Verona & Valpolicella: A guide to the gastronomic scene


20 March 2024
Written by
Teresa Cremona

Discover the culinary delicacies of the city and beyond


It is known that Verona’s reputation is well linked to the ups and downs of Romeo and Juliet. However, the city also has a solid gastronomic culture that is worth the trip every single time – such as the cured meats like “stortina” from La Botteghetta or “soppressa” to be paired with toasted polenta which you can find at Trattoria Caprini.

In all the trattorias, you can find homemade pasta: from “bigoli” with sardines, typical of Christmas Eve (slightly thicker than spaghetti), to hand-rolled tagliatelle with duck ragù. For a traditional recipe like “pastissada de caval,” a dish with horse meat cooked with wine and aromatics dating back about 1500 years, you can visit historical trattorias like Ostregheteria Sottoriva 23. For desserts that are over two hundred years old, like “nadalìn,” the precursor to Pandoro, which has a similar star shape but is glazed with dried fruit, less buttery and more compact and low, you can visit Pasticceria Barini. Here, you can also find excellent “risini” and “torta russa,” a pastry made from amaretti cookies, almonds, and eggs encased in a crispy puff pastry shell.

But the dish that encapsulates the essence of the local gastronomy is the “risotto all’amarone,” which is superb at the Enoteca della Valpolicella, celebrating the region’s premier wine. This risotto is made from grapes such as corvina, corvinone, and rondinella, which are left to air dry for up to 120 days to concentrate sugars and facilitate fermentation. In recent years, more and more wineries have adopted organic farming practices, like Buglioni and Costa degli Ulivi. Other wines from the denomination include “Ripasso,” full-bodied and structured, and “Recioto,” one of the oldest in the history of winemaking. It was chosen by Cassiodorus, minister of King Theodoric around 500 AD, to supply the royal warehouses. Back then, it was called Acinaticum and was produced using the same appassimento method still in use today.

For a proper introduction to Veronese cuisine, a visit to one of its contemporary masters, Giancarlo Perbellini, at his two Michelin-starred restaurant in the charming Piazza San Zeno, is essential. At Casa Perbellini, the experience is highly engaging for diners who can admire a dramatic open kitchen in the center of the dining room, accommodating a total of 24 guests. You can savor dishes that skillfully blend innovation with classics, such as the sesame wafer with sea bass tartare, as well as refined reinterpretations of traditional dishes.

As for the trattoria, venture to Ostregheteria Sottoriva 23, where you can discover homemade recipes of the region such as their signature “Riso all’Amarone”. For your pizza fix, one of the best pizzerias in Italy is located right here in Verona: Saporé Downtown, owned by one of Italy’s master bakers and pizza makers, Renato Bosco. You’ll find expertly crafted pizzas with a meticulous selection of top-quality ingredients. A delight for the palate, featuring pizzas like “Aria di Pane,” with various toppings and a soft and light dough, or “Doppio Crunch,” crispy on the outside with a soft and tender interior.

Chef Perbellini

Il Desco, on the other hand, is a historic restaurant frequented by connoisseurs of fine cuisine since 1981. Here, the historic chef, Elia Rizzo, has handed over the reins to his son Matteo, who brings his contemporary vision to the table without disrupting the identity of the dishes. The menu is based on a good dose of creativity and technique, focusing on combinations of three ingredients or slightly more.

Il Desco courtesy Aromi Group

Ristorante Maffei, near the central Piazza delle Erbe, is located on the ground floor of a seventeenth-century cardinal’s palace, which, according to archaeologists, was once the Capitoline Hill in ancient times. You can admire the ruins in the cellar, where passionate wine enthusiasts are occasionally hosted for prestigious tastings accompanied by a cuisine that reinterprets classics and tradition.

If you’re looking for somewhere central to stay (but not in the core of all the tourism) then a great option is Butterfly Verona. They have six suites furnished with a distinctive sense of aesthetics that is both elegant and understated, featuring pieces and accessories of Italian design. It’s ideal for those seeking contemporary luxury with attention to detail, offering a refined reimagining of the comfort and intimacy of home.

From here, it’s easy to reach La Botteghetta, a historic shop open for almost sixty years whose philosophy is to source out small producers and high-quality products to offer its customers. Here, you can purchase typical cured meats like “stortina,” fresh bread like “rosette,” and cheeses from dairies in the surrounding area, as well as wines from the most renowned Venetian wineries.

And for an informal dinner or lunch experience, featuring a cuisine that spans the regions of Italy with a contemporary twist, Locanda 4 Cuochi is a must-visit. The chefs, trained by Perbellini, apply the techniques of prestigious restaurants to carefully selected ingredients, offering a menu with an immensely appreciated price-quality ratio. Their menu ranges from “arancino” to “fregola” to “arrosticino,” creating a gastronomic journey through Italy.

