Verona – Italy – A Tiny Italian Adventure!
Last year in December, I had a little holiday to Verona, an Italian city situated in the north-eastern region of Veneto. I was eager to explore a northern region and cuisine because I tend to spend my time in the southern hemisphere when in Italy. I went for three days with my pal Jodie (one of my favourite eating buddies) and boyyyyyy, did we eat well. Situated in the ‘old town’ of Verona by the Adige river, our Airbnb was on the Piazzetta Pescheria (an old square where the fish market used to be). The location was perfect; so much to see within walking distance.
Jodie and I had counted that we had approximately six main meals (lunches/dinners) to fit in our 48 hour trip. So we had a mission to ensure that each one would be special and memorable. I have to say, we didn’t have a single bad food experience on our trip, which made us either really lucky or it’s hard to find a bad restaurant in Verona.
I wanted to make sure that I ate as many traditional meals and foods from the region. So, I made sure I did my research before I left. As Verona is a city on the mainline, meat is more popular than fish; so beef, horse (especially popular in Verona), pork, poultry and other type of game birds are on offer. Polenta is the preferred starch of choice, with risotto also popular and Bigoli, the preferred pasta shape. Bigoli is a long and thick pasta; a fatter version of a spaghetti. The best cheese in Veneto is Asiago, which is made from cows milk and has a firm and creamy texture. Also, Tiramisu originally comes from this region, so if you want to know what it’s really meant to taste like, try a piece here.
There are also a number of wines to choose from: Bardolino (red), Valpolicella (red), Soave (white), Prosecco and Amarone, a rich and powerful red from Verona.
Here is my Veronese food story.
During our first few hours in Verona, we headed to Enoteca Segreta (Vicolo Samaritana, 10), a hidden gem (recommend by an Instagram follower of mine) for a little aperitif. Tucked down the backstreets of central Verona, we stepped into a cosy romantic lit wine bar and dining room. Here we ordered a glass of Valpolicella wine each and a beautiful plate of goose and duck charcuterie served with robiola (a soft ripened cheese of cow, sheep and goats milk) and slices of pear.
Just around the corner from Enoteca Sagrada, we came across Ristorante Greppia (Vicolo Samaritana, 3), a family run restaurant that has been around for a number of decades. The menu outside stated traditional Veronese cooking, so we decided to pop in as we were ready for dinner – this is is exactly what I came here for.
We walked in, but to my surprise the restaurant didn’t appear very busy which made me little apprehensive. However, the service and food was wonderful. I remember feeling like I had just eaten a home cooked meal by a little Italian nonna. I started with fresh egg tagliolini pasta in a beef broth with chicken livers; followed by Bigoli pasta dressed in a duck ragu.
Apart from the food being so delicious, the entire meal was such good value for money. For two people, starters, mains and wine, the bill came to 55 euros. We only ate once at ristorante Greppia but if I was to go back to Verona, I would march straight back over there, sit down, tuck a napkin into my collar, ready with knife and fork in each hand.
Food shops in Verona
The next morning, we went exploring and discovered some real foodie gems. Salumeria G. Albertini (Corso Sant’Anastasia 41), a ram packed delicatessen, with a variety of Italian and Venetian delicacies. It has a beautiful store front and merchandised windows, grabbing the attention of tourists walking past. Inside the deli, each corner was stacked with boxes of Pandoro (a traditional Italian sweet Christmas cake, originally from Verona) and pasta, amongst many other products. The owner wasn’t very happy with me taking photos inside the store which was a shame as it was beautiful. However, a friendly Italian lady who worked there too, was extremely helpful when making our selections. I ended up buying a bottle of 6 year old aged balsamic vinegar, a tube of anchovy paste and a packet of Bigoli to recreate the delicious pasta dish with duck ragu from the night before.
Just a few doors down the road and we found an other delicatessen, Salumeria de Ninzio Rosa Anna (Corso Sant’Anastasia 33). It’s easy to miss this deli if walking past as it has an understated shop front in comparison to the fancy G. Albertini. However, I got the impression that it caters more for the locals rather than the tourist trade. A husband and wife team run this family business. I found the prices a little more reasonable than G. Albertini and they were happy for us to be snappy happy in there, which made the experience relaxing. There was so much incredible fresh produce in their deli counter. I bought salami infused with Amarone wine and a selection of cow milk cheeses, Asiago and Cimbro. The owners were happy to vacuum pack our shopping for us, so we could take it back to Britain.
