Friday, March 8, 2013

Cascina Lasso and Vigevano

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will have realized that I do not often post about restaurant meals. For a variety of reasons, I might add.

The first being that I don't dine out half as much as my former self, the one without children. Exhaustion, the need to meticulously plan ahead and finances play a key role in that decision.

Secondly, dining out with a 3-year old and a 7-year old is just not that amusing. Granted it is getting easier every year, but however fun and delicious the experience might be, it is definitely not relaxing. It is all about cutting up food, mopping up spilled drinks, pulling out toys and books from your bag quicker than Mary Poppins, eating quickly and getting out before the people at the other table starts rolling their eyes at us. Not to mention multiple trips to the bathroom after a miniature member of the family loudly announces their need "to go" and exactly what category "needs to go" so that all the diners can hear.

However, although it is not a daily event, we do still go out. Our wining and dining can be split into categories.

a) Going out sans kids either means date night or having dinner with friends, but we are usually too busy knocking back cocktails and having adult conversation to remember to take pictures of what we are eating.
b) Going out with kids involves more casual affairs in child-friendly environments, often local hang outs, usually at lunchtime, that are good'n'all, but not something to write home post about.

The other reason I don't post much, truth be told, is that I hate being that person taking pictures of her food in a fancy restaurant. I admire all of you great food bloggers who entertain us daily with your  fantastic food and restaurant shots all over the world, but I just don't have the guts. I am incapable of shrugging off what other people are thinking: I don't feel comfortable when waiters sniff at me, when other tables watch me disapprovingly or with mild curiousity. I hate making others at the table wait for me to snap the picture because I feel rushed. I would die of embarassement if someone came to my table to tell me pictures aren't allowed and (it makes me cringe to admit this) I don't want to pass for that person who has never dined in a nice restaurant and absolutely needs to send pictures home, as shallow and silly as that may sound. And let us not forget the impossibility of taking a decent pictures (inconspicuously or not) at night. How do you do it?

I admit I have tried on various occasions and all of them have failed: bad lighting, bad angle, bad shots. I just end up throwing away the god-awful pictures I took hiding under a napkin or behind a menu each and every time.

I have embraced the fact that I will never be that person who demands a table by the window to get the perfect shot and that jumps up to get a great angle. I am just not that bold. I only snap pics when I am in totally casual sorroundings or positive that I am in no way disturbing anybody's sensibility by taking pictures. And of course the meal has to be worth it. Not an easy combination.

Last week end was the perfect example. We went for a drive: the weather was reasonably decent after some days of snow and rain, the kids needed to get rid of some pent up energy and my mother had never been to Vigevano, a somewhat hidden jewel in the province of Pavia. Surrounded by the famed rice paddies of the Lomellina, that produces the best risotto rice in the world, lies this dormant town with one of Italy's most beautiful examples of Renaissance  piazza, presumbly designed (together with the tower) by Bramante. The castle was originally a fortress and hunting lodge for the Visconti family and then renovated by the Sforza family.
Upon arrival, not only were we delighted by the beauty of the Piazza Ducale, with its frescoed arcades, but also surprised by the replica of an old carousel that the kids (and I in tow) rode on before walking up to the tower and castle.

Once we had worked up an appetite, we got back into the car and drove just a few minutes to Cascina Lasso, in the Parco Naturale del Ticino, a park and protected area in the Ticino valley. Cascina is the word used in Northern Italy, usually Lombardy and Piedmont, to describe a working farmhouse, with or without livestock.

Cascina Lasso has been owned and run by the same family since the early 1900s. A family of four lives there now: the husband farms the land and takes care of the animals, while the wife, a mother of two, is a gracious hostess in the restaurant, that is only open on week ends, when they hire extra help to cook and serve clients. Most of the food they serve is grown on the farm and what isn't they acquire from neighboring farmers. This guarantees a meal that is extremely fresh and seasonal for a comparatively low price for the Milan area.

The meal consists in several courses, so be warned and come hungry! The restaurant is located in the renovated barn, on two floors and is charming and cozy in its rustic simplicity (and extremely clean!).

Antipasto 1: homecured meats (salami, coppa and ham) accompanied by homemade warm focaccia

Antipasto 2: cotechino on the right (cooked salami), mortadella di fegato on the left (made with liver) and a pumpkin and ginger purée.

Antipasto 3: potato croquettes on a bed of gorgonzola
Antipasto 4: quiche made with their eggs and garden vegetables

Risotto primavera with basil cream (carnaroli rice)

Homemade lasagna

Braised beef (from their cows) and roast potatoes with rosemary
Creme caramel

Crostata with custard and oranges, torta paradiso and chocolate cake with vanilla sauce
Note my daughter's pre-digital broken camera in the background to photograpgh the food (I wonder who she got that from?)
The place is perfect for children: there is a plenty of grass for them to run around in, a soccer field (that admittedly has seen better days) and some swings and slides to keep them busy while you drink your digestifs and coffee.



After lunch, the best way to walk off the huge amounts of food is to visit the farm animals: they have dogs and cats (who seem to be extremely prolific considering there is a new litter every time we go), horses, ponies, goats, cows, pigs, chickens and roosters. Your kids can marvel at tractors and other farm equipment or look for sticks and pick wild flowers.

They were more than happy to provide us with doggy bags, not a given in Italy, and they also sell some of their products: honey, rice, cotechino, salami and more. I bought a 700gr salami for €17.
Price: €25,00 adults, €15,00 for children (beverages not included).
Can you tell we particularly liked the pigs?


  1. And not to make me to jealous and homesick!

  2. What a lovely day out with your family...thank you for sharing. Vigevano looks especially nice with the wonderful carrousel.

  3. Sounds like a lovely day. That piazza looks so beautiful, I can't believe we missed visiting when we had the chance... Well, I guess we still have the chance, but you know what I mean.

    By the way, I'm totally with you on restaurant blogging. I love to read those blogs but I could never do it, for all the same reasons!

    1. I know what you mean, but I am sure there will be more opportunities! Glad you feel the same way, I always wonder if it is just me.

  4. Thank you for telling us all about the Cascina Lasso. I go every so often to Vigevano, as i do research there. I look forward to eating at this wonderful restaurant!

    1. Hi bitercat8, let me know what you think if you go! Research in Vigevano... sounds interesting.

  5. Well done on your restaurant review! It can be a challenge, especially in areas where there aren't a lot of tourists or bloggers. And I love the little piggies, they are SO cute! :D

  6. We are off to Vigevano for lunch today. Unfortunately we won't have a car but next time we will go to Cascina Lasso for lunch. I know what you mean about photographing food but a quick shot and a restaurant recommendation can be very helpful. Grazie mille.


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