the substantial wine list.
Ivan writes: “All of our dishes are prepared daily by our chef, starting from pasta and bread that are made every morning, going through filling sauces, all the way to desserts, everything is strictly homemade. We follow tradition but most importantly the seasons, this because we work mostly with our gardens for fruit and vegetables. We also forage a lot of our ingredients in our woods, mountains and valleys.
“It’s difficult to name a signature dish as we only work with seasonal ingredients and therefore the recipes change all the time, but to name a couple: Agnolotti “Cavour” filled with meat and sauteed with Mottarone butter, parmesan and sage; and the Ravioli with liquid heart of Parmigiano Reggiano 36-months old!
“We are lucky enough to live in an area really rich in ingredients, among these, grapes – which also means wine! The closest areas to us are Boca, Gattinara, Ghemme, Fara, Lessona, Coste della Sesia and Bramaterra, all of which offer amazing and really different wines. Piemonte is famous worldwide for its Barolo, Barbaresco and Nebbiolo, but we are going to show you that the “high Piemonte” has incredible resources comparable to better-known Alba and Langhe.”