Dal Pescatore is situated in an isolated spot in the countryside east of Milan, between Cremona and Mantua, in the Parco dell’Oglio nature reserve. Owner and restaurant manager Antonio Santini’s grandparents opened a restaurant on this spot in 1925, the restaurant name changing to Dal Pescatore in 1960. The kitchen is run by Antonio's wife Nadia Santini, who has held three Michelin stars at the restaurant since 1996. Nadia was trained by her husband’s grandmother Teresa, who was running the restaurant when she married in 1974; Nadia had never cooked professionally before. Her son Giovanni works alongside her in the kitchen.
The restaurant has no rooms but if you want to stay locally there is a pleasant bed and breakfast not too far away called Muse 9. Dal Pescatore itself has an attractive terrace and a garden at the back, fully equipped on the evening of our visit with the family golden retriever (called Whisky) and a black cat (called Nerino) who appear to get on fine with one another. As we looked at the menu (whose tasting menu costs €170) we nibbled on some fine ham and looked through the wine list.
The latter extends to 17 pages and has choices such as Antinori Tignanello 2000 at €210 compared to a retail price of around €85, Gaja Brunello di Montalcino at €240 for a wine that costs around €100 to buy, and Jermann Vintage Tunina 2008 at €85 compared to a retail price of about €35. The dining room has generously spaced tables looking out to the garden. Bread is a choice of white, onion and nut rolls, and was perhaps the least interesting thing about the meal, seeming to me pleasant but somewhat tasteless (15/20).
The first nibble was a cold dish of aubergine and tomato with olive oil and a little basil and thyme, featuring dazzling-tasting tomatoes and just enough lemon to balance; such a simple dish, and yet perfectly balanced with superb flavour. The tomatoes had that great flavour that you only seem to get from ones grown in a Mediterranean climate (20/20).
The first dish of the menu was a very pretty one of cold lobster in champagne jelly, alongside marinated eel with pickled ginger, and caviar Baerri Royal. The lobster was very tender indeed and the dish attractively set out, but I wondered whether the components were such a great combination, even though each element was in itself excellent (19/20). Risotto with peas and porcini and sweet herbs was beautifully made, the peas in particular having a beautiful sweetness, the rice perfectly cooked, the porcini excellent. It is hard to imagine how this dish could be improved upon (20/20).
Occhi di lupo arrived as several small pasta loops filled with Burrata cheese, Bottarga (tuna roe), tomato confit and basilic sauce. The pasta here was rather hard in texture, and I found the fillings merely pleasant, a dish several notches down from the risotto (15/20). Sea bass with olive oil and mint was served with celery and leeks, the fish itself excellent, with great flavour and perfectly cooked, but the celery and leeks were even better, having utterly superb taste (19/20).
Frog legs with aromatic herbs were pleasant, but again seemed to me less exciting than some of the other dishes; there was little to criticise, but little to excite either (17/20). Kid with parsley and lemon was nicely prepared and was quite light, and well seasoned (17/20). At this point my wife had an excellent fillet of dentex (a fine Mediterranean fish a little like sea bass) with a cube of fried polenta (18/20).
Cheeses were all from Italy and in very good condition (18/20). An orange soufflé was technically good and served with passion fruit coulis, which I enjoyed very much (19/20). A torta with Amaretti biscuits, panna, coffee and croccante was even better, with fine chocolate and lovely texture (20/20).
Service was charming and efficient throughout, with the final bill coming to €215 each, which was far from unreasonable given the standard of much of the food. Overall, while I had some superb dishes (such as the risotto) I found the overall standard of the dishes more variable than my previous visit, so overall was 19/20 rather than 20/20 overall; this is proper 3 star cooking, but there were just a few dishes that slipped below the standard for me to be entirely comfortable with an overall score over 19/20. However, it was a most enjoyable experience, and the cooking reflects the lovely ingredients that can be found in this part of the world.