Verona does not really have a classic cuisine. It is a sort of mix and match of Italian food on the one hand and French food on the other. Some dishes are local like the Bigoli a sort of thick Spaghetti, the Bollito Misto or boiled meat had with various sauces and condiments. Horse is also eaten here. But, by and large there is no dish, in my view, that typifies Verona food. There is a lot of good wine here, the Soave, Valpolicella and Amarone. These are used in cooking to great effect.
An irritating aspect of eating in Italy is the concept of `Coperto’. This is unique. The restaurant charges you anywhere between 2 to 4 Euro per head as sort of a cover charge. This is supposed to be for the bread on the table. You cannot knock it off even if you do not eat the bread. It is only in Rome [Lazio Region] that coperto has been banned. You can tell the waiter you do not want bread and the charge can be removed. However everywhere else you have to pay the `coperto’. No leaving tips. Italy is not a place where tipping is done.
We do eat out a lot. When in Mumbai at least once a week, but, this is slightly inaccurate as we tend to eat at the same 5 or 7 places. This is why the list of restaurants in Mumbai on my blog does not increase. We keep going to the same places! If you take into account the lunch that we have to often eat out, the average in Mumbai would rise to possibly 3 times a week. But those lunches are purely `functional’ at Udipi restaurants or a MacDonald, who, I always praise. When travelling we have to eat out. We are fussy in choosing restaurants and do a fair bit of research when choosing one. Most times we do not go wrong. Sometimes, things go wrong. A meal at Pizza Metro Metro in Mumbai was one such. The disaster at Wasabi some months ago was another. In both instances these were not restaurants we would have gone to ourselves, we were invited out.
This time things did go wrong. We asked the concierge to recommend a place for dinner. Our choices were shut as it was Sunday. Greppie was recommended. We researched and thought it was acceptable. The food was a disaster. The restaurant itself looked nice, the service was good but the food was barely acceptable. It was badly cooked and amateurish. The two soups – Tortellini Brodo was just passable while the Pasta Fagioli was thick and claggy, tasted Ok though. The main course of Squid with Squid Ink and Polenta was barely edible and the sauté Veal had a sauce that was oily and had obviously been over thickened with flour. Mushy overcooked Zucchini. Very bad. Bad photos, bad food, bad evening. The less said the better. Do not ever go here – Greppie in Verona. The food was brown, I mean that seriously, brown.
|Totelini with Brodo
The next day we decided to have a light lunch. So we popped into `Olivo’ a Pizzeria and Restaurant on the main Piazza Bra. The waitress recommended a pizza with Prosciutto Crudo and Burata. This was really excellent. Gnocchi with Ragu was also ordered. Slightly more food than I would have liked bit both dishes were really good. Our spirits were sort of revived. We knew that we could get decent food in Verona despite the disaster of Greppie the previous evening. Even the photos improved!
|The restaurant along the Piazza Bra
|Gnocchi with Ragu
|A Pizza - obviously
Antica Bottega del Vino is one of the two most highly recommended restaurants in Verona. We were booked for a 7 pm table. As the name suggests this is a restaurant with a heavy focus on wine. And, what do you need with wine? Good food. So we knew that we were in for a good meal. The restaurant was old, founded in 1890 and seated about 100. The walls were covered with wine bottles. We arrived at 7pm duly fortified by a couple of Apertivo. To start we had a trio of Antipasti. A special boiled ham - Prosciutto Cutto, Eggplant Parmesan and Polenta with Dolce Gorgonzola. Each one was delicious.
|The inside of Antica Bottega del Vino
|Left to right - Prosciutto Cutto, Eggplant Parnesan and Polenta with Dolce Gorgonzola
A bottle of wine was ordered and we waited for our main course. Both main courses were `localised’ in as much as the dish itself was from another part of Italy but `localised’ by using the regions wine. HRH the Queen of Kutch had a Risotto cooked with the local Amarone wine. I had Beef Cheeked stewed, once again, with the local Amarone wine. The Beef Cheeks seemed French to me! However both dishes were really good. Full of flavour, the rice was well cooked and my Beef Cheeks melting. The potato mash was unfortunately a bit watery but no complaints. All in all a very good meal.
|Risotto with Amarone Wine
|Beef Cheeks with Amarone Wine
Tratoria Al Pompiere was even more highly recommended. This is a smaller place than Antica Bottega del Vino, much more formal and obviously a favourite with the locals. Wines are big here too. But one bigger speciality is the large Charcuterie and Cheese selection. Hams, Salami and Mortadella are what you see when you enter. Two Chef’s and a large slicer are front of house. Also on view is a huge Cheese board. You order your Charcuterie and it is sliced to order. To have this freshly sliced meat, before it has a chance to dry out in the fridge, with a glass of wine and some pickles is paradise. The staff is so friendly and gracious. We had three types of Charcuterie, a Culatello, which is the most prized bit of ham; it is more expensive than the Prosciutto Crudo, a Prosciutto Crudo and some Lardo which is simply cured fat. Each was different and each was excellent. Just amazes me how one animal, the humble pig, can give you such different tasting and different textured meat.
|Tratoria Al Pompierie
|The Chef busy slicing to order
|The bread basket - aka the `Coperto'.
|Left to right - Prosciutto Crudo, Lardo and Culatello
This got us set up for our mains. HRH the Queen ordered Beef Cheeks with Amarone wine, which she pronounced as delicious. I got Pork Knuckle with Mash Potato. Once again delicious. Once again, the Beef Cheeks were French. I thought the Pork Knuckle was German, except in Germany you would be served the Knuckle with fried Potato and/or Apple sauce. We really had no place for dessert; however, there was a sign that said that their Tiramisu had been voted the `Best in the World’ by somebody. Neither of us likes Tiramisu, especially the ghastly vegetarian gelatine filled versions in India. But we thought we should give this one a chance. It was good. But I cannot think of a magical Tiramisu and this one was certainly not sublime. It was perfectly decent. I would have preferred more booze in it. All in all it was a good meal, a very good meal.
|Beef Cheeks in Amarone Wine
|Tiramisu - allegedly the World's Best
So folks if you do make a trip to Verona for a fair or for opera do visit Tratoria Al Pompiere and Antica Bottega del Vino. You will eat well.