Friday, July 22, 2011

Pasta and Panzarotti in Verona

Verona has a huge opera festival every summer which draw attendees from around the world. This is a lovely town to visit with some neat Roman ruins, interesting medieval and Renaissance history and architecture, and a significant river running around the edge of old town. However, we might not have made time for this stop if it hadn’t been for wanting to see an opera in an ancient Roman arena.

Since the town is flooded with opera-goers almost every evening for months, the city could easily “get away with” being a tourist town. But we really got the sense that this was an authentic Italian city in spite of all the foreign tourists. We were in a bit of a rush to get through dinner in time to get seats in the unreserved section of the arena, so we couldn’t linger over our meal the way we typically would try to do as Italians. And the restaurant our guidebook recommended didn’t open for dinner until too late for us to have time to eat, so we had to continue down the road a piece to an unknown venue. Nevertheless, I suspect that we would have had a great meal anywhere, because Verona just seemed like a place where the people cared about what they make and serve.

Again, in the name of time, we opted for pasta dishes, but both were excellent. Will’s wasn’t particularly photogenic, being simple tortellini with butter and sage, but it was delectable. Mine was not only delicious, but it was completely unique from what I have seen on other menus so far. Many of the pastas – being served in Italy as a primi (first course) instead of as a main dish, are simple (but delicious and thoughtful!) preparations of specific pasta shapes paired with a complementary sauce. However, the dish I ordered came with multiple additional ingredients – common for my own style of preparing pasta at home, but unlike what I have experienced yet in Italy. The pasta was called bigoli and were hand-rolled thick spaghetti-like noodles. The sauce was rich with eggplant, cooked down into a creamy coating, along with red peppers, pine nuts, raisins, and thick shavings of parmesangio.

For lunch the next day, we stopped for panzarotti. They are basically a calzone, except the dough is more breadlike as opposed to a pizza crust. They were delicious. The place we bought them served only these, along with a few foccacias and some risotto balls (also delicious!) They came in all different kinds of dough, as you can see by the colors in the photo. I ordered one in a plain pastry with a spinach, ricotta, and mozzerella filling. Will’s dough was speckled with olives and hot peppers, and stuffed with spicy salami, tomato sauce, and cheeses. They make for the perfect lunch, and even last in the backpack long enough for an afternoon top-off snack!

All the panzarottis lined up in the shop window. So many choices!

Mine was a plain dough stuffed with mozarella and spinach.
Will's was an olive and tomato dough stuffed with spicy meat and cheese.

We also sampled a risotto fritter.

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