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History

 

The restaurant is located near a former  “Malnate sandstone” quarry .  This sandstone was used locally during the Middle Ages: in Castrum Sibrium (Castelseprio) for example, there can be found some blocks  in Saint John's Church and in the nearby Baptistery.  Malnate sandstone  was also  chosen for some Renaissance buildings in Castiglione Olona (the Collegiate, the Baptistery, and the expansion of the Castiglioni mansion) commissioned by Cardinal Branda Castiglioni.   And  it was even used  for quoins, jambs, pillars, sills, shelves and fireplaces until the early twentieth century.  Now the quarry is the background for the day to day pleasure of the Valtellina cuisine.

 When the quarry stopped working, by the beginning of the 20 th Century the Grotto Valcabrina started its business, first of all well known to the Malnate people, and then by the nearby towns neighbours because of the fresh air therein during the hot summer days.  The name's origin comes from “Grotto”, a word used in the Ticino Canton and in Varese to define a natural cave and from Valcabrina which means “Valle” still a fraction of Malnate and “Cabrina” because of the goats that once grazed in the forests of the area.The Grotto Valcabrina was an inn with accommodation and stabling, where the carriages going to neighboring Switzerland would stop to refresh horses and enjoy the coolness of the place.During summer, tired  peasants returned from the meadows where they had been mowing the grass with their sicles and at the inn they could find some  comfort. In front of a "bom Bicèr da vin"  (a glass of good wine) tapped directly from the carboy, set on a plank and a with a "chignoeu" of cheese nearby, they talked and relaxed playing  cards or  mura / Morra (a game where it is necessary to guess the number of fingers shown by the other player).

During the game of Morra there was a referee called "galantom" (gentleman) who watched   the game  in order to avoid cheating. It was a tradition to offer a glass of wine at the “galantom” at the end of the game.

As the Grotto assumed notoriety it was embellished by oleanders, arranged in large wooden tubs placed at the sides of the cave. 

Then it was called a little orchestra and the area was partially paved so as to let people dance.. The original floor and the  iron clothes racks can still be seen by the cave. A lady remembers:  “I met my dear husband just here while we were dancing.  Arriving at the Crotto  from Varese on foot you could see so many  fireflies it was such a kind of magic”Most visitors came from Milan, they were used to rent the upper spacious rooms,  and loved to spend their weekends amongst the beauties of our woods, tasting the delicious local cuisine, taking part in the traditional festivals or in the harvest operations which took place in the shadowy cave. 

During  sunny afternoons, besides  cards games, visitors could play Italian bowling in the nearby and nowadays parking place.

This charming time of dances and festivals went on and on until the last century up to the fifties when the Grotto was closed.
Later on a Cooperative opened selling food and grain.In 1973 it was bought by the present owners who come from Sondrio and the name changed from Grotto Valcabrina to “Crotto Valtellina”