Where to eat in Lugano
Where to eat in Lugano last updated: 2nd September 2019
The minute I know we are heading to Lugano, I start to plan where we will eat. I love Italian food, even better is I can get a good dose of it without having to cross the border into Italy. Pizza and pasta, for some reason, tastes better served to the sounds of the melodic Italian language.
But where to eat in Lugano?
Over the past 17 or so years we have been visiting Ticino's largest city, we've been able create quite a list of our very favourites restaurants. Some of them are touristy, with menus in many languages. Others only found by detouring off the main tourist path and require google translate. But all are restaurants I would take my kids. I hope this list helps you find your new favourite restaurant the visiting Lugano.
In Lugano city centre
FUSS-FREE FAMILY DINING
RISTORANTE PIZZERIA CANTINONE, PIAZZA CIOCCARO, LUGANO, +41 91 923 10 68
Located in a quiet piazza behind the department store Manor, Cantinone has been a family favourite for years. Wood-fired pizzas and delicious Osso Bucco with risotto are amongst our favourite dishes here. It was here we told my in-laws of our plans to get married all those years ago.
Catinone would probably rank as one of our top family-friendly picks in Lugano thanks to its quiet piazza location. The kids can run around in the piazza while you enjoy a pre-dinner drink or homemade Tiramisu dessert.
UNUSUAL AND AUTHENTIC LOCATION
LA TINERA, VIA DEI GIRONI 2, LUGANO. +41 91 923 5219
My in-laws affectionately refer to this underground restaurant as the "Loch" (translated to “the hole in the ground”), and if you aren't observant, you will walk straight by it. Located just off the main Piazza, it wasn't until my mother-in-law's 70th birthday that I go to taste what they have been raving about for years. Sit back and enjoy the hospitality of the two owner brothers while drinking Ticino Merlot out of Boccolinos (traditional ceramic jug-like mugs) and ask for the daily special. Finish your meal off with a homemade dessert and an oh so smooth Grappa. A word of warning, no pizzas here, your kids will have to eat of the main menu.
TOP LOCAL SPOT
TRATTORIA GALLERIA, VIA CARDUCCI 4, LUGANO, +41 91 922 2415
You wouldn’t stumble upon this tucked away restaurant unless you wandered off the main Lugano streets. Choose between dining under the cool gallery arches or a table inside their (also air-conditioned!) restaurant. The kids loved the pizzas and fresh but straightforward tomato spaghetti and us adults are still dreaming of our shellfish pasta. The staff are welcoming and patient. Best to book a table as it can fill up quickly, especially on weekends.
FOR GOOD PASTA
SPAGHETTI STORE, PIAZZA REZZONICO 7, LUGANO, +41 91 922 2060
On the main road in Lugano which divides the city from the lake, you will find the Spaghetti Store. While nothing overly special, this restaurant is perfect for families who are looking for a varied menu. From an extensive and creative pasta menu to pizzas, there is something for every family member. Our kids were put on a pedestal here, with the staff interacting every time they walked past. They speak good English and German here as well.
MANOR RESTAURANT, SALITA M. e A. CHIATTONE 10, LUGANO
Sometimes when travelling all you need is something easy and quick and Manor Restaurant ticks both of these boxes in a predictable way. Their self-service buffet-style restaurant with salads, vegetables, main meals and desserts are great for a quick lunch or snack with the bonus of any outdoor playground for the kids. While there are Manor Restaurants all over Switzerland, this one certainly has an Italian focus. Despite it getting busy over lunch, we still found a spot to eat in the outside area.
GABANNI, VIA PESSINA 12, PIAZZA CIOCCARO 1, LUGANO
Outside underneath the hanging salamis of the Gabanni Butcher is where you will find the best sandwiches in Lugano. These are not your standard sandwiches! While you can find classics like tomato and mozzarella, you will find unique flavours such as deep-fried eggplant and prosciutto as well. Sandwiches start from around 7chf and best eaten by the lake while taking in the views.
