This ostentatious osteria has an equally glamorous history. once one of many that characterised Verona’s place in the renaissance period of the Venetian Republic, it was known as Osteria Scudo di Francia, after the French Consulate, housed upstairs.
It got its present name in the 1890s when the Sterzi brothers bought it from a winery in Soave. In 1957 the Rizzo-Grigolo family enriched the cellar and offered restaurant style meals, a tradition that has been maintained since the ‘Amarone Families’ acquired it in 2011.
The significance of Risotto all’amarone as one of their signature dishes is not lost on those who know the story. Rice and wine define the Veneto region, the area around Verona in particular. More so because Amarone is one of the great stories of the modern era.
Here in the bottega, wine is slightly more important than rice. They have 18,000 bottles of almost 5,000 labels, and all of them are excellent. Why? Wine is their stock and trade. It is wine that makes them what they are and they know what they are doing, so when you visit, as you must, expect only the best.
Sabina Zantedeschi, their young sommelier, will guide you through the tastes of Verona’s best wines. We sampled a ‘2013 valpolicella Classico’ from the Begali Lorenzo winery, a ‘2013 Valpolicella Ripasso’ from Venturni and a
‘2010 Capitel Monte Olmi’ from Tedeschi.
The food was exquisite. Luca, the manager, tried to explain that the first dish was an excellent marriage between the sea of Venice and the land of Verona. This was scallops with pearà sauce. He was right.
The high standard was maintained with the horse meat stew and potato dumplings. Their hand-made pasta dishes were superb!
Then came the amarone risotto. Sabina tried to convince us that the tradition of cooking rice with wine started in the Bottega.
‘Journalists came to drink the wine, and the wine that was left over was used to cook the rice that made the risotto, a tradition that began here over 100 years ago.’
To learn more about amarone we are heading north to Negrar.
Amarone is the alter-ego of recioto. Sweet to bitter, and all because of a mistake! Traditionally made with Corvina, Corvinone, Negrara, Oseleta and Rondinella grapes, which are left to dry after harvest to concentrate the
juice content, recioto is produced when the fermentation is stopped to create a wine high in sugar, and sweet.
In the 1950s a winemaker lost a barrel intended for recioto. When the barrel was discovered all the sugar had been converted but the wine was stronger with a high alcohol content and was slightly bitter. A new wine had been discovered.
The Vogadori winery in Negrar is one of several in the region that specialises in amarone. They also make it into grappa, but that is a story for another day.