I am so pleased that you are interested in finding out more about the flavours of Verona. If you are a foodie, then Verona is the place to be, with its rich variety of food and wine. The perfect way to really understand a city and its inhabitants is through its food and drink.
I am Verona born and bred and I can only agree with Virginia Woolf who believed that:
"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well"
Trust me: Verona knows how to get your mouth watering! Veronese cuisine has been famous since Roman times, when the city’s noble families were known for their lavish banquets which they would offer at social events. This reputation continued through the Middle Ages, when the city was controlled by the Della Scala family, and subsequent centuries, during which time the produce from our region has been celebrated by visitors from all over the globe.
Bollito and pearà
I am very excited to introduce you to the succulent world of Veronese cooking with two of the stars of our cuisine: bollito e pearà, boiled meat in a creamy sauce.
You might not be familiar with pearà, a sauce which is not particularly well known beyond the city's walls. The name pearà is a local word meaning ‘peppery’, very appropriate for a sauce made from broth, breadcrumbs, oil, salt and lots of pepper, traditionally served with boiled beef. It is a dish best enjoyed in winter but it is so popular that you can find it in the city's restaurants at any time of the year. In the same way, you can also find other meaty stews, some cooked in red wine (a Valpolicella, naturally, or if you are really splashing out, an Amarone), which are very tasty when served with a steaming bowl of polenta. And of course there is polenta, we are in Veneto!
Everyone loves a risotto!
Continuing our journey of discovery through Veronese cuisine, we come to the risotto, an ever-present on Verona menus. The plains of Verona are covered in rice fields, growing the delicious Vialone Nano rice which is delicious when served with radicchio (red chicory) and Monte Veronese cheese, or with squash and sausage or with peas, known locally as ‘risi e bisi’.
The best known risottos are risotto all’Amarone, cooked with the prestigious wine from Valpolicella, and risotto al tastasal, flavoured with pork sausage. The name of this second version is derived from the Italian word for tasting the salt added to the meat, traditionally the work of housewives.
Fall in love with our flavours and traditions
Next up are the tortellini from Valeggio sul Mincio, known as the ‘lover’s knot’ and produced using thinly rolled pasta which is tied and knotted like a handkerchief and filled with meat or one of the other more modern fillings. Now we come to one of the most popular dishes for young and old: gnocchi, the star of Verona Carnival season.
To be enjoyed with a tomato sauce, meat sauce or with cinnamon and sugar, gnocchi are always eaten on the last Friday of Carnival, called “Gnocchi Friday”, when the king of the festival ‘Papà del Gnoco’ parades through the city with his giant fork topped with enormous gnocchi!
At the end of carnival, there is another dish which is traditionally eaten on Ash Wednesday: polenta with smoked herring.
Coming back to our gnocchi, there is a traditional version found in the Lessini mountains, where they are traditionally prepared without potatoes and coated with a serving of aged Monte Veronese cheese. A little tip: these make a fitting reward after a good walk in Lessinia!
To eat is to incorporate a territory. (Jean Brunhes)
This region boasts many traditional products: Sopressa sausage, Monte Veronese cheese, Verona red chicory, the list goes on and we haven’t even got to the wines yet!
Verona DOC wines
The province of Verona, along with Treviso province, rule the roost when it comes to wine: Amarone and Recioto from the Valpolicella, Bardolino, Recioto from Soave, Custoza, Soave, Lessini Durello and Lugana are just some of the most famous wines. Good wine is a serious matter!
Of all the events dedicated to wine, I have to mention Vinitaly, the country's most important wine show, but there are others, such as Soave Versus and Hostaria Verona. Soave Versus, dedicated to Soave white wine, is held annually at the start of September in the Palazzo della Gran Guardia. The second, Verona’s wine festival, takes place in mid-October and is the perfect opportunity to try out the best that the region has to offer, as you wander around the streets and squares of the old city.
I don’t want to go on too much, the best way to discover all the flavours of Verona is to come here and try them for yourself!
As you wander around the city, you are bound to stumble across at least one of the many elegant Veronese patisseries, as well as the famous Pandoro cake and its ancestor Nadalìn (at Christmas time) and you have to try our rice-filled Risini tarts, Sfogliatine from Villafranca, “Juliet’s kisses” biscuits, Santa Lucia pastries, Cologna Veneta nougat and the almond-flavoured Torta Russa di Verona.
If you want to try these traditional dishes at source, take a look at the list of “Ristoranti Tipici di Verona” (Verona traditional restaurants) where you are guaranteed to find authentic Verona cuisine.
If you prefer to buy local produce, do not miss the weekly markets held in different areas of Verona, Do not worry about your waistline: Verona cuisine is healthy and very tasty and, anyway, you will need to get some energy for our tour of the city from somewhere!