Il Desco – simplicity
Elia Rizzo is an institution in Verona. And so is his restaurant Il Desco. The secret behind Elias success is his mantra – to create greatness through simplicity. He never falls for the temptation to overdo anything.
Il Desco opened in 1982, after Elia Rizzo left his family's then restaurant business, the now famous Antica Bottega del Vino in the centre of Verona. Elia was convinced that he had to pursue his own ideas and do something completely different from the quite rustic Bottega restaurant where indeed the wine cellar was the reason for most of the guests visits.
Still it is the same vision that drives him forward. When asked to choose one of his signature platters, he does not need more than a few seconds before he points to the black spaghetti with squid. On the plate this is the best example of simple freshness and clean tastes you can imagine.
Ristorante Il Desco is still very classical and also very traditional in style, though not without showing that Elia Rizzo has been through a continual evolution since he started the restaurant 29 years ago. When you arrive, you will be met by either Elia himself, his wife Anna or their son Matteo. Il Desco is indeed a family affair, with the help of course from some very service minded staff.
Elia himself would most likely stay in the background, checking the book with reservations, dressed in his white kitchen outfit and comfortable sneakers. During the meal he will bring at least one of his plates to your table, quietly asking if everything is all right. He shows concern with his guests, but Elia appears to be a somewhat shy, quiet and hushed man who likes to speak through his food. His motto is that what you find on the plate is his language; it is through his creative work in the kitchen he expresses himself. This you will also see in the cookbooks he has published.
Il Desco is situated in an antique building in the old historical part of Verona. The interior is elegant, without being plush, taking up some of the characteristics of the surrounding neighbourhood, combining history with modernism. The large, colourful paintings on the wall, made by Elia's friend Lorenzo Bernardini, an architect and also a very good chef himself, is a striking contrast to the elegantly set tables. Large mirrors on the walls make the restaurant appear bigger than it actually is, for the main room is really intimate and inviting.
When it comes to the food, it is in the details you find Elia Rizzo's strength. When you get the bread, is it not accompanied by the usual butter, but a cheese and butter-cream made from gorgonzola and mascarpone. And the mashed potatoes with the scallops are coloured green from basil. The lobster soup is full of tasty lobster bits, with olive and tomatoes making contrasts for the eye as well. The presentation is consistently original, but not overdone, and it is of course not necessary to mention that the black spaghetti is cooked to perfection al dente. No need to say that you will get fish and meat so tender that it just melts in your mouth. What could be the problem sometimes is that the vegetables are too shy, as could be the case with the duck served with eggplant, grapes and grappa. We think many guests would have hoped for more acidity and freshness.
There is a nice private room down in the wine cellar, and the wine list shows that Il Desco has a thoughout concept also when it comes to what is served in the glasses. What could worry a wine lover is that some of the wines are stored in open shelves in the restaurant, and you might experience that they are served a bit too warm. But the selection is impressive, Il Desco being very strong on local wines, but does also have most of the "big" names. And the prices are tempting – 90 euro for a bottle of Quintarelli 2001 is a bargain!
Il Desco is the darling of Elia Rizzo, but he is also involved in three other restaurants in Verona, through his partners: Trattoria I Masenini at Via Roma 34 is specialising in meat, while Pescheria I Masenini in Piazzetta Pescheria 9 is a fish restaurant. Pizzeria Leon d'Oro at Via Pallone 10a is making some of the best pizza in Verona. The philosophy is the same; fresh and good ingredients.
Il Desco scored 81 of of 100 points in our rating system. View our Top 60 of the world. Back to the reviews.
Via San Sabastino 7
Phone: +39 045 595 358