We are located in the centre of Cortina d’Ampezzo, Queen of the Dolomites, an emblem of hospitality since its beginnings. This traditional hospitality has evolved and now responds to the highest comfort standards without sacrificing any of its authenticity and belief in family values, courtesy and style.
But let’s look back in time and remember Baita Fraina as it once was, a farmhouse accessed only by a footpath complete with cattle shed and haybarn. Guests venturing to it in its earliest years were welcomed by the current owners’ grandparents Enrico and Clelia Menardi with a smile and a snack, a speck cold cuts board or blueberries and cream. This was 1956 and the building’s future was little more than a dream.
Because even the young people of the day were keen to grow and innovate and bring their personal touch to the business. Since brothers Adolfo and Alesssandro Menardi took over from their parents the former has been front of house while the latter cooks. Their cooking style, with its local ingredients and historic recipes as well as a pinch of experimentation and innovation, has radically changed the way guests see the Baita.
It was the first renovation work in 1963, however, which made the Baita the restaurant it is today and made it easier to get to. Four bedrooms were added to give guests the chance to stay in a location which is both characteristic and close to the centre as well.
Times change and the haybarn and cattle shed had to be removed in 1974, without forgetting their historic importance to family livelihoods and what these spaces had once taught us, namely that you always get something back when you look after your natural environment. Against this backdrop the family added two extra rooms in new renovation work and then, in 1989, a bar and dining room.
Over the years things changed in the kitchen too, as Ampezzo cuisine gradually developed a gourmet style and, after studying at the town’s hotel school and a period of apprenticeship, young Luca began working alongside Alessandro, becoming a resolute and determined chef. Today the restaurant limits the number of dishes on its menu in order to pay the greatest care and attention to each single one of them, pairing them with wines, of which the restaurant has around one thousand.
Today the restaurant limits the number of dishes on its menu in order to pay the greatest care and attention to each single one of them, pairing them with wines, of which the restaurant has around one thousand.
With decades of experience front of house Adolfo increasingly specialises in wine on the strength of a three-dimensional knowledge which includes cellar considerations and assistance to guests in making wine choices tailormade to their requirements. His wine list dates back to 1990 and has included important labels since 1995, some of which come in from overseas.
He also passed his passion on to Sara and Simone, who grew up playing in the midst of the restaurant’s tables and famous wine labels. Perhaps it was the tales of famous and precious wines from all around the world, of sophisticated tastes and avantgarde winemaking techniques that they heard in their youth which prompted them to follow their dreams and qualify as sommeliers. In 2015 this dream came true when they opened their wine bar.
Simone took over management of the wine bar right at the outset and constantly researches new ways to make it innovative. his culminated in it winning the first Milano Fashion Week Wine List prize in 2021.
But his innovation is not simply a matter of selecting wines but also of serving them. For example Baita Fraina has Enomatic, a technology which ensures optimal wine conservation and enables it to serve forty wines by the glass.
His very young cousin Lorenzo is now helping him out at the wine bar and studying to qualify as a sommelier as well, as is his wife Sara, who has already qualified.
Baita Fraina’s goal is to bring the dreams of grandparents Enrico and Clelia to fruition, to follow in their footsteps, in honour of their sacrifice and innovative spirit. The aim of the new generation is to further develop the restaurant’s accommodation with additional renovation work in accordance with the Menardi family’s history and that of its Baita.
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