For me, food and travel go together like jelly and ice cream, gin and tonic or Romeo and Juliet. When visiting a new city or even one I have been to before, I like to research food spots to enhance our visit. Normally it’s in a basic excel spreadsheet with the address and style of the food. However, I may have excelled myself this time for our trip to Verona. Planned as a trip for my Dad’s 65th Birthday present, mainly to attend the opera festival in the amphitheatre to watch our favourite opera of Madama Butterfly, which we must have seen about 14 times in different settings, including Torro de Largo where Puccini wrote and died, but this was one of the most spectacular.
Not only did I do my usual excel spreadsheet list, but I plotted them on a google map. This meant depending on the area we were in of the city, we know what fabulous to eat a stone’s throw from where we were. Next level people. I don’t mess around when it comes to food discoveries. I may have gone a tad wild with about 42 food places to try for a four-day trip, however, we did manage to try to put a good dent into the list.
In an upcoming post, I will let you know how I go about researching places to go when you haven’t been to the city and the sources to check out and trust.
For the festival, I managed to book a fantastic Airbnb, a 5-minute walk from the amphitheatre. Lined around the edge of the vast square is a collection of restaurants. This may be rather mean to say but I would just walk on from them, yes they have a great view of the amphitheatre but so does the park bench opposite. Out of curiosity, we checked out some menus to these restaurants, one place was offering tomato bruschetta for 19 euros a portion – bread and tomatoes!!! There is some amazing places, cheaper and much better quality places tucked around the side streets, you just need to hunt them out.
Literally, the nearest café to our apartment was this utter gem, which actually ruined us to try other places for breakfast on the other days. Bless the waitress’s who was super patient with our poor Italian and pointing at the patisseries that took our eye. The first morning with the sun rays beating down already, we tucked into a bi-colour croissant with the lightest pistachio crème patisserie I’ve ever eaten. My Dad when for a nectarine version with apricot jam and a plain crème patisserie. Dunked into a rocket fuel espresso and wash down freshly squeezed orange juice, my ideal way to start the day of exploring.
On the second day, I went for the bi-coloured croissant filled with gianduja paste, the perfect combination of hazelnut and chocolate for a super intense experience. A must check out.
Ostregheteria Sottoriva 23
Despite the fact we went back for patisserie two days in a row, I tend not to like to return to the same place twice on a short trip as I tend to think it’s a wasted opportunity to try another spot. However, all that went out of the window when we tried the food at Ostregheteria Sottoriva 23. On my list, it was known for its meatballs. In fact, a couple of sources when researching mentioned them for their meatballs. On the menu, it was stated, meat, fish or vegetable meatballs and you order per piece. We went for one each, a burrata salad and a plate of the prosciutto tortellini. Such good choices, if I do say so myself.
The meatball was a sauceless, meat patty about the size of a small burger. The flavour was incredible, well seasoned, a touch of onion and all the richness of the meat. As a heads up, Verona it’s fairly common to see horse and donkey on the menu in ragus or as steaks. To be honest, I’m sure there was some in these meatballs but they were so flavoursome and tasty, we did come back for more later in the week.
The burrata salad had a whole burrata balanced on top of the leaves, which when the surface was broken, it’s glorious creamy middle acted as the most indulgent salad dressing ever.
Tiny morsels of prosciutto tortellini dressed in a light olive oil and pepper, paired with a locally brewed beer was a spectacular lunch, whilst shaded from the searing midday sun.
I couldn’t tempt my dad to try a new places when a couple of days later we passed this restaurant at lunchtime as he knew how good the meatballs were. I went for the Duck Ham, Caramelised Red Onion Pizzas on a béchamel base, an indulgent lunch for sure, but with an Aperol Spritz (to refresh my palette naturally), a perfect chew on the crust and a touch of oven ash for a good measure. A true gem.
Trattoria Ai Piloti
I’m going to be smug for this find. Sure other people have been here and that’s the reason it’s so popular with locals, but might not be as a common tourist haunt as it’s across the river from the main centre of Verona. Well worth the 20 minute walk from the centre and across a couple of plazas lined with locals evening the softening evening sun. I’m not the biggest fish fan but my mum is and she mainly gets to enjoy it when eating out rather than cooking at home. I did go for a non-fish starter but my Mum when for the whole dressed crab and my Dad the langoustine and citrus salad. But the main course was a thing of beauty. Both me and mum when for the Salt Baked Whole Seabass. Arriving at the table in its glorious snowy white crust, lovingly prepared by the waiter, removing the salt crust, lemon slices and thyme from the middle of the fish to plate up moist fillets of the perfectly cooked sea bass. He drizzled the lightest amount of a punchy olive oil and served with a fresh garden salad and rosemary roasted potato chips. The simplicity and quality of the produce just shone through and one of the most memorable meals of the trip.