In Lugano Paradiso
For NAPOLI PIZZA
VERACE, VIA GUISAN 16, LUGANO- PARADISO, +41 91 993 0323
Craving pizza after coming down from San Salvatore? Then consider stopping off for a meal at Restaurant Verace. While they do have other options, come to Verace for their traditional Napoli styled pizzas (thick outer crust, thin base, lots of sauce). A word to the wise: don’t come here if you are in a hurry! Minimalist staffing means your orders can take a while. But in my opinion, it’s well worth the wait, and hey—I’m on holiday, so I’ve got nowhere better to be!
FOR AUTHENTIC EATS
CANVETTO FEDERALE, VIA AI GROTTI 3, LUGANO PARADISO, +41 91 993 1588
By far my most favourite restaurant in Lugano, and not just because its only a short walk from our home base. We mistakenly avoided this restaurant for years based on its limited curb appeal next to the Lugano-Paradiso train station. But after just one meal here I knew it would become a regular.
Choose from the seasonal dishes handwritten on the chalkboard in Italian or from the smaller menu which is available in English and German. I highly suggest to preload your Google Translate app and go for something off the chalkboard. I loved my homemade pasta topped with lobster, but the fish is also excellent. There isn’t a specific kid’s menu, but they are more than happy to make a smaller pizza or pasta dish.
While the food is excellent, it is that “Cheers” feeling - where everyone knows your name - that keeps me coming back time and time again. Despite visiting only 2 or 3 times a year, the Sigora greets me with a familiar smile every time.
Eat with the locals
Osteria Calprino, Via Carona 28, LUGANO PARADISO, +41 79 554 1938
It has taken us 16 years to finally eat at this Osteria, located on the main road winding up to Carona in the suburbs of Lugano Paradiso. Enjoy a meal cooked over the grill with the locals or choose something more traditional like Osso Bucco or Polenta. Google translate comes in handy here, too, as the staff only speak Italian.
FOR the “WOW” FACTOR
CAPO SAN MOSTINO, VIA CANTONALE, LUGANO, +41 91 994 1531
Considering Lugano is set on the lake, it’s surprising that there are very few restaurants that boast lake views. So if you are looking for a restaurant with the “wow” factor, consider a visit to Capo San Mostino. While the fancy white table clothed restaurant serves everything from pizzas to higher-priced meals, it isn't the food drawing the crowds. Set on a rocky outcrop high above the lake between Lugano and Melida, you come to Capo San Mostino for the view. Unfortunately, I have heard recently of a couple of disappointing experiences, which I do hope are a one-off.
Around the lake
By boat only
GROTTO TERESA, BOAT STOP CANTINE DE GANDRIA, +41 91 923 5895
My dream is to spend a week hoping between (only accessible) by boat Grottos on the shores opposite Lugano. Up until now, we've only made it to one, Grotto Teresa. We loved sitting under the shade of the trees drinking red wine out of Boccolinos anticipating the meal of polenta and grilled pork ribs. Get off the boat at Cantine de Gandria. Note: Since we visited, I have learned that Grotto Teresa is under new management. Fingers crossed the food has stayed as good!
Between Gandria and Lugano
RISTORANTE ELVEZIA AL LAGO, BOAT STOP GROTTO ELVERZIA, +41 91 971 4451
On the Lugano side of the lake walking back from Gandria to Lugano you will stumble upon Grotto Elvezia. The food here is good enough but the staff friendly. Its lakeside tables are popular so book a table in advance. I did enjoy my meal of Brasato and Polenta, and the kids enjoyed their pizzas.
Taverna dei Pescatori, Via Torrazza 35, Caslano, +41 91 606 1847
We love visiting the small village of Caslano for a walk around its home mountain. The trail takes you past Taverna dei Pescatori, with its lakeside terrace under the vines. We chose a glass of the Vino di Casa with our fried fish while the kids tried the pasta. This place books out at both lunch and dinner time, so best call ahead to avoid disappointment. From Lugano, Caslano is reachable by boat or car.
Pop over the border
Why not pop over to Italy for dinner. Not only are Italian restaurants a little cheaper, but popping over to Italy for dinner just sounds cool. SFT FB group member Deborah suggests Ponte Tresa. Try “Ceresio Lake Ristorante Pizzeria for Italian food with a view (stone oven Pizza is yummy), Oyishi Restaurant for Japanese food and Ristorante Koko Giapponese for all-you -can-eat Asian”
Have you been to Lugano before? What restaurant would you add to the list?