Sunday, October 25, 2009

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.

Well Julie girl, I can't explain just why he had to be born a Montague, but I might be able to show where he does hang out when not lurking under your balcony, and let me tell you, it ain't very far. Andar per goti is the veronese version of a pub crawl. Andar (to go) per goti (for glasses of wine) can only mean one thing - a heck of a great time in the old streets where Shakespeare's tragedy took place, and this is what we set out to do in fair Verona...

One day in Verona

From dimly lit hole-in-the-walls, to osterie, to restaurants, 6 randomly chosen locations from Slow Food's guidebook share the spotlight in our quest to discover who pours the best. Salud! Cin-Cin! Okole Maluna! Kampai! Mabuhay! It was a BLAST, with only one bad apple out of the whole bunch. The wonderful thing about all this is that Verona's old center is restricted to pedestrian traffic, thus creating the perfect opportunity to what I can only describe as a great way to lose the crowds and enjoy this breathtakingly beautiful city on an intimate level.
Arena of Verona
Images of Verona intermingle with glasses of Amarone, Valpolicella and Soave, punctuated with “distractions” because we all know a girl can't go to an italian city without exploring the gelato, cheese, pastry and/or shopping scene. Beginning from the tourist-packed Piazza Bra at one side of the arena (B) and finishing at another (M), the map below lists all of the spots included in our itinerary. Initially we had planned on taking the train but realized that precious time would be wasted in getting there. You just can't do Verona in less than 6 hours! The large pay-park named Arena (A) is where our journey begins and is a short distance from Piazza Bra. Loads of photos, getting chased and proposed to by a gladiator, and a video clip (yeah I know it's so disco!) is included at the end, so without further ado, let's begin the tour.

Visualizzazione ingrandita della mappa

C) Vista of Santuario della Madonna di Lourdes from Ponte della Vittoria

Santuario della Madonna di Lourdes
The Adige river winds around Verona's medieval center like a snake, offering amazing views like this one from Ponte Vittoria. Tree-lined streets along on this side of the river make for a lovely stroll until we get to the first stop.

D) Trattoria Pane e Vino

Trattoria Pane e VinoRotten eggs first. This place left me with such a bad taste in my mouth that I had to spit outside. As the owner rudely stated: "If you can speak italian then you can read the italian menu outdoors. This is a trattoria, not a place for wine and nibbles!" Well then, your name shouldn't be bread and wine, genius.

E) Ostaria A Le Petarine

Ostaria Petarine
With no less than half a dozen old guys hanging around indoors, I honestly can't say that I would have walked in here all by my lonesome, but this is exactly the sort of locale where you mingle with the regulars for cheap goti of wine or go for a little more depth without breaking your wallet. We ordered a glass each of Amarone and Valpolicella - 4.30€ total - and tried to decipher the local dialect as we drank and listened in on the small talk.

F) Osteria Al Duomo

Osteria Al Duomo
Up to this point we were only drinking and taking advantage of the free bites just to see what each place was like. I wish I could have stopped the tour right here because the aroma coming out of the kitchen at Osteria Al Duomo was simply to die for! Hot, steamy waves of hearty polenta, ragu and mouth-watering victuals seemed to be directed our way where we sat at the entrance. If it weren't for a set itinerary I might have said screw the rest and let's just eat here. The chef's assistant, a pleasant young woman, acknowledged us as soon as we walked in, poured our glasses of wine and went about her cooking tasks (we had a clear view right into the kitchen). Within a few minutes another person showed up with this huge bag of taralli and we were given a bowlful. Nothing fancy, but it was the courteous service which makes gems like these so nice to return to. One thing that I took note of was the plaque on the door as you leave. URTAR (oor-TAHR) is dialect for spingere - push - which if you've already guessed I got all wrong! Hey, after the 3rd glass things were looking pretty hazy, but I was determined to save my appetite for something more. On the way to our next stop we passed a wedding group and I made like one of the guests.

Verona wedding
Wedding Hummer

G) Osteria Monte Baldo

Osteria Monte Baldo
Jackpot! The mother lode! Monte Baldo, bubbling with high energy and happy people going in and out of the premises, was exactly what I had in mind for andar per goti. A neat little display case with all sorts of 2-bite snacks greets your eyeballs as soon as you walk in. I nabbed a spot up front and center at the bar, we ordered our wine and after a bit of hesitation (I have this thing about "digging in" without asking first), one by one a delicious morsel became the makings of a miniature meal. Tiny mortadella-stuffed panini, pizzas, meatballs, tarallucci...this time I went with a white wine - Soave - which was great with baccala mantecato (codfish spread) and a hard egg with a strip of anchovy. Hard-boiled eggs were also within reach on the counter, and I noticed this offering at another osteria. We drank and munched to stave off the hunger pangs, then went on to the next stop.

Monte Baldo eat & run

H) Osteria Al Carro Armato

Al Carro Armato
Three down two more to go. High ceilings, pale walls, and large windows let in the afternoon sunlight - such a contrast to the dark, intimate corners that we experienced at the previous addresses. I needed something with more substance to counter my umpteenth glass of Valpolicella and ordered a plate of nervetti (veal tendons) with onions. Delicious stuff.

I) Osteria Sottoriva

Osteria Sottoriva
Finally, the last one! I'm sorry to say that crumb-coated meatballs and lightly seasoned chicken wings (tetteciucciidiei sp?) - delicious all the same - were all I could manage with my wine. We sat and vegetated with the full knowledge that our tour was only half over. We still had to see the main sights, buy cheese and omiyage gifts to bring home, see Juliet's house! I took over 150 photos...what a fool to think that I could finish this post in a couple of hours. Looking forward to another Andar per goti but this time with friends. If any of you expats happen on this post and want in, drop me a line!

J) Piazza delle Erbe

Piazza delle Erbe

K) Juliet's Balcony

Juliets balcony
So I yelled, "JULIET!!!!!!!!!" And this couple turned to look straight into my lens. Perfect shot. I dunno who they are.

L) Palazzo dei Diamanti

Palazzo dei Diamanti
The Diamond Palace, so named because the exterior walls consist of marble blocks carved to represent diamonds.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Campari moment

So...the lawn is done. The shower (and a double-sized one at that) scrubbed down. The floors mopped. The "kids" bathed, dried, and nails clipped. The monstrous old fennel cut down and ready to cart away. The kumquat fertilized, dinner done (oxtail soup), and the terrace swept for the 10th time because the "kids" think it's perfectly okay to leave the chestnut peels after devouring those that fall in the yard. The best part? Having my lardo d'Arnad photo featured in an italian restaurant and hospitality magazine, Italia A Tavola. MotH tried to find the October edition at the magazine shop, but they don't carry it (I guess it's for professionals). Still, I'm pretty stoked, and was sent a pdf copy of which I've snipped a part here. The subject is of that wonderful lardo d'Arnad which I do keep stocked from time to time in the fridge. Isn't it time for Campari? Jessica must know that she had it good on that assignment.