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Travel: Verona

Steeped in history, the Veneto city has a lively food scene. Here, wine industry insiders share their dining secrets with Michele Shah

Verona’s history, beauty and romance draws visitors from all over the world. Walking the medieval alleyways and squares is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the city. As charming as the region’s signature wine, Valpolicella, is its glorious architecture, its celebration of music and the arts and delicious, authentic food and wine.

As you meander through the streets, the distinctive local pink marble gives the elegant dwellings a warm, rosy look. In the summer, Verona’s opera festival attracts the greatest artists in the world to the magnificent Roman Arena in Piazza Brà, and every plaza is filled with musicians.

The delightful wine bars and eateries are mainly small, family-run trattorie and osterie. The area is famous for its local cheeses and cured meats, as well as fresh fish. Many of Verona’s traditional dishes originate from colourful legends.

Pearà is a celebrated peppery marrow and bread sauce served over boiled meats. It stems from a medieval tale in which Dona Lombarda is forced by her tyrannical husband to drink out of her father’s skull.

Gnocchi con la pastissada de caval, another traditional dish, is made of small potato dumplings accompanied by a rich sauce of horsemeat and herbs, marinated in red Recioto or Amarone wine for a few days, then cooked for several hours.

Apparently, the story goes, a bloody battle was fought between King Teodorico and King Odoacre and many horses were killed. The locals, never known to look a gift horse in the mouth, set about this unexpected booty and marinated the horsemeat to preserve it.

Every April, producers and importers of Italian wine flock to Verona for the annual trade fair, Vinitaly. We asked nine of them with intimate knowledge of the city where visitors should eat, drink and stay.

Al Pompiere

As recommended by Tiziana Mori of Gruppo Italiano Vini ‘Al Pompiere is a historic trattoria in the heart of Verona just around the corner from Juliet’s balcony. I go for a good bottle of wine and a plate of mixed cheeses or hams.

I enjoy the warm and relaxed atmosphere. The menu is simple, but everything is prepared with extreme care and bolstered by quality ingredients. It’s based on traditional Veronese dishes which are light and tasty.

They have 120 different cheeses, selected from Italian artisan producers – out of this world.

There are up to 50 different types of salamis, hams and other regional specialties and the wine list includes a fine selection of 350 labels from all over the country.’

Vicolo Regina d’Ungheria 5, 37121 Verona, Tel +39 045 8030537; www.alpompiere.com

L’Oste Scuro

Renzo Cotarella of Marchesi Antinori in Tuscany and Umbria ‘L’Oste Scuro is the best fish restaurant in Verona and my personal favourite. The ingredients are first class and all the dishes are crafted with true passion.

For those who like sushi, try the ‘crudités’ dish with scallops, scampi, salmon tartare and marinated angler. Also very good are the grilled baby squid and the calamari served with finely chopped tomatoes, celery, anchovies, olives and capers, dressed with extra virgin olive oil.

One of the reasons I like coming here is because they are passionate about Antinori’s Cervaro, a barrel-fermented white wine produced in Umbria. The wine list offers a very good selection of more than 80 whites.’

Vicolo S. Silvestro 10, 37122 Verona, Tel +39 045 592650; www.ristoranteostescuro.com

Antica Trattoria La Grotta

Michael Bodholdt of Danish importers BB Vinimport ‘La Grotta makes the world’s best handmade tortellini di Valeggio and brasato (braised meat) cooked in wine. I’ve been there several times and never been disappointed.

The first time was in 2004 during Vinitaly, when I had dinner with Giacomo Neri and his family, and I was amazed by the quality of the food. Last year, the day before Vinitaly started, my friend, the Veneto producer Carlo Venturini took me to dinner.

I had no idea where we were going and I was delighted when we arrived at La Grotta.

The wine list is always well selected and reasonably priced.’

Località Santa Lucia ai Monti 20, 37067

Valeggio sul Mincio, Verona. Tel +39 045

6304194; www.ristorantelagrotta.it

Trattoria Tre Marchetti

Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzaga of Tenuta San Leonardo in Vallagarina ‘Tre Marchetti is a popular trattoria, just around the corner from the Arena and is considered the epitome of Veronese cuisine. All the food is home-made.

Excellent signature dishes include risotto all’Amarone and brasato stewed in an Amarone reduction. Roberto is a charming host and walks around the tables with his showy red braces over a white shirt, entertaining guests and helping them choose their dishes and wines; the atmosphere is engaging and huge fun.

You’ll find a rich and varied selection on the wine list, especially of Veneto wines along with San Leonardo’s wines, and premium wines from Italy and abroad. Make sure you book because it is a small restaurant and always full.’

Vicolo Tre Marchetti 19/B, 37121 Verona, Tel +39 045 8030463

Ristorante Alla Coà

Luca Sanjust of Fattoria Petrolo in Tuscany ‘After a frenetic day I like to take refuge

at Ristorante Alla Coà, just 20 minutes outside Verona, in Pescantina, where I can relax and enjoy an evening with friends over an excellent meal.

The atmosphere is elegant and peaceful, and the food divine. The hosts, a husband and wife team – he in the sala and she in the cucina – offer a wonderful menu, focusing strongly on traditional cuisine. The antipasto features a good choice of local cured meats.

‘I usually order the primo piatto of home-made pasta agnolotti with truffles when in season, and the main course of guanciale di vitello – veal cheek cooked in a wonderful reduction sauce. This is their signature dish.

The wine list is well selected, despite the fact that one doesn’t always find Petrolo’s labels Torrione or Galatrona on it.’

Via Ospedaletto 70, Pescantina, Verona, Tel +39 045 6767402

Written by Michele Shah

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