Cantina Del Tormento in Vicenza serves Tapas without torture
The Piazza delle Erbe in downtown Vicenza boasts numerous bars and restaurants where people can eat, drink and be merry just steps away from an ancient prison that was once the scene of the most abject misery.
But none has proclaimed that connection so boldly as the Cantina Del Tormento.
The cantina sits next to a 12th century tower, the Torre del Tormento, or Tower of Torment. It is one of the few remaining medieval towers in Vicenza, and was used as a prison for centuries, including during the Inquisition, infamous for the horror of its tortures and its persecution of witches, heretics, nonbelievers, Muslims and Jews from the 12th Century to 1808, when it was abolished by Napoleon.
The cantina opened a couple of years ago. It bills itself as a wine and tapas bar, so I was looking forward to dining al fresco on the backside of the Basilica Palladiana on little plates of battered and fried squid, new potatoes with aioli, simmered meatballs, stuffed olives and other Spanish delights.
That’s not what’s on the menu, though. With the one exception of chorizo, on offer are typical Italian appetizers with ingredients like bufala mozzarella, salted cod and steak tartare. There are salads with chicken and vegetables, and perhaps the most cliched Italian appetizer of all time, prosciutto and melon.
I had that. It was quite serviceable and grandly plated on a large olive-wood board. I also ordered the salmon tacos. They were out of tacos, but the dish, with cured salmon, avocado and greens, worked nicely as a salad. Each cost 6 euros.
The cantina is known for the quality of its cocktails and large selection of natural wine. I can attest to both. I had my first Negroni, made of one part gin, one part vermouth rosso and one part Campari, and decided it would not be my last.
I also had a glass of white wine. I think it was “natural,” meaning made from organically grown grapes, with only wild or indigenous yeasts used to ferment the juice and with little to no added sulfites. In any event, it was crisp, well-balanced and refreshing. It cost 4 euros.
I went on a rainy weekday and many tables, all located outside in the piazza, went unused. But on a recent sunny weekend evening, it was jammed. Reservations are a good idea.
Address: Piazza delle Erbe, 5/A, 36100 Vicenza VI
Hours: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; Closed Tuesday.
Prices: Appetizers cost 6 to 8 euros. Cocktails are 6 to 8 euros. Wine is about 4 euros a glass or 20 euros a bottle.
Phone: (+39) 346 406 5500