During our recent trip to Verona, Alessandro and I dined at Trattoria Pane e Vino. Perhaps what I liked most about this restaurant was its creative spin on Veronese classics; the menu was part traditional, part new-age. Plates were artistically presented, which added a special touch. It also showcased Verona’s local wine variety, amarone.
Amarone della Valpolicella comes from the province of Verona within the region of Veneto. The name of this full-bodied red translates roughly to “very bitter”, but in reality it’s not at all. It is, however, more bitter than another similar regional wine which is very sweet in taste. Amaraone has a high alcohol content (15%) and is bold and delicate at the same time. One will pick up notes of raisin, cinnamon, and fig.
Northern Italians are sometimes referred to as Polentoni because of their gastronomical side dish, polenta (by the way, don’t call a northerner a polentone as it’s not exactly a compliment). For those who don’t know, polenta is more or less a mush of boiled cornmeal flavored with just about anything (wine, butter, oil, vegetables, meats, herbs, etc.) Sometimes it’s cooked until solid or even fried.
The variety I ordered for my first course featured artichokes, champignon mushrooms, and large chunks of shaved parmesan (a local variety, of course). The hearty winter veggies and delightfully tangy cheese made the ‘meal anything but boring. Being in the north, I was very curious to try a “gourmet” polenta, and while I enjoyed this one, at the end of the day it’s still a plate of cornmeal. That being said, I probably won’t go out of my way to order it again for a very long time.
Alessandro ordered a pasta dish that I had been eyeing, and for the sake of being different I went for another one (bad mistake). His was gnocchi stuffed with local cheese in a sauce of butter, black pepper, cayenne, and black truffle. I didn’t sample it, but he said enthusiastically that it was “very good.”
I was very hung up on trying the local pasta of Verona, bigoli, which is a short spaghetti. The classical version is served with duck ragù, whereas mine was in a puttanesca sauce. Puttanesca is made with tuna, capers, and olives and has a notable salty bite. While the sauce was tasty, it was not at all memorable. I prepare puttanesca for myself at home often and could’ve prepared one just as good, if not better. Nevertheless, the house-made bigoli were tender and tasty.
The “holy grail” of Trattoria Pane e Vino has got to be this dish. For his main, Alessandro ordered horse fillet wrapped in speck (Italian ham) and parmesan, baked in a bread crust à la beef wellington. Horse meat is a Veronese delicacy and has a gamey, smokey taste. I tried a bite and it was unlike any meat I had ever tasted. The decadence of the ham and cheese plus the flakey crust enhanced the unique fillet that much more. I couldn’t tell you what was in the orange sauce, but it was delightful: creamy, nutty, smokey, with a touch of heat. This is a dish that will never be forgotten.
- unique, local food with a modern twist
- high-quality ingredients
- not everything on the menu is standout, but some things are