In fair Verona, where we lay our scene… the food is hearty and the wine is good.
I spent a year living in this idyllic city, in the Veneto region of Italy (North-East), and truth be told, I ate my way through Verona during my time there.
Towns and cities in Italy are known for their varying cuisines, sometimes even the smallest of villages are known for a particular dish. So when in Verona… it’s good to eat Veronese.
Veronese cuisine is quite alternative to the famous plates known as ‘Italian’ across the world. The focus isn’t on the pasta here – but rice instead.
So start thinking risotto instead of carbonara… when we visited Bardolino (a small town on Lake Garda) we tried two local risottos, one white wine and one red – and no other white wine risotto has compared. Riso Vialone Nano is the typical rice variety used as it is produced in the Veronese southern lowlands and is best used for preparing risotto.
Risotto all’Amarone is made with Amarone della Valpolicella – the most powerful and famous wine of Verona. More on this below…
Gnocchi is also a regional favourite, often served up with pastissada di cavallo/de caval (see below).
If you did still want a plate of pasta though, it should be a plate of bigoli. This is the signature pasta of Veneto, think of it as spaghetti on steroids. The sauces that accompany this gym-going pasta are usually anatra (duck), asino (donkey) or cavallo (horse).
Polenta is another Verona special – but in general one of the most representative dishes of the whole of Northern Italy. In the past polenta was the staple food of the poorer classes, who could not afford much else. On those chilly winter evenings, it’s served up whilst hot, soft and creamy, or instead it can be left to cool and then is later grilled.
The most unusual of them all for us Brits? It could be the horse and donkey meat. Coming from a country where horses are fairly regularly pets and companions, this may seem barbaric. And it really is… the cuisine dates back to the end of the Roman Empire, when northern European tribes invaded Italy and settled in Verona.
If you’re keen to try something new though, try the pastissada de caval/di cavallo, which is often served with polenta. This recipe of braised meat dates back to 5th Century AD. The story goes that after a great battle, many horses had been wounded, and so the people fed off the meat. Of course, there was far too much, and so great amounts of it were left marinating in red wine, spices and vegetables, and later slow cooked. Or so the story goes…
Peará is a word you may or may not hear whilst in Verona. A dish of bollito misto (mixed, boiled meats) served with a sauce of bone marrow and bread crumbs. Not always the easiest to find in the restaurants in the tourist hot-spots!
Pandoro, the traditional Christmas cake. I’ve noticed this slowly emigrating to John Lewis at Christmas in the past couple of years, so you can have your cake and eat it too at home. The name, is of course, referring to the golden colour of the cake (apparently thanks to the many egg yolks!) This is a traditional Veronese dessert, star-shaped and including shake in the bag powdered sugar…
Amarone is a red wine, made from grapes that have been dried for 3/4 months before fermentation. It goes without saying, it’s an intense red, but worth your buck.
But isn’t any wine?
Have you ever been to Verona? Or are you planning to go? Hopefully this helps if you’re looking for a traditional dining experience!
What are your favourite Italian foods?
Love, Chloe x