Very close to Piazza Bra, Caffè Pasticceria Barini has been a representative pastry shop for Verona’s historic sweets for over fifty years. It also serves as a coffee roastery. The furnishings and atmosphere have remained unchanged since the 1970s, as has their selection of sweet treats, including “zaleti,” “baci di Giulietta e Romeo,” “torta russa,” and the legendary “risini” – small pastry baskets filled with rice and custard.

Courtesy Ristorante Maffei

Nestled just behind the Arena, Ristorante Il Torcolo is an exquisite culinary stop. Set with Versace tableware, it’s both elegant and aesthetic, as well as serving delicious cuisine. For first timers, Pappardelle with Lessina black truffle and Monte Veronese cheese.

Vista Verona seeks to provide guests the sensation of sleeping in a Venetian noble house with a contemporary approach to interior design. Luxury marble features in the bathrooms and an almost oriental approach in the choice of materials. This is the only hotel in Verona to house an indoor swimming pool and in fact, the SPA is what you would expect to find in a wellness hotel – yet here, you’re actually in the heart of a city (and their restaurant is also stellar).

Leaving the city and heading north to explore the wine region of Valpolicella, located about 10 km from Verona, you’ll encounter one of the area’s historic wineries. Founded in 1875, Bertani boasts two hundred hectares of vineyards with vines that reach up to thirty-five years old. It’s a symbol of Amarone and definitely deserves a visit. Don’t miss the award-winning Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012, which, at 3322 days from the harvest, remains one of the absolute best. In recent years, they have been experimenting with organic farming with plans to extend it across the entire estate.

A few kilometres to the north, for an authentic local culinary experience, make a stop at Trattoria Caprini, next to the church of Torbe di Negrar. Be sure to try their hand-rolled “lasagnette,” perfectly textured to hold the sauce of “Pierina,” with “finferli” mushrooms and porcini. They also serve toasted polenta and “soppressa,” all to be paired with a wide selection of local wines.

Homemade pasta at Trattoria Caprini

Spread across approximately twenty hectares, Villa Spinosa in Negrar, Valpolicella, offers a warm welcome to wine lovers. It features two rural residences that now serve as farmhouse with accommodations, facing a meticulously maintained Italian garden. Highly recommended are the tastings of Albasini Amarone or Ripasso Jago, both award-winning labels and symbols of the estate.

Strategically positioned as a base for exploring Valpolicella, the centre of Verona, and Lake Garda, Villa Moron has retained all the allure of its eighteenth-century heritage, even though it has been restored in accordance with eco-sustainability parameters, utilising renewable and environmentally friendly sources. With sixteen cozy rooms and an infinity pool overlooking the green hills, it’s the ideal spot for evening relaxation after days spent exploring vineyards and the historical treasures of the city of Verona.

Valpolicella

To savour well-executed traditional dishes accompanied by an extensive wine selection, Enoteca della Valpolicella is a place to remember. They serve homemade cuisine in a 1400s barn overlooking an inner courtyard, offering delights like “tagliatelle al ragù di cortile” and “petto d’anatra con miele e recioto” (duck breast with honey and recioto wine). They boast nearly a thousand labels of regional and Italian wines for perfect pairings.

A country-chic atmosphere welcomes guests as they cross the threshold of Costa degli Ulivi, a former farmhouse turned hotel, with rooms that offer breathtaking views of the vineyards. It features a restaurant serving typical Veronese dishes such as “pasta e fagioli” (pasta and beans) and “brasato all’Amarone” (Amarone-braised meat), and a cellar producing Amarone, Ripasso, and Recioto wines certified as organic since 2016.

With a small detour from the road leading to Lake Garda, you’ll reach Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella, where for seven generations, the Masi winery has been producing five different Amarones, earning recognition worldwide. They employ a grape drying technique dating back to Roman times, allowing the grapes to rest on bamboo racks during the winter months.

Returning towards the centre of Verona, Pedemonte is worth a stop to visit the Tedeschi winery, renowned for its award-winning Amarones recognized by the most authoritative global wine guides. Ten years of studying grapes during the drying process have led to a fruit-drying facility capable of ensuring the integrity of the grapes with careful control of humidity and ventilation.

Just a stone’s throw away, the Buglioni winery covers 54 hectares of vineyards in Valpolicella Classica, which have been under organic management for three years. The estate offers accommodation in rooms characterized by exposed stone and wrought iron. Tastings of Amarone, Recioto, and Ripasso wines are also organised at the Bugiardo’s Osteria and Piscaria in the heart of Verona.



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