Verona, Italy

February 2008 

I love to find restaurants in Italy that from the outside look like no one is there.  Often so dimly lit coupled with public areas that are often hidden behind thick velvet curtains (and even heavier doors), I frequently hesitate to push open these heavy doors because I’m never quite sure what I’ll find inside.  That’s why I’m always slightly amazed when behind a curtain or a door, a dining room reveals a space packed with people.

Ristorante Grappia was such a find.  When we walked in, they had a huge steam table they were wheeling around featuring bollito misto – the boiled meat and poultry items I hadn’t seen on a menu stateside in years.  They charge you by the kilo for whatever you choose to consume, plate it and bring you some accompanying sauces.  I was very tempted to try it but there were so many other good things on the menu that day that caught my fancy – prosciutto being one of them.

We have a daughter who loves prosciutto.  Most kids growing up won’t have anything to do with it.  Try to pass off prosciutto as “ham” to a kid who is a fussy eater and that will be the end of them ever ordering something as basic as a ham and cheese on rye.  After all, what is prosciutto?  It’s basically raw pig that’s been hanging in a basement or attic someplace to “cure and age,” meaning before it’s “ripe” and they serve it to you, they have to cut away the mold.  Yummy.

Rachel, however, has become somewhat of a prosciutto connoisseur.  She knows the difference between domestic and imported, can tell when it hasn’t been cured properly or is too salty.  She loves prosciutto that is melt-in-your-mouth soft with just the right amount of fat encircling each well-aged slice but will also give a thumbs-up to those who still wrap prosciutto around a couple of slices of melon (preferably honeydew) with a fresh slice of lemon to squeeze on top.  

Consequently, for lunch that day she started with what appeared to be a family-sized portion of thin slices of prosciutto (it was served on a large platter), then moved on to her next best favorite: tomatoes with fresh mozzarella. She had TWO appetizers and then a plate of rigatoni with ragu.  I’m glad she’s thin.  I opted for homemade spinach ravioli with a cream sauce as a starter.  The menu listed Hungarian goulash as one of their special entrees. I was intrigued. Hungarian goulash in Verona?  It was delicious.  Brought out in a big bowl were chunks of beef stew swimming in a rich paprika-flavored gravy with some potatoes and onions.  Lynn ordered what he thought was Costoletta alla Milanese but which ended up being a beautifully grilled veal chop. 

By the time we had finished lunch, most everyone else had left the restaurant and gone back to work.  One of the waiters wheeled over a dessert trolley which in fairness I probably stared at much too fondly because I think they were disappointed when we insisted we were much to full to even contemplate a sweet ending.  Luckily, we had a long walk back to find our car since most of the area around the amphitheatre is a pedestrian-only zone.  Perhaps that’s why the Italians can eat so much for lunch and still be as thin as a rails? 

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