Review: Osteria Giulietta

(by peter)

Things had been so busy before our brief trip to Verona that we hadn’t had time to do our usual research in to the local restaurant scene.

But we struck lucky.

We bumped into a friend at Vinitaly who was immediately on the phone to the owner of what turned out to be Osteria Giuilietta, in the Corso Sant’Anastasia, right in the heart of Verona’s stunning, atmospheric old town.

Although the name hinted at a tourist trap, on the same level as the tack being sold in the Piazza delle Erbe (some of which I have to admit buying as a present for our daughter), the reality was quite different.

This was a brilliant insider tip that we would highly recommend for anyone who wants to eat some wonderfully authentic Veronese cooking (nothing highbrow here) and wash it down with wine selected from a list that is deftly chosen, wide-ranging (mostly Italian but also featuring some good claret and Burgundy) and, most importantly of all, fantastic value for money.

It’s the kind of list that wine lovers drool over (they should laminate it, quick).

It’s the kind of list you read once, panic at the sheer number of excellent possibilities you’ve mentally chalked up, and then spend far too long deciding which to go for, while the beady-eyed nonna hovers at your shoulder, impatient at these dithering foreigners.

Unusually, Susie delegated the wine selection in its entirety to me (usually this process involves some sort of negotiation). I couldn’t decide between the Tignanello 2004 (at 60 Euros) or the Elio Altare Barolo Vigneto Arborina 2001 (at 100 Euros).

This was more than we’d usually spend but not only were we celebrating having picked up the IWSC Communicator of the Year award the night before, we were also taking advantage of prices that would have been quite considerably more in virtually any other restaurant in the world. (If indeed you could find these wines, which would be rare.)

Plus, the food was costing us next to nothing: 15 Euros for very filling two-course menu.

Given our food (which included duck papardelle, butternut squash tortellini and beef in Amarone sauce), we opted for Barolo, and it didn’t let us down.

It was served at cellar temperature (the waiter had to nip round the corner to delve it out from storage) and the complex, floral-and-mulberry aromatics led into an intense, layered palate with firm chalky tannins and a beguiling, spice-imbued finish. Still very young but also with great finesse and charm, this was a real vino di meditazione (even though it didn’t really last long enough for much of that on our table). It proved a wonderful partner for almost everything we ate, and so we’d give it 8.5/10.

The food was plentiful and what it lacked in refinement was compensated for in heartiness, flavour and sheer quantity.

An initial plate of prosciutto was moist and full-flavoured, with the kind of melt-in-the-mouth texture that can only come from having been carved there and then from an excellent quality ham.

The papardelle was wonderfully fresh and succulent, and its accompanying duck sauce rich and meaty. The tortellini almost veered into pudding territory with a heavy-handed approach to the almond addition, though its buttery umami richness was intense and satisfying.

Susie’s Giulietta salad provided a much-needed antidote to all the preceding richness, with its fresh, oozing mozzarella and pleasantly peppery rocket, for once used in a context that was fit and proper. My beef in Amarone sauce with polenta, while disquieting from a cardiac point of view, was entirely moreish and thus soon disappeared.

Afterwards, we wended our way out into Verona’s delightfully meandering streets and squares, drinking in the atmosphere and stopping off briefly to have just one more gelato