Dining in new cities is always an exciting adventure, but its particularly exciting when you’re in the midst of several great wine appellations. The Veneto is home to classic dry whites made of garganega such as Soave and Custoza, sparkling Prosecco made of, well, prosecco, and classic red blends based on cherry-licious corvina such as Valpolicella and Bardolino. These wines pair perfectly with the diversity of foods you will find in the Veneto.
Classic dishes in the Veneto include risotto made with Amarone wine, chewy bigoli pasta, horsemeat (stewed, smoked, even tartare), pasta e fagioli and terrific salumi. Meat and game dishes abound from pork (stinco), beef, veal, calves’ liver, rabbit and duck. Fish dishes from nearby Lake Garda would feature salmon trout or pike, whereas prawns, scallops and sardines typically come from Venice. Specialty foods from the Veneto include radicchio from Treviso and Asiago cheese. I must tell you that in this northern part of Italy, there is a generous use of cream and butter. I had many agnolotti, gnocchi and ravioli dishes that were anointed with copious amounts of clarified butter (the so-called sauce) before I knew to ask for them without. If you travel in Spring to this part of Europe, expect to find white asparagus prepared in several different ways, including dressed in butter!
Following are some of my restaurant recommendations in the Veneto.
In the city of Verona, most of these restaurants are within walking distance of the historic center. If you’re looking for something informal and inexpensive, or decent pizza, I would head to one of the main plazas (piazzas), Piazza Bra or Piazza Erbe. They are surrounded by trattorias that don’t for the most part require reservations and they all have plenty of patio seating for people-watching or just enjoying the outdoors. Of the restaurants below, I would say most are casual, but in Italy, casual often means casual chic. Guys, I would bring at least one cool jacket for your trip and use the opportunity to shop for Italian mens’ shoes.
La Bottega del Vino osteria. It’s a great wine bar where you can taste the variety of Veneto wines by the glass. When its meal time, the tables turn over for diners. Their house wine on tap is one euro! Via Scudo di Francia, 3 in Verona. Tel: 045 8004535.
Osteria la Fontanina. It is an absolutely charming restaurant, almost gothic in decor but I thought it worked. Semi-dressy. The dishes are classic, prepared well and presented beautifully. Service is attentive and the wine selection terrific. Dishes we had in spring included lobster and beef tartares, scallops, rabbit and duck ragus. Make reservations. Portichetti Fontanelle 3, S.Stefano Verona. Tel: 045 913305.
Trattoria al Pompiere. Loved this place and apparently everyone else does too because it can be difficult to get in. Casual with red-checkered table cloths and walls covered with photos. Authentic dishes with hand-made ingredients and it shows. The chef-owners are on the floor often, sometimes serving, always engaging. Would be the first place I return to. Make reservations. V.lo Regina d’Ungheria, 5 – 37121 Verona.
Ristorante Rubiani is a nice restaurant off the Piazza Bra serving traditional dishes in a setting a cut above the neighboring cafes. Piazzetta Scalette Rubiani, 3 – 37121 Verona. Tel: 045 8006830.
Cantine de L’Arena is across from Ristorante Rubiani with red-checkered tablecloths and simple cantina fare. Piazzetta Scalette Rubiani, 1 – 37121 Verona. Tel: 045 8032849.
La Trattoria di Giovanni Rana Tre Corone Bra. More formal and relatively pricey of the row of dining establishments around the Piazza Bra. Piazza Bra, 16 – 37121 – Verona. Tel: 045 8002462.
Cantina di San Rocchetto is a wine bar and restaurant, serving some local favorites but leaning towards an international menu. Via S. Rocchetto 11 – 37121 Verona. Tel: 045 8013695.
On the way to Valpolicella north. I.e., you need a car.
Trattoria alla Coa. Great variety of choices served with pride by owners who speak some English. Dishes we had in April ranged from asparagus every which way, pastas with morrel mushrooms, beek cheeks, sweetbreads, snails and prawns. Via Brennero, 68, 37026 Pescantina. Tel: 045 6767402.
Near Conegliano, in Prosecco country.
Osteria dai Mazzeri. Semi-dressy, lovely ristorante serving double portions of grilled steak and other hearty fare. Via Pallade, 18 31051 Follina. Tel: 0438 971255.
In the category of “hey, you never know”, if you absolutely must just grab a bite or need something to-go, try food & city, an anomoly in Verona, off the main shopping street Via Mazzini. If it must be this way, you might as well have something fresh and healthy. Most items here are made that day, not just sandwiches, but pastas, salads, and entrees, vacuum-sealed and cheap. Kind of like a Pret a Manger, except not just sandwiches. Via Oberdan, 6 37121 Verona. Tel: 045 89 49290.