TWO RESTAURANTS OF VERONA
Not quite following on to Shakespeare’s idea of camaraderie triumphing over love, these two restaurants are just about as far away in style as you could have in a small town that boasts of historic diversity of gastronomy.
Borsari 36 is a chic, modern, stylishly decorated restaurant, which is part of the upmarket Palazzo Victoria Hotel in the old city centre. The spacious, clean-cut array of tables surround the open kitchen where chef Carmine Calò presides over a small brigade, producing some imaginative, reasonably-priced dishes from a short menu. Starters may include octopus grilled with creamed potatoes and a caper powder, scallops with cauliflower cream, Maldon (yes, Maldon, all the way from Essex) vanilla salt with beetroot, gnocchi with turnip tops, clams and bottarga (grey mullet roe) and Acquerello risotto with pumpkin, tastasal sausage with a balsamic vinegar reduction. He’s into top branded ingredients, so I plumped for the Paolo Parisi egg with creamed potato and black truffle. Paolo Parisi’s eggs are extraordinarily rich – the technique is to cook the albumen first, top it with parmesan cheese and then add the yolk for about 30 seconds. This dish would have been great if the truffles were even remotely pungent, but they were not. When I mentioned this to the maître d’ he did say that they were not very pungent at this time of the year, but it seems to me that if the pursuit of excellence was the main goal of the kitchen, why not withdraw this dish until the truffles were as good a they ought to be? As Shakespeare would have said – to be or not to be?
Main courses were just as eclectic. Here you could have the ever so fashionable veal cheek braised in Amarone with creamed potatoes and candied tomatoes, rack of lamb in a dried fruit crust with caramelised cream of Jerusalem artichokes, or fillet of dover sole with lemongrass artichokes, but I went for the “secret” slices of Iberico pork with roast potatoes, very succulent and tender (even the potatoes) and not an ounce of fat on them.
A short selection of desserts led me to the zuppe inglese – a dish I can never resist because whatever Italian restaurant you have it in, it’s bound to be better than sherry trifle, which is what it emulates. When it came it was visually astonishing. A round chocolate hollow ball with the sponge and fruit inside soaked with I think Galliano (but it might have been something just as pungent) – delicious.
The wine list was a veritable tome – the good and the great from all over Italy and a few good foreign wines as well. There is also an extensive list of wines by the glass. A glass of Mediterra from Pogio al Tesoro (40% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot did nicely for the egg and the pork but the glass of Zibibbo wasn’t quite sweet enough for the zuppe inglese. €50 for three courses without wine represents fair value for the quality.
By contrast Hosteria La Vecchia Fontana epitomised the traditional tastes of the ordinary Veronese. Dishes made of the staple diet of horsemeat and polenta abound in this cosy ancient building strewn with the décor of yesteryear. But it’s not the décor you are eating but a fair selection of local and some not so local dishes admirably cooked by chef Marco Segattini. Here you can get for around €9 a starter and not much more for a main course local dishes such as Bolliti con Pearà (boiled meats with a sauce made with beef and chicken stock, breadcrumbs and pepper), stewed horsemeat with polenta or a more conventional plate of mixed cold cuts, or, as I had, bigoli (thick fat spaghetti) with a duck and aubergine ragu. Main courses not only include conventional dishes with angus beef and lamb, but the speciality horsemeat with polenta. My grilled horsemeat steak was perfectly cooked medium rare as I had ordered and I enjoyed the no fat, low-cholesterol, tender meat. There is a good selection of desserts including semi freddos and poached pears. Additionally, there is a €12 set lunch which is excellent value.
Corso Porta Borsari, 36
37121 Verona (VR)
Tel: +39 045 800 0779
Wine List 16
Value for Money 10
Hosteria Vecchia Fontana
Piazza Chiavetta, 5
37121 Verona (VR)
Tel: +39 045 591159
Wine List 11
Value for Money 13