It’s little wonder that Verona is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Northern Italy and has been since the days of Goethe and Mozart who both holidayed here. The picturesque and compact city is packed with stunning architecture, good weather, and it’s just a short train ride from Lake Garda.
On your trip to Verona, don’t miss the Arena, one of the world’s best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in Piazza Bra, which is a great place to see the opera, the charming market at Piazza delle Erbe, and of course Juliet’s Balcony. Just try and forget that the Balcony was constructed 300 years after Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet… and that she wasn’t real!
And of course, another reason to visit Verona is the food. Think risottos and stews when in Northern Italy rather than pizza. So, let’s check out the 7 (+1) foods you can’t miss on your trip to Verona!
1. Amarone risotto
Let’s start with a combination of two of the culinary symbols of Northern Italy – risotto and amarone wine.
This delicious rice dish is really all about the wine. Amarone di Valpolicella is an unusual wine made with grapes that are dried for 3 to 4 months before fermentation giving it a unique and intriguing flavour. You’ll be able to experience the tastes of fruits, dried spices, and even tobacco (maybe give this one a miss if you’re trying to quit smoking).
Topped off with Parmigiano and Grana Padano and you’ve got one tasty dish on your hands! Of course, there are several variations and in the city’s restaurants you’ll find some versions topped with radicchio, walnuts, and pancetta, to name a few.
Tast the authentic Amarone wine in our day trip from Verona to Valpolicella!
2. Handmade pasta
When you think of pasta, what comes to your mind first? Spaghetti, penne, tagliatelle? All very tasty, but not the response you’d get if you asked someone from Verona. There, you’d likely here bigoli. But what’s that? Well, bigoli is like a thicker version of spaghetti. It’s made of buckwheat and is slightly darker – kind of like Japanese udon noodles.
Traditionally, it’s served with salted sardines and onions, but in Verona you’ll also find it served with anatra (duck), asino (donkey), and cavallo (horse).
If bigoli doesn’t sound like your thing, the other famous handmade pasta from the region is gnocchi – potato filled pasta parcels. But you probably had heard of that one! Gnocchi in Verona is often served with ricotta cheese and melted butter.
Eat local products and wines on our Food and wine tour in the centre of Verona in a small group.
3. Risotto al Tastasal
If the idea of Risotto gets your mouth watering but Amarone doesn’t, then happily there’s an alternative!
Tastasal means taste the salt in Veronese dialect, but if you think that it’s referring just to salt then you’d be wrong. Tastasal is actually talking about the seasoned pork mince that you’ll find in salami.
Many butchers in the Veneto region sell tastasal, but it’s less common across the rest of Italy. If you really like this dish and want to try making it when you head back home, then a good substitute is removing the skin from good quality sausages and crumbling into the risotto!
4. Pastissada de caval
A speciality that dates all the way back to the 5th century AD, eagle eyed readers may have seen that caval looks a little like cavallo in the previous section.
Well, that’s because it is. Pastissada de Caval is a braised horse meat stew – horse is a popular choice of meat in Verona. You won’t find this on every menu in the city, but in a high-end restaurant it’s certainly likely.
That’s because this is often served as a secondo (main course) at important occasions. As well as braised horse meat, the stew is packed with onions, carrots, cloves, and Valpolicella wine. The seasoning consists of bay leaves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It’s a speciality unique to Verona and as a side you’ll often find…
One of the most common side dishes you’ll find when eating out in the Veneto region, polenta is made from boiled cornmeal.
There are a number of ways of serving polenta, and with pastissada de caval, it’ll usually be soft and creamy as it will have come just come off the stove.
If you leave it to cool for half a day or so, it will have hardened a little, so you can bake, fry, or grill it. Not only is polenta served with horse meat, but also veal liver, beef cheek, and cod.
The chances are you’ll probably know pandoro as you can find it across the world now, but did you know that it originates from Verona? The name pandoro translates literally as golden bread, and that name comes from the numerous egg yolks used in the recipe.
It’s baked in a star shape and usually dusted with sugar before it’s served, often with mascarpone, melted chocolate, or cream as it can be quite dry.
Pandoro is one of Italy’s most popular Christmas foods, so don’t be disappointed if you can’t find this on your summer holiday!
7. Juliet's kiss
One of Verona’s two most famous residents of all time never lived here and never existed. But you’ll still see references to her all over the city – she has a house, a balcony, and a statue which brings you luck in love if you touch her breast. So, it’s hardly surprising that she has a food named after her too…
Baci di Giulietta are small chocolate cookies baked with toasted almonds. They’re sandwich style biscuits often filled with chocolate, Nutella, or jam. They make a lovely gift to take home from the city!
Wine is aspecial guest in Verona cuisine. Verona is home to a number of fruity and robust wines. We’ve already touched on a couple earlier in the article, Amarone and Valpolicella, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not only are they great in cooking, but they are excellent accompaniments for any of the dishes above.
Another popular Veronese wine, and the most exported from Italy is soave, a white wine from the village of the same name, centred around a medieval castle. If you want to learn more about Veronese wines, then it’s easy to do a vineyard tour from the city! You can try for example our fun tour to Valpolicella from Verona with a e-bike ride and wine tastings!