Traditional Cuisine of the Dolomites Acquires New Shape at SanBrite in Cortina d’Ampezzo

SanBrite is more than a farmhouse. Owners Riccardo Gaspari and wife Ludovica Rubbini, respectively chef and sommelier, define it as an agricucina (agri-cuisine) where most of the products like the cheese, meat, and vegetables come from the Gaspari family production which then acquire interesting new shapes and flavors as they pass through the hands of the chef. Meaning healthy mountain hut in the local Ladin dialect of Cotina d'Ampezzo in the Dolomite Mountains, the name was thought fit to be carried by the restaurant because it reflects the idea of a healthy farmhouse that Riccardo Gaspari's family has been representing since 2004.

Opened in 2017, SanBrite is the place where the chef expresses his full potentiality to the world of innovative cuisine without losing ground of what he loves most, the soul of the mountains - which appears in every single dish that comes out of his kitchen. He grew up in the midst of the barns where animals were raised and in the mountains where the smell of the woods dominate the fresh air. Traditional cuisine almost always dominates the kitchens of South Tyrol like in the older Gaspari family restaurant a few kilometers away, El Brite de Larieto, and having someone who thinks outside the box is a great novelty, a diversity that challenges the palates of gourmands who go to Cortina d'Ampezzo. 

As a youth, Riccardo Gaspari's road was not leading towards gastronomy. He finished the professional school of artistic carpentry, which is typical among young men in the alps which he then followed with a job as a ski instructor. On his free days, he helped in his father tend the animals in the farmhouse. Right next to their farmhouse, they have a mountain refuge, El Brite de Larieto, where they serve traditional dishes and in the dining area, he used to help his mother as well. Having discovered a love and talent for cooking, he started to learn the basic rudiments from his mother. When diners started to fill up El Brite de Larieto, the idea to start refining his techniques came about. So, for three years, he took the internship in the kitchen of Massimo Bottura at Osteria Francescana in Modena. There he learned the complex techniques and the proper organization of a restaurant. When he finished and refined his techniques, the idea of a distinctive restaurant came to mind and SanBrite was ready to be born.

SanBrite is a mountain hut with an air of elegance. The dining room overlooks the Tofane mountains through large picture windows. The experience is fully immersive from the furniture up to the smallest detail which are made by local artisans, including the dining staff's outfits. Great attention is given to the lighting wherein some old light fixtures created on the occasion of the 1956 Olympics illuminating the center of Cortina d'Ampezzo. Thirty five can be accommodated indoors, twenty five in the terrace and a bigger number in the large sprawling lawn where picnic baskets that can be ordered at the restaurant can be enjoyed. The service is marked with attention to precision utilizing characteristic serving effects.

The menu has is seasonal with about five proposals per course, mostly meat and a few lake fish base. The appetizers are around €23, first courses of pasta and risotto at €25, second courses at around €35 and desserts at €15. There are two tasting menus available: Germoglio at €90 for 5 courses including dessert with an option of wine pairing at an additional €40. The Sentiero is at €120 with an option of wine pairing at an additional €50. The wine list is well-chosen highlighting small producers. 

Already a signature dish, one of the dishes that is strikingly different is the Spaghetti Monogramo Felicetti with Oil of Mugo Pine and Breadcrumbs accompanied by dried oak moss and a piece of lovage focaccia suggested for doing the scarpetta (sopping up the leftover sauce in the plate) afterwards. Seemingly simple, the flavors this dish are extensively alpine in nature, from the earthiness of the oak moss to the strong lingering balsamic flavor of the mugo pine that spreads out in the mouth and the focaccia tinged with aromatic celery-like taste. And yet Gaspari's own fluffy butter whipped with 2% salt served on a big stone is another triumph. When spread on a slice of his potato bread, you would find an incredible match.

El Brite de Laviero which is located in Località Larieto, about 3 kilometers from SanBrite, maintains its kitchen of traditional dishes like how the Gaspari Family has been serving from 2004 while the kitchen is overseen by Riccardo. Whereas right next to SanBrite is Piccolo Brite, the cheese shop selling their own production.


Via Alverà
Cortina d'Ampezzo (BL), Italy
Tel: +39 0436 863882
Open for lunch and dinner daily except Wednesdays
Seasonal opening only