Treviso is not well known for its restaurants. Not there’s anything dramatically wrong with the place, of course, it’s more that you just take for granted that the standard will be a little lower than it is in the rest of Veneto.
But one outrageously rainy night in July, with the mosquitoes from the plain feasting on your calves and 400 kilometres of motorway behind you, you decide that since you deserve a SLOW stop-off, you may as well give Treviso a try, even though you’re a little sceptical. So since you happen to be nearby, you sound out your bosses via cell phone and they give you a tip; for a second you forget there’s a sweat-mark shaped like Australia on your back, and start hoping that after all this tramping around your evening will end on a happy note.
“Go round the roundabout by the Standa,” you’re told, “and then straight on for three or four kilometres. When you get to Preganziol turn right for San Trovaso. Ombre Rosse’s on your right before the underpass. Go there, it’s worth it.”
A parking attendant points out a space for you in the restaurant courtyard, making you feel protected, pampered, cared for. Perhaps that’s what you need. Ombre Rosse (literally ‘Red Shadows’ the Italian title of the classic western Stagecoach) is an informal but well-groomed osteria, with candles and pot plants in strategic places—but nothing too affected. You might have to share one of the long, well-lit tables, like in the old osterie, and this is actually reassuring. If it’s full when you arrive—which would reduce you tears by this point—they are prepared to offer you an ombra (a glass of something) for taking the trouble to come, which gives you an idea of the welcome you’ll get here. Pouring the wine, they recommend that you book next time and you blame yourself and your spontaneous last-minute decision. While you’re at it, you say that you’re not in a hurry and you can wait for a table to be free. Later, a table really does come up, which is lucky because you don’t really want to have to leave now. You’re sitting at the counter by the till drinking your ombra surrounded by all kinds of bottles (there are hundreds of wines on the list from all over Italy, at reasonable prices), when they tell you your table is ready, so at last you can sit down and relax.
When the young, amiable waiters recite the menu, you discover that the cuisine in Ombre Rosse ranges from local dishes to Tuscan and Sicilian specialities and even interesting interpretations of Japanese food …
So as a starter you try delicious seared tuna in soy sauce and extra virgin olive oil with salad. The crisp slices of tuna are brown at the edges and rare, iridescent pinky-red in the middle. Wonderful. The wine served with this course is Tocai di Specogna, which is seductive from the first sip. An honorable mention for other starters too: the marinated sea bass and the raw amanita mushroom salad (a taste rather than a portion, however).
On to the first courses: tabbouleh, a Lebanese couscous dish with shrimp, cucumber and cherry tomatoes, and pappa al pomodoro: both enjoyably summery, perfectly accompanied by the insinuating mambo music from the speakers. The main course is swordfish rolls au gratin, on a bed of lettuce: a little too dry but fresh and, again, meticulously prepared. The lobster with tomatoes and red Tropea onions is better, while the shrimps with guacamole are weird but not unappealing.
Lastly you try the excellent crema catalana for dessert, and then stop there.
From where you’re sitting, you can see the kitchens and you discover that one of the chefs looks like a mild Hell’s Angel: shaved head, earrings, diabolic black goatee with nice eyes and the generous figure of a hearty eater.
When the room empties, leaving just a few customers, the mambo gives way to intelligent dance music at a less discreet volume. The chef sits at the next table to smoke a cigarette, and the young manager gets you try the Sauvignon di Specogna and compare it with the Tocai. You agree that it’s more acidic, then shake hands and the bill appears. You spend about seventy euros for two people, with no regrets.
When you get back in the car, you no longer care about the mosquitoes, or the tiredness. As you hoped, this dinner has restored you to a state of peace with the world at large, to the point of wanting to write about it, and pass on this tip that paid off. Ombre Rosse works perfectly on its own (though they told you they’re full for the next three days), but you’d like to gratefully acknowledge the welcoming service you experienced.
Stefano Sardo, a novelist and screenwriter, is the director of the Slow Food on Film festival
Adapted by Ailsa Wood
Via Franchetti, 78 – San Trovaso
31022 Preganziol (Treviso)
tel 0422 490037