Vol. 2 in an ongoing series dedicated to hotel bars and bistros that are destinations in their own right.
Lake Como is a breathtaking sight to be seen. And the rooftop perch of Terrazza 241 is one of the best places from which to see it. Have a seat on their alfresco terrace and there’s nothing to obstruct your views of the iconic waterway, stretching outward into sharp mountain valleys in the distance. This is the Italy of postcards and cinema and you’re somehow suspended within it.
Oh yeah, the food and drink isn’t too shabby, either.
Let’s start with the cocktails. The alcoholic offerings are divided into one of two camps: The Untouchable, with a strong focus on preparation, and Habitat—denoting the more ingredient-driven drinks. Informative iconography on the menu gauges the sweetness and strength of each selection while also identifying the vessel format in which each is served. The Smoked Negroni is a crowd favorite; this is Italy, after all. It arrives on the table under a glass bell, a smoldering cloud of thyme smokes within. The gin at its core is infused for several days in a combination of the herb along with orange zest. It allows added depth and an unctuous tail to penetrate each embittered sip.
Blue Jeans is an inspired original described as a “cocktail with two souls.” The sweet and gently bitter kiss of vermouth and Campari is offset by roast and anis courtesy of fennel, coffee and licorice.
Oasis is a standout sipper from the Habitat side of the menu. It’s built upon an earthy Agricole rhum infused with Rajasthan tea. Layered on top are lemongrass, Frangelico liqueur and a coconut foam. It goes down sweet but with ample structure and complexity.
For the edible fare, Terrazza 241 turns to executive chef Stefano Ghielmetti for dishes that pair with the panorama. “The inspiration is modern European cooking,” explains the Lake Como native. “It’s not just Italian food. I like to work with South American and Asian influences. And I want to make sure that vegetables always play an important role.”
To that last point, his ‘Vertical Garden’ is a seasonally rotating showcase of the local flora. The chef also devised a vegetarian ‘poke’, which utilizes mango, avocado and black rice as savory stand-in for raw seafood. But he clearly has no problems working with the genuine article, as evidenced by his Lobster Spaghettoni, in which thick noodles are bathed in a bisque loaded with the crustacean—and Italian sparkling wine.
For lighter offerings you can opt for an afternoon ‘tea’, where a traditional sandwich tray is instead filled with an assortment of Italian cicchetti. During the summer, Ghielmetti’s innovative arrangements can be enjoyed alongside the property’s infinity-edge rooftop pool, as live DJs set the mood.
The seven floors below Terrazza belong to the Hilton Lake Como, where most suites boast a balcony with views quite similar to what you’ll observe from the roof. Rates start at $600 per night during high season. The hotel’s stunning presidential suite holds one of the largest outdoor patios anywhere in the region. It starts at $4000 per night, but can sleep up to four in two king size rooms.
There is just one way to get a better view of the lake than from here. And happily the hotel provides a special opportunity to access it: the Hilton Lake Como enjoys a special relationship with the neighboring Aeroclub, the world’s oldest seaplane operation, founded in 1930. Their hangar is just a short walk from the lobby and you can book a 45 minute flight with the concierge, starting at $250 per person.
Your ride takes off from the lake and zooms up its southwestern arm, circling high above the legendary promenade of Bellagio. If you’re looking for a way to elevate your Italian vacation into the realm of unforgettable, look no further. But they won’t let you sip smoked Negronis onboard, sadly. For that particular sort of indulgence around here nothing soars higher than Terrazza 241.