After a couple of hours of food shopping, a glass of wine was in order. Down a quiet side street, we came across Oreste Cantina Dal Zovo (7 vc. S. Marco In Foro). We were met by an older gentlemen in a room with walls stacked with hundreds of wine bottles. The room had so much character. There was art, posters and newspaper clippings spotted all over the walls and hanging from the ceiling. We enjoyed a little glass of wine, while we rested our little feet ahead of moving on again.
Jodie and I visited de Rossi il Fornaio (Corso Porta Borsari, 3,), a bakery nearly everyday to buy snacks in between meals, to stop our bellies from rumbling. They were so cheap, we could not help but end up buying a bagful of goodies each time. There was a section where you could buy freshly baked bread and fun savoury snacks, while on the other side was a sweet section with many cakes and biscuits.
After a few hours of walking around and snacking, it was time for lunch. I had asked our taxi driver, the night before for a restaurant recommendation and he suggested Il Pompiere, (Vicolo Regina D’Ungheria). Just off the main shopping street, Via Mazzini, you will find the door of the restaurant in the side wall, with heavy netted windows on either side, not allowing a nosey peek inside before entering. As soon as you enter, you’re standing in a cosy room, walls decorated with pictures of well know Italian superstars, and an impressive cheese and salami counter at the back, where a guy in a chefs hat is seen slicing away cold meats on a vintage meat slicer.
We started with a selection of Italian meats served with giardiniera (pickled vegetables) and bread. Followed by a bowl of egg fresh tagliolini served with braised artichokes which was very comforting and had a beautiful delicate flavour. However, my main of pheasant breast in a red wine (Corvina) reduction with walnuts and a cauliflower and pumpkin puree was the star of the show. It was the first time I had ever eaten pheasant and surprisingly I found it moist and full of flavour. The combination of ingredients were incredible and I was close to shedding a tear when the last mouthful disappeared. I have a plan to recreate this at home soon. A little bit more expensive than Le Greppie, 100 euros for food and wine for two but the experience and food is fancier and worth every euro.
After that epic lunch, Jodie and I were falling into a crazy food coma. However, as we had little time on this trip we decided that sleep was not the answer and went to do a little more exploring of this beautiful, ancient city. Here are some of our favourite moments.
It had been an amazing day with lots of food, walking and exploring and to round the day off we fancied a little snack. We received a recommendation from a girl working at a stall at the christmas market so we headed there.
Osteria del Bugiardo
We walked into a bustling wine bar full of Italians of all ages, enjoying a chat over a glass of wine and nibbling on snacks. Osteria del Bugiardo (Corso Porta Borsari, 17/a), is a specialist wine bar where they have a well curated list of wines to choose from. With a glass of wine each, we accompanied it with a selection of meats and cheeses (again!). We spent the night chatting, people watching and making up stories about what the other people in the room were talking about based on how loud they were talking, their facial expressions and hand gestures. We ended up being one of the last people in there, so we were politely kicked out.
On the final day, we only had half a day to spend in Verona, so we did last minute shopping. We headed to a home shop called Soufflé (Corso Cavour, 15,), where we bought a few kitchen gadgets. I was gutted that I hadn’t bought a larger suitcase with me; there was so much I wanted to buy. I had to reluctantly return many things back on to the shelf. However, I did buy a couple of Venetian cookbooks and pasta making utensils. Definitely, a shop worth visiting if you’re into kitchen gadgets like me.
Antica Bottega del Vino
We had one final meal before we had to head to the airport. We chose Antica Bottega del Vino (Via Scudo di Francia, 3) as it appeared to be a popular choice on the internet. As you walk in, there is an old school Italian feel to it with warm lighting, quaint wooden tables and chairs and walls decorated with empty bottles of wine.
I asked for the wine list and they brought me a huge book nearly half the size of me with hundreds of pages. A little overwhelmed, I just asked for 2 glasses Amarone for us. I started with a creamed salted cod served with grilled polenta followed by an Amarone risotto with pumpkin. Both were traditional dishes from Verona and equally very enjoyable. The meal came to 100 euros for two. I was so pleased that our last meal was here as it cemented how well we had eaten in Verona. We were so lucky to have eaten a variety of dishes and styles of cooking.
I was sad to say good bye to Verona. I’m not sure what my expectations were at the beginning of the trip. All I know is that I’m so happy that I decided to visit such a beautiful Italian city. The food was just incredible and it was fun exploring the city, walking down random back streets and finding gems. Verona is not that big, however it’s a rich city full of amazing shops, restaurants and bars. The one thing I did regret was not visiting Lake Garda which apparently is only 40 minutes away by bus. We would have needed an extra day at least. I already have a reason to visit again.