Before visiting Verona, Italy this last April for a food writing workshop, I did a little research on the regional foods. Learning that horse was very common, I decided I would try it at least once while I was there. I jokingly texted my one friend that owns a horse and said, “You think Cooper will be able to sense that I’ve eaten horse?” She did not answer my question. Instead, she said “It’s extremely dark flesh, like ostrich. Lean. Like bison.” She’s also one of my old culinary instructors.
We had one evening free from the workshop so seven of us took a van from our villa to Piazza delle Erbe. The restaurant we were headed to was Trattoria Pane e Vino. We stopped along the way to check out Juliet’s balcony which was blocked off. I stepped back and let the others crowd around the iron gate to snap photos. All I wanted to do was get to the food, a common theme in all my travels, but I tried my best to hide my needless impatience. It was about 7pm in Italy. No one eats dinner that early. Except for tourists. Enter: us.
The group mostly looked to me for the wine choice, surely not because I’m the expert, but because I was clearly the one drinking the most throughout the trip. I saw the cavallo or “horse” options on the menu and decided on the speck wrapped tenderloin with cheesy potatoes. Orders were placed. Bacalao mantecado or “salt cod”, cheesy gnocchi, a charcuterie board to share, and more.
As the charcuterie board was coming to an end and the wine nicely flowing, the room went black and silent. For some crazy reason I brought my headlamp on this trip but left it at the villa. Is this the proper time to use the word, “ironic”? It seemed like quite a while before the lights finally turned back on.
It was Lori (Music 2 My Mouth) that ordered the Veronese cheese filled potato gnocchi in butter with black truffle. Our simultaneous gasps alerted the table when she cut into one and copious amounts of cheese came oozing out. It was a glorious moment that we couldn’t quite capture on video with any of the other little dumplings, so we quit after several attempts. They say the first time is always the best.
My first course was a baseball sized arincini made with local amarone wine alongside burrata, sautéed onions, and lemon sauce. As the server sat my plate down, the ball rolled right off the plate and onto the floor. Ball two came quickly.
After waiting through site seeing, a black out, and a fly ball, out came our main courses. The slices of pork wrapped meat sat on top of a creamy bed of cheesy potatoes. I couldn’t wait. What would it taste like? Because the look and texture is so similar to beef, it’s difficult not to compare it. The flavor was not as strong as beef and very tender to my surprise. Clean, but lean as my friend had suggested and the speck leant a helping hand there.
Everyone at the table had a little taste and enjoyed it. More importantly (to me), I learned that I like horse! But I’ll probably stick to only eating it while in Italy. Maybe if I ever find myself in Northern Vietnam amongst the very small amount of people that do consume dog, I’d try it if offered. It’s not like they’re raiding their neighbors’ homes and stealing their pets for dinner. I don’t imagine they’re hijacking horses from riding stables in Italy either.
Would you try horse?