The cosy entrance to Dal Pescatore
I had this very romantic, relaxed idea of us hiring a car while we were in Verona and taking day trips out, enjoying driving through the Italian countryside – you know the visual, wind through our hair, laughing when we got lost but easily making it to our destination.
How different the actual experience actually was.
As a start, I forgot my drivers license (smart). Then D had to adjust to driving on the right hand side of the road – kept hitting his left hand on the door each time he tried to change gear, both of us terrified with each left turn or encountered a roundabout. Then I couldn’t figure out how the “never lost” GPS system in the car worked. When I finally did, it calculated the fastest route to our destination, which was always always the tollways. Not exactly scenic.
Having said all that, it was fun to drive out in the classic Italian cinquecento, and our first destination was Dal Pescatore in Mantova. All the dramas in the car was worth the trip to a real treat of an experience.
This three Michelin star restaurant is nestled at the back of a small road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. But once you enter the house, you are warmly greeted by Valentina Santini, the sister, daughter and granddaughter of the three cooks of the restaurant.
She and her father and owner Antonio are always present in the room – either walking you through the amazing menu, explaining each dish as they arrive, or just chatting to guests – some of whom are clearly local regulars.
Mantovan salami with polenta
Dal Pescatore has been serving simple, traditional Mantovan cuisine since 1926, when Antonio’s grandfather bought a fisherman’s hut by a lake and opened a small osteria with his wife. From those humble beginnings, the restaurant now attracts chefs from all over the world who want to train there, while the wine cellar is reputed to be one of the best in Italy.
Our amuse-bouche was a pumpkin soup – silky, warming and with an intense sweetness from the pumpkin of which Mantova is famous for.
Thinly shaved culatello
It was our first (and certainly not the last) taste of culatello – (the king of all prosciutto that is made from a smaller part of the traditional prosciutto cut of meat, and only in Basse Parmense in Italy). The taste is sweeter than prosciutto and almost creamy in texture and was served with traditional salami of Mantova, with small cubes of polenta and a teeny tiny quenelle of pork fat mixed with parsley.
Agnoli in broth with lambrusco
We also had agnoli served in broth. The agnoli were little parcels of a mixture of braised raw and cured meats that were served in a clear broth, to which a splash of lambrusco was added at the table. This is the first time I’ve ever had pasta in a broth. I think the warmth of the broth made the agnoli even more tender and the overall flavour was so delicate and light.
Tortellini di zucca
For mains we ordered more pasta – the tortellini di zucca – the house speciality of pumpkin filled pasta with Amaretto, mustard and Parmigianna Reggianno. How they manage to balance all those strong flavours to end up with a parcel that is not too heavy in flavour or texture is beyond me.
Duck ravioli with asparagus, fennel and black truffles
My pasta was ravioli with duck, cream of asparagus, crunchy fennel and black truffles. Again, a masterpiece with all the flavours and textures working in harmony with each other.
I wish we could have had the time to sample some of the fish and meat dishes but we had reached our capacity and we were also worried about getting too sozzled to drive…
The whole experience was effortlessly perfect. So glad we battled all our driving and navigational demons to dine at this exquisite restaurant on a gorgeously sunny October afternoon.
Località Runate 15
46013 – Canneto sull”Oglio
Mantova – Italia
Tel: +39 0376 723001