Since opening Restaurant Caffe Contadino in Margaret River at the age of 25, Nino Zoccali has forged a career in modern Italian cuisine, establishing landmark Sydney restaurants Otto, Pendolino and La Rosa. Also a cook book author and olive oil expert, Zoccali has been a member of Australia's national olive oil tasting panel for more than a decade. He visits Italy regularly. See pendolino.com.au.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE TABLE IN VERONA?
At the moment we love going to Alcova del Frate in the historic town centre. This casual but fantastic "locale" serves the very best quality dishes of the region along with great local and cult Italian wines. Cheeses and high quality artisanal small goods are featured, including a select number of imported gems such as Spanish Pata Negra Hamon. See alcovadelfrate.it.
THE LOCAL FOOD DISCOVERY OF THE PAST YEAR?
Camoscio at Posta Vecia. This historic hotel and restaurant is a wonderful nostalgic trip back to the days when the postal service was conducted by horse and carriage. Posta Vecia, as the name would suggest (meaning "old place" in the local dialect), serves exceptional classic cuisine in a way that is rapidly being lost in Italy. The average age of the staff must be about 70 and the full "geuridon" service is of an era of about the same age. The food is all handmade and amazing. On a recent trip we discovered a game meat called "camoscio" or "chamois" as it is called in French and English. Described to us as a cross between venison and capretto, it was amazing – and tasted exactly like a cross between venison and capretto. See postavecia.com.
WHAT IS VERONA'S BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET?
Not many people know that pandoro, a more austere variation of panetone (without the dried peel and dried fruit), actually originated in Verona. Have it at Christmas with one of the range of different Veronese sauces and condiments – fantastic.
PLACE TO GO ON A DAY OFF?
Lago di Garda in summer for swimming, eating and drinking, and the Valpolicella wine region any other time of the year.
Italians haven't yet embraced the concept of cellar door wine tasting like many other parts of the world. This shouldn't however, discourage anyone from visiting the Valpolicella as a great range of wines can be sampled by the glass in numerous quality osterie (quality casual eating establishments) within the region. Knowledgeable staff will be more than willing to take you through a food and wine journey that will undoubtedly feature some very interesting local wine producers. A tip: if you want to sample as many wines as possible, ask the wait staff to split glass serves and simply order more glasses through the meal.
FAVOURITE INDULGENCE IN VERONA?
Aperativo in the Piazza delle Erbe in the afternoon gazing at the best dressed people in the world … then a pre-dinner glass of wine at Antica Bottega del Vino, Verona's most famous wine bar. Apart from exceptional Italian wines, here you may get to sample some very unlikely drops, like an amazing Camel Valley (UK) sparkling rose. Yes quality wine from the UK in Italy. See bottegavini.it.
PLACE TO GO FOR A BIG NIGHT OUT?
Casa Perbellini. Chef Giancarlo Perbellini is Verona's wunderkind chef/restaurateur. Curating no fewer than five restaurants and bars across this beautiful city, his multi-starred Casa Perbellini is the pinnacle of what he does albeit in a very high-end "homely" open kitchen experience type of way. There are only 24 seats in this unique place so be sure to book early. See casaperbellini.com.
BEST TIME TO VISIT, AND WHY, FOODWISE IN VERONA?
Winter. Outstanding dishes to try: any fresh pasta with winter truffles, wild hop risotto, lesso e peare – Verona's version of bolito misto with the piquant bread, pepper and bone marrow peara sauce and salads with Veronese radicchio tardivo in them.
WHAT SHOULD A VISITOR AVOID, FOOD-WISE, IN VERONA?
Verona is famous for horse meat, nearly every restaurant has it on the menu and most butcher shops specialise in it. If you are sensitive about eating horse, donkey or pony meat be sure to clarify ingredients in dishes before ordering them.
WHAT'S HOT IN THE AREA RIGHT NOW?
Wine. Verona hosts one of the biggest wine fairs in the world (Vinitaly) which celebrated its 50th birthday this year. The city sits on the edge of one Italy's most famous wine regions, Valpolicella and is also located close to other iconic wine producing regions. The huge and growing global interest in Italian wine is nowhere more apparent than in Verona with exciting and eclectic wine store/osterie all over the place.