But the main course was a thing of beauty. Both me and mum when for the Salt Baked Whole Seabass. Arriving at the table in its glorious snowy white crust, lovingly prepared by the waiter, removing the salt crust, lemon slices and thyme from the middle of the fish to plate up moist fillets of the perfectly cooked sea bass. He drizzled the lightest amount of a punchy olive oil and served with a fresh garden salad and rosemary roasted potato chips. The simplicity and quality of the produce just shone through and one of the most memorable meals of the trip.
Zeno Gelato e Cioccolato
A couple of doors down from Trattoria Ai Piloti is Zeno Gelato e Cioccolato. I also think it’s a great sign at 10 in the evening if there’s a queue outside of locals waiting for their even gelato. In pozzetti containers, rather than piled high in the tourist areas, as the temperature of gelato is served lower than an ice cream, the ones you see as mountains are likely to be poor quality or made with lots of preservatives. Look for flatter open container or the sunken lidded containers show true quality. I went for the dreamy combination of a scoop of the 55% Criollo Chocolate and one of the Zabaglione. Oh, my! This place has ruined me for all other gelato and ice cream. Dense rich and packed full of flavour. The chocolate shone through and you could tell not from a cocoa powder base but almost a frozen ganache and the marsala wine and egg yolk richness in the zabaglione was spectacular. We perched in the square wanting to savour every morsel of this divine treat.
Terrazza Bar al Ponte
Having done my research remotely, it’s hard to know what to expect when arriving at a place. Terrazza Bar al Ponte was the same, to be honest not too much to look at from the outside, so much so I think my parents thought I had got the wrong location. But walking through the darkened bar, right to the back you are rewarded with a balcony covered in plants and a stunning view overlooking the river and surrounding hills. Worth a pause and a glass of their rosé prosecco as an aperitivo with a bowl of salty crisps to wet your appetite for dinner. A case where looks can be deceiving.
Osteria al Duca
Tucked around the corner from Juliet’s balcony was probably one of the most touristy meals we had, however, is off a side street and draped in lights you wouldn’t think you were so close to the main street of the city. The local wine of Amarone tends to be used in a rich risotto and the waiter kindly let me try some of this nectar. The wine gets a double fermentation, meaning it is similar to a port or sherry with a fortified and sweetness as well as higher alcohol content.
I went for the speciality of bigoli pasta, which is a thick strand pasta extruded through brass dies to give it a texture to pick up all the delicious sauce. Tends to be served with a duck ragu, not tomato base, but a stock with finely diced carrots and celery and minced meat and livers to give a rich sauce whilst still being light against the thick pasta. This was savoured for a long time with a local red wine which is the way all meals should be done in Italy in my option.
Pastries at Pasticceria Cordioli and Flego Pasticceria
There weren’t enough elevenses in the day to stop off at all the patisserie places on my list. So we were had tenses. After visiting Juliet’s balcony, you need a sugary treat after elbowing all the tourists out the way. A few doors down is Pasticceria Cordioli where we eyed our favourite Italian pastry sfogliatella, or lobster tails, buttery shard cones filled with creamy ricotta studded with candied orange peel. Perfect with a rich espresso to put a spring in your step.
We also tried miniature cannoli at Flego Pasticceria, fried shell with again creamy ricotta and orange peel and pistachios. But there were so many rows of sweet treats that we could have stayed all day trying them.
Sadly we had to come home at some point, but there was still time get in other foodie treat. Another restaurant tucked off a side street from the main street, was Il Campidoglio, they had a daily special of the homemade ravioli with pumpkin and amaretti biscuits. Now you might me thinking, amaretti??? As in the biscuits I have with my coffee. Yep the exact ones. The nutty sweetness of the crumbled biscuits paired with the sweetness of the pumpkin is just a match made in heaven. Not coated or masked by a thick sauce, to really let the flavours sing. A lovely way to end a fantastic holiday.
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