Verona’s “La Lanterna” restaurant: the bio-vegan venue

Dress your kitchen

Patron Fabio Ventura and Chef Fabio Lanfredini tell us how their restaurant in Verona’s historic centre started out. It serves up delicious, flavourful traditional dishes, all of them reworked with an original, creative twist

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Verona’s “La Lanterna” restaurant: the bio-vegan venue
Eat veggies, not friends” is written in chalk on a blackboard at Verona’s bio-vegan “La Lanterna” restaurant.
And not eating “friends” is the life philosophy of the two Fabios. The first, Ventura by surname (and also by nature), owns the restaurant and helps out in the kitchen. He began his career making pizzas; working alongside the other Fabio, he began to appreciate cooking. The second, Fabio Lanfredini, is the chef: he trained at catering school and worked as a traditional chef for twenty years before going vegan.
They met while filling in for a pizza chef and a cook at another restaurant. After working side-by-side for a whole year, they decided to go into business together. Now they’re the heart and soul of a small, welcoming eaterie in Piazzetta Portichetti in Verona’s San Zeno neighbourhood, just five minutes from the Arena, which opened in November 2013. It’s a smart, cosy spot complete with rustic furnishings, wooden beams and stone walls. Both Fabios share a background in traditional cuisine.
Why did you decide to open “La Lanterna”?
We’d both become vegans, and though we’d already introduced a separate vegan menu, we were tired of traditional cooking. It wasn’t just a problem in practical terms, from sourcing ingredients to preparing the food, it was also a question of ethics.
So you came across the place you are now…
It was a stroke of luck and love at first sight! It used to be a traditional restaurant, so we had to gradually introduce the old clientele to a new type of cooking. The first thing we did was to sell the boiled meat trolley! We decided to call it “La Lanterna” (The Lighthouse) because we wanted to create the idea of illumination. We kept on the front-of-house staff we had at the other restaurant: Jessica, Roberta and Samantha.
What’s the atmosphere like at your restaurant?
It’s a family atmosphere, but a professional one: everyone who comes here is welcomed into the family, and never ignored
How would you describe your customers?
Both vegans and omnivores. 80% of them are women. Many of our customers bring their friends to the restaurant so they can try vegan food.
What’s the meaning of food in your experience?
We make vegan food, but it’s traditional, so people aren’t put off. It’s based on historic Italian dishes, like filled fresh pasta, but with a vegan twist. We take inspiration from other places, like the cuisines of South America and the Middle East, travelling around the world at our table. Our food is simple: a dish should only have 3-4 ingredients, otherwise it becomes a mishmash of flavours.
Which dishes best represent you?
Fried dumpling with vegetable-based charcuterie and cheese, bigoli pasta with vegetable-based carbonara, vegetable-based mixed grill [with natural, aromatic seitan, vegetarian frankfurters, grilled tofu, mayonnaise and cocktail sauce with olives and yogurt, two slices of grilled polenta, ed.]. Although we change our menu four times a year, these are the only dishes we’ve been making ever since we opened.
What qualities do you think you have as chefs?
I think I have creative flair as a chef. Fabio, who helps me out in the kitchen, is honest, and he’ll always tell me if a dish tastes good or it needs improving.
Mariagrazia Villa
Photos: © Ristorante La Lanterna, Verona.

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