There are dozens of reasons to visit the Italian city of Verona, known most famously as the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
One might be the seemingly obligatory visit to the “home” of Juliet, where it’s possible to place your hands on a statue that a few million other people have helped to turn a different color. The site elicits plenty of smiles, even though its authenticity is certainly in question.
A few blocks away, there’s a whale bone hanging under an arch. A local legend says that it’ll fall on someone walking underneath it who hasn’t told a lie. Presumably, those responsible for setting up Juliet’s house have made that walk without incident.
There’s a restaurant between these two spots that doesn’t draw nearly as many tourists. And it doesn’t tend to have as many doubters, either.
Trattoria Al Pompiere has been around for decades. Its legend is that it was established by a retired fireman who never gave it a name. It gradually became known as “the fireman’s” in Italian.
The current owner, Marco Dandrea, is also the chef. Don’t expect fare geared for tourists or local Italians looking for a quick, cheap meal.
Al Pompiere, one of many restaurants around the country listed in guides touting the slow-food movement, will cost a bit more than a stop at most of its neighbors. It’s essentially fine dining without the need to put on a jacket and tie (or dress and heels).
The slow-food movement is generally seen as the answer to the fast-food culture. Dishes are often simple but feature the finest locally produced ingredients. And they’re not meant to be eaten quickly.
The food at Al Pompiere is far from pretentious, though. Most of the offerings — which change with the seasons — feature traditional dishes from the Veneto region or slightly different takes on them.
First courses on the menu recently included pasta-and-bean soup, bigoli (a type of pasta) with sausage and tagliatelle (another pasta) with vegetables. Second courses included oven-roasted pork with mashed potatoes and horse meat stew with polenta.
The wine list is extensive. Customers can pay a few euros for a glass or a few months’ salary for a bottle of the most expensive variety. The meat and cheese options are almost as extensive (and sometimes as expensive). If you’re a splurging meat lover, this is the place to try plates of various cold cuts.
It’s best to make reservations for dinner and the weekends. There’s room for about 40 inside, with a handful of tables outside.
A few afford views of the crowds headed to Juliet’s place.
After Hours: Trattoria Al Pompiere
Location: Vicolo Regina D’ Ungheria 5, Verona, Italy
Directions: Located on an alley off Via Cappello, one of the main roads in the pedestrian area of Verona. The best way to get to this area is to take the Verona Sud exit off the A4 autostrada and head a few miles toward the center of the city. Once you get to the series of arches that mark the border of the old town, head right, following the signs for the Arena parking. It’s a few blocks from the parking structure to Piazza Bra, Verona’s heart.
From there, walk along Via Giuseppe Manzini — a prime shopping street — until it ends at Via Cappello. Turn right, then take a right into the alley before you pass by Juliet’s “home.”
Hours: 12:30 to 2 p.m. and 7:30-10:30 p.m.
Food: Fine Italian. Menu varies by season, with appetizers, first courses, second courses and desserts changing. Large selection of local meats and cheeses.
Drinks: A huge selection of wines ranging from a few euros per glass to thousands of euros per bottle.
Dress: Casual, though you’ll often see people in business suits.
Prices: Expect to pay a few more euros than you would at many of the nearby restaurants. Don’t expect to pay less than 50 euros for a complete meal for two. But expect to get high-quality, fresh ingredients for your euros.
Menus: In English and Italian. Some English spoken.
Clientele: Local Italians looking for good food. It’s not cheap.
Reservations: Recommended for weekends and evenings.
Website has an English option. It’s possible to reserve a table on the site or by phone: (+39) 045-8030537.