Sella Ronda

During our Dolomite ski trip, we were fortunate to have wonderful weather in order to ski the Sella Ronda.  A loop that runs either clockwise or counter clockwise around the Sella Massif, the Sella Ronda is 26 kilometers of ski trails that takes you through 4 passes, 4 valleys, and 3 provinces.  The loop starts/ends in the lovely town of Corvara, where we followed the signs that took us to the series of lifts and gondolas. 

Just follow the signs
We enjoyed the breathtaking views…

…from many vantage points…
…stopped on occasion for a refresco (or two)…

…and prayed that at the end there would be a wonderful spot for lunch…

…and what better place to stop…

…than at a hidden vinoteca!

Recommended by a local ski guide (who clearly doubles as a local gourmand), the Vinoteca Ursus Ladinicus is a charming spot located on the mountain at the Punta Trieste next to the Utia Punta Trieste.  This is one of those spots that you don’t want everyone knowing about.  However, it is too much of a gem to go unmentioned.  They offer a nice selection of local wines in one of the most quaint settings on the mountain.  The menu changes daily, depending on availability.  There is no written menu, so we settled in to enjoy the daily specials.  We were offered an appetizer of prosciutto and local cheeses, and an entrée choice of either Nebraska steak or Speck knödel (ham dumplings).  Interestingly enough, many restaurants were offering Nebraska steak on their menus.  I could not find an answer as to why Nebraska steak would be enjoying this kind of popularity in Northern Italy.  I can only surmise that there is a very smart marketing guru in Nebraska, because this Texas girl is here to tell you that it is amazing steak.  
At Vinoteca, hopefully you will be lucky enough to encounter Chef Alma behind the stove.  She is a dream, and if you get on her good side, she will fry up some local specialties for you try.  With my smattering of German, and please excuse if I butcher this, I think she made us a Ladin dish by the name of Turtrese, which were delicate fried “empanadas” (if you will) filled with spinach and ricotta.  

Prosciutto y vino

Nebraska steak with grilled radicchio in the background next to ham and spinach dumplings

A Ladin dish by the name of turtrese (I think!)

The interior of the Vinoteca

So, why such a long, strange name for a restaurant?  Owner Willy Costamoling made a fascinating discovery while hiking in 1987.  At 8,000 feet, he found a cave with the fossil remains of a now-extinct cave bear.  The fossils were analyzed and found to be a new species of bear, since named Ursus Ladinicus in honor of the Ladin people who live in the valley.  The findings have been instrumental in the study and understanding of the prehistoric times of the Dolomites.  You will find the Museo Ursus Ladinicus in San Cassiano which is a fun spot to take kids, with a reconstruction of the cave Willy found on the basement floor.  Willy is quite the entrepreneur as we found out.  He was in Peru at the time getting ready to launch an olive oil line that is a mix of Italian olives and a Peruvian nut that is said to be very high in Omega 3 fatty acids.  We availed ourselves of the samples they were passing out at lunch.  Whatever you do, do not try Willy’s homemade grappa…it is the closest thing I can imagine to moonshine and will make your last run down a doozy.  You cannot say I didn’t warn you…    

Willy’s EVOO
A replica of the cave bear skull found in the cave
Museum Ursus Ladinicus

Strada Micurà de Rü 26, San Cassiano, Italy

Tel.: +39 0474 524020

Fax: +39 0474 524263

All photos by Marci Symington for

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