Courtesy Villa d'Este

 Frank Sinatra and Ava Garnder’s first visit to Villa d’Este was in the 1950’s.  I love the story about a favorite new dish enjoyed during their stay.

Courtesy Google Images

 “The (artichoke risotto)  is a risotto that for many years could only be made during the artichoke season, which is the month of March. That was true in the days when Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner visited Villa d’Este. Of course Frank was of Italian descent, but he hadn’t actually visited Italy until he came to Villa d’Este. At this point he was too famous to travel incognito, so he needed a place like Villa d’Este to which he could retreat in comfort. Add to that the brewing scandal with Ava Gardner, and he had very few options – especially if he wanted to visit Italy.

So during the early 1950’s, they arrived in a flurry at Villa d’Este ready to partake of Italian fare. They were offered risotto at the formal Verandah Restaurant – the staff wanted to make sure they had an authentic northern Italian experience. Sinatra was dubious; Gardner was willing – so the very special seasonal Risotto with Artichokes was prepared and offered in a formal flourish.

The diners were ecstatic. Who could not love Risotto con Carciofi (with artichokes)?  In fact, from that time on, when Sinatra returned (always, alas, sans Gardner), he made sure to make his first stop the formal Verandah (restaurant at Villa d’Este) and his first bite was Risotto con Carciofi!”

 Why not try  the recipe (on this blog)  for risotto with artichokes and see what what created all the fuss.



Jean Govoni Salvadore and Executive Chef Luciano Parolari  collaborated to share stories and recipes from Villa d’Este in their book, “Tales of Risotto.” Ms. Salvadore has been Public Relations Director at Villa d’Este for nearly 40 years and still lives at the hotel. Wouldn’t you  love to have dinner and listen to the stories these two might tell over a wonderful meal of risotto?



– The Gourmet Review





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