As I wandered the cobbled streets of Verona, I realised that this well-preserved medieval city could please almost everybody. Everybody except, perhaps, those who are called Juliet and for some reason dislike their romantic name, because here there is no escaping the fact that Verona was the setting for the world's most famous doomed love affair. This association is most obvious in the Casa di Giulietta, supposedly once the tragic heroine's home, now a well-preserved museum. But just outside are shops with machinists sewing 'Romeo and Juliet' on to aprons and oven gloves.
The sewing machines hummed in our ears as we crossed the Piazza delle Erbe with its sprawl of cafés down one side of the square and made our way to the Osteria Giulietta e Romeo, which came with the unqualified approval of a British wine merchant who frequently visits Verona.
While the menu also acknowledges the signature romance of the City of Love, via a drawing of a ladder leading up to a balcony, it was its approach to food and drink that delighted me. A broad, smiling barman stood behind his counter surrounded by bottles of grappa, the powerful Italian digestif. The shelves and walls are littered with wine magazines and empty wine bottles, and the osteria itself is made up of three very different, small rooms so that the overall noise level is never too high.
The menu revealed two other attractions. The first was the phrase cucina tipica Veronese, promising the local cooking that I most enjoy when I am travelling — although note that here this includes several dishes with horse meat (with pasta, as a tartare and as a steak with roast potatoes). The second was the price: €15 for two courses from an extensive à la carte menu, one reason that the osteria was packed with hungry Veronese.
These included tortelli stuffed with pumpkin purée; penne with radicchio and gorgonzola cheese; vitello tonnato, the dish designed for a hot summer's day, that encompasses thin slices of cold veal topped with a creamy tuna sauce and capers, calves' liver with polenta and a chicken breast with roast potatoes that should keep any hungry child happy.
Another reason to take advantage of this generous two- course menu is that it is then possible to take in a few more local places. There are, naturally, no shortage of ice-cream stands and plenty of wine bars for a coffee and a glass of wine, of which my two favourites are the long-established Bottega del Vino, just off the Via Mazzini, and the Osteria del Bugiardo in the Corso Borsari.
And right next door to this osteria is the Caffè Tubino, a narrow slip of a shop that serves perhaps the best espresso, hot chocolate and tea in Verona. Its shelves are full of coffee pots, English teas and jams, while four people work furiously behind the bar to keep the constant queue of customers happy. And, to the best of my knowledge, none of them is called Romeo or Juliet.
Osteria Giulietta e Romeo, Corso Saint' Anastasia 27, Verona, +39 045 800 9177
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