The topic of sustainable restaurants has been quite difficult to approach. Very often I have lovely experiences in restaurants: I eat delicious food, I ask or at least read where the products are from (and most of the time the answer is nearby the town where I am eating).
It is much more difficult to be informed about how the products are cultivated. In theory, it is easy to know what constitutes sustainable food. Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming defines sustainable food as food that should be produced, processed and traded in ways that:
- Contribute to thriving local economies and sustainable livelihoods in producer countries;
- Protect the diversity of both plants and animals (and the welfare of farmed and wild species), and avoid damaging natural resources and contributing to climate change; and
- Provide social benefits, such as good quality food, safe and healthy products, and educational opportunities.
This is more or less the same definition for sustainable tourism or responsible tourism. The most important improvement I have seen in Italy is the importance of local products: many restaurants are trying to avoid importing from other countries. One example is located in Cadenabbia di Griante, not far from the beautiful Villa Carlotta and botanical garden.
Cucina della Marianna (Marianna's kitchen), is a not a "democratic" restaurant, but you will eat seasonal, delicious food. I say that the restaurant is not democratic because there is only one menu; it can be different every day or it can change every two days and so on. The products are zero km as much as possible. What you are allowed to choose is how much you want to eat and spend; for example the full menu is the most expensive, around 50€ and the light menu is at 23€. I went to la Cucina della Marianna a few times, and always had the full menu--if you visit Lake Como I recommend it.
In Italy there is also an increase in demand for organic food, but there is also an increase in doubts about it. I personally buy local and organic as much as I can, but I understand that there is sometimes false advertising. In Italy, organic food is known as cibo (food) organico (organic), but very often "cibo biologico," is used; the expression "biologico" should be used only for agriculture, but it is now very common to see this for anything related to organic food.
I just discovered a small cantina called Cantina e Bottega (Cellar & Workshop) in Gravedona ed Uniti, on the northern side of Lake Como where is possible to taste and buy organic food from (mostly) local producers. You can try a selection of organic wines, breads, and other tasty products.