Monday, April 13, 2020

Verderamen in Brescia, Italy


I met Giancarlo back in early 2019. He was out in Tokyo to eat a bunch of ramen as "research" for his upcoming shop. It worked out, as the Asahi Shinbun newspaper wanted to profile my ramen tours. Giancarlo is a charismatic Italian, perfect for this sort of thing. After the tour, he said I am welcome anytime in Brescia, his hometown in the north of Italy. How about summer?

Brescia is about an hour from Milano by either car or high-speed rail. The town is historically quite famous for marble production and has some decent old buildings like a Medieval castle and Roman ruins.

And now some ramen.

Verderamen serves an array of tasty bowls. This tantanmen is Japanese-style, meaning not to heavy on the heat and a smooth sesame base to mellow it out. Giancarlo and I had planned a trip to the heart of Chinese spice land, Chengdu, around June 2020, but Covid-19 put an end to that. Next year!

The shop's signature bowl is their shoyu truffle ramen. People have divided opinions about truffle as a flavor and aroma enhancer in casual food like ramen, and I personally shy away from it in Japan. But here in the north of Italy, we are smack in the middle of the global truffle scene, so I'm interested.

Fantastic. Truffles should be used as a minor accent. If you want full-on truffle flavors, I'd go for something like risotto, not ramen. As a little bonus, though, this one works. Chashu wonton truffle ramen.

Regardless of how you feel, this homemade topping is tough to argue with, though. The truffles are locally sourced blacks from the nearby mountains. Giancarlo slices them thin and stores them in some quality olive oil.

Of course, the chashu wonton truffle ramen has a healthy serving of pork chashu.

Ramen, aburasoba, summer cold noodles, rice bowls, and bao. A large snack section means drinks are a must.

Local craft beer in the bottle.

Junky aburasoba always works if the noodles are the right size. Verderamen makes their own noodles using a Japanese ramen machine. I got a lot of flack for eating so much ramen in Italy, but aburasoba is kind of like Japanese pasta, no?

Bao is very common in Italy as a side menu. I thought the veggie bao would be a light, healthy snack, but it turned out to be a tasty tempura calorie bomb. Pork, salmon, and beef bao are on the menu as well.

The Gozer is an Italian panna cotta mixed with white miso covered in white chocolate matcha crumble. Yes, this refers to Gozer The Gozerian. Are you a god? No? Then die!

Though it is almost unheard of to find such kind of side menu items at ramen shops in Japan, I have no problem with this growing trend.

Giancarlo is a graduate of the Osaka Ramen School that I work with. How cool is that!

Many people scoff at me eating so much ramen in Italy. The truth is my culinary journey was all over the place. Just around the corner from Verderamen is the excellent Hosteria Antica Lelia, where I went to town on what Brescia had to offer.

More truffles from just up the road.

Pasta made with dried shad fish, aka Italian niboshi. I asked Giancarlo to make a local-style niboshi ramen, but the fish from nearby Lake Iseo are very expensive due to the difficulty in both fishing and preserving.

Stewed beef cheek on polenta.

When I geeked out about this food to a friend who spends a few months eating in Italy every year, he said food of this caliber is the norm. Good to know.

Thank you Giancarlo for everything. I took my buddy to Lido 84 on our last day for a little something fancy to thank him for all the ramen. During our meal we talked about ramen and life in Italy. Stay tuned to the YouTube channel for that content . . . only a year late!

Official site here.

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