Verona’s Peara’ …and Other Pleasures
Verona’s Monet show drew us to this Veneto region splendor for an early November three-day weekend.
…and Monet just headed up a parade of pleasures. His paintbrush could have created masterpiece views of Piazza delle Erbe, “la piu’ bella piazza di Verona”, seen from our B&B window, cyclamens on the ledge. A stroll from “our” lovely piazza through a vaulted passageway led us to Piazza dei Signori, encircled with stands offering culinary enticements all weekend. Sips of famed Veneto Amarone wine at one stand, organic ginger apple juice at another and then on to try a sour cherry wine. We savored aged ricotta, gorgonzola cheese with Veneto radicchio and tastasal, the Veneto salami on our way to see Verona’s Gothic sculptural masterpieces, the tombs of the della Scala family. (Ah, Italy and the “art/culinary” inextricable link!)
Our Verona strolls led to the Arena (1st c AD amphitheater), the Castelvecchio fortress, Ponte Pietra bridge (with Roman arches), Romanesque marble and volcanic rock San Zeno church and to Sant’Anastasia, Gothic splendor with curious “hunchback”holy water fonts…
And every exploration included a search for the best “bollito con la peara’ “ in Verona. At our first Verona dinner, I couldn’t resist a favorite dish, ravioli with winter squash and amaretti, but Pino opted for the “bollito” (“boiled meats”), brought around on a carrello (“cart” – a wheeled one, in this case), the waiter slicing the chosen meats right at the table, then serving the sauces for the meats: one of capers/parsley, a horseradish sauce, la mostarda (a Veneto mustard/ fruit chutney) and then a large bowl of a brown-gravy-like sauce. La peara’.
The next morning at breakfast, our B&B hostess, Signora Maria Teresa – appassionata of Verona’s culinary traditions (what cakes she made us each morning!) – shared peara’ lore, revealing how her Nonna Benvenuta made the sauce. Truly a dish of la cucina povera originating in the 9th- century, la peara’ (from “pepper” in dialect of the Veneto region), utilized every part of the foods available from the head of the cattle, to the beef marrow to stale bread. Into the broth go beef, a calf head, a hen ( better if older – and only hen, not any chicken) and cotecchino (cooked pork sausage), all to be served afterwards as “bollito.” To make the peara’, the bollito‘s broth is stirred into grated bread crumbs (bread at least 15 days old, says one nonna) toasted til brown in olive oil, beef marrow mixed in, then generous amounts of pepper added.
At Ristorante Torcolo, mamma Paola spun the dolci carrello around so guests could view all the pastry enticements and nearby, her son Luca sliced bollito at his carrello. I knew I wanted to try their bollito con la perea’ but another Verona cucina povera dish enticed: fettuccine ai quattro sughi. Only a dollop of butter topped the fettuccine, the four sauces served to me on the side: tomato sauce, meat sauce, peas, stewed chicken livers. I asked our zippy waitress Nicoletta (Luca’s wife), if best to mix all the sauces: “Certamente!” she grinned.
I started out timidly, the four sauces spooned onto four sections of the pasta. I ended up with the full mix. Squisito! But filling: having tried their antipasto, too, no room, alas, for the perea‘. Luca offered me a “mignon” portion, “just to taste.”
The mignons on the dolci carrello were bite-sized but not my portion of bollito con la perea’!
The heavenly dish was too much to finish – but I needed only a taste as enticement to return soon to Verona.