(Adige River, Verona)
Fair Verona indeed... truer words were never written.... I'm going to diverge a little from my usual Umbrian musings, and head north into the Veneto.
Because my husband works in the wine biz (Terre Margaritelli), I am lucky enough to have an excuse to head up to Verona every year for the annual Vinitaly wine fair. In previous years, I've spent most of my time at the fair, but that is slowly moving into the "been there, done that" category. I still make my rounds, but prefer to spend my time wandering the streets of the fairest city in all the land.
(UMBRIA, pad 7B at Vinitaly)
Verona has a little bit of everything, from a Roman amphitheater (most of the ancient city is still intact 6 meters below the current city!) to gorgeous medieval Romanesque architecture to frescoed villas and palazzi lining the backstreets and alleys.
But I go to Verona for another reason, the food! I love Umbrian food, but we all need a change of pace every now and again... and the great thing about Italy is that, if you just hop in the car and drive a few hours north (or south), it is like you are in another country! The pasta is different, the salumi is sweet (instead of Umbrian salty), and the coffee...well... amazing - I even overheard some Napoletani (who are convinced that they have the best of everything, but especially coffee) commenting on how good it was. And speaking of coffee, even the "culture" is different. When you order an espresso, un caffe', in Verona, they ask you if you want it "liscio" as in straight, no alcohol added - I find this hilarious! Something else that seems to be typical of the area, is that when they do order that mid-afternoon espresso (be it "doctored" or not), the locals always seem to take a little sweet cookie or cake as well - something small that you just pop in your mouth in one bite - I like it!
(Sfilacci di Cavallo)
But, before you go running off to Verona, you need to come to terms with something.... they eat horse meat (and donkey...). I say don't knock it till you try it! Horse meat or cavallo, (donkey is asino) is delicious! As it is a very lean, high protein, high iron meat, it is also very healthy. It is very typical in most of northern and southern Italy to eat horse. I don't know what happened here in central Italy - the tradition got lost somehow along the way with good desserts....
(hmmmn, sugo di asino, anatra, or coniglio....asino!)
Anyway, here is a list of my favorite typical Veronese/Venetian dishes that should be on your "must try" list:
- Sfilacci di Cavallo: cured, smoked horsemeat - usually served on a salad or as a pasta garnish
- Pastissada de Caval: a type of horse stew, braised in Valpolicella
- Sugo di Asino: donkey ragu - pasta condiment
- Bollito: mixed boiled meats served with condiments
- Baccala' alla Vicentina: actually Stockfish, not salt cod, served with polenta
- Pasta e Fasoi: pasta and beans
And where do we eat all of these wonderful dishes??? Here is my Verona shortlist:
- Pasticceria Barini: best coffee in the world, accompanied by amazing pastries
- Pasticceria Castelvecchio: more great pastries, but the confections are where it's at here - try the candied citron (cedro) and orange - out of this world!
- Osteria Al Carro Armato: typical Veronese
- Osteria dal Cavaliere: great for aperitivo or lunch - be forewarned, service it slooow
- Ristorante al Calmiere: go here for bollito
- Trattoria Giulietta e Romeo: obviously touristy, yes, but the food is good!
- Le Cantine de L'Arena: meat, meat and more meat!