Day 14: Mistral Bar

unassuming, no billboard needed, great local food (photo credit, google street view)

unassuming, no billboard needed, great local food (photo credit, google street view)

Sometimes, when you’re hungry, you just want good food. Nothing special, no fancy decor, no gimicky service, just a place where anyone can come and get consistently good homemade eats. This is the realm of the trattoria. Not your Soho variety yuppie restaurant, but a real authentic blue-collar even no-collar local dining room serving perfect comfort food the way nona used to make.

Right off the main artery “Riviera Berica” heading south out of Vicenza directly across from the infamous Ponte di Debba (Debba Bridge) is one of these unassuming trattorias, the Mistral Bar. A tired and faded facade and a small sign are all that distinguish this traditional Italian kitchen from identical buildings lining both sides of the busy road. A chalk notice board reads “Bar Aperto Pranzo Menu Fisso €11.00” – Bar Open, Lunch fixed menu.

Mistral Bar, chalkboard advertising

Mistral Bar, chalkboard advertising

On the inside, Mistral Bar is  a plain coffee bar, open dining room with wooden tables and chairs, a few haphazardly placed decorations on the wall, and some slot machines in the corner. Emphasis here is solely on the most basic needs of the customer. A place to buy a coffee, a glass of wine, a table to sit at to consume your food. Service is family style. There isn’t a wait staff here. Owner proprietor hostess server clear the table make the coffee man the register. There’s just two in the front of the house and as far as we can tell one in the kitchen. Family run, and very friendly. An atmosphere like coming home for dinner.

a scene duplicated in a thousand mom and pop bars and trattorias all over italy - beer and wine on tap, espresso machine, at least two dozen liquors and digestivos

a scene duplicated in a thousand mom and pop bars and trattorias all over italy – beer and wine on tap, espresso machine, at least two dozen liquors and digestivos

Fixed menu or Menu Fisso is a well known phenomenon. Everyone has their favorite place. For anywhere from 10 – 15 euro depending on the location, the general rule is that your one price menu features a pasta (primo), meat (secondo), side dish (contorno), 1/4 liter wine, 1/2 liter bottle water, and a coffee. Some places fancy things up and charge more, others stick to a theme (game meat or seafood, of the land or of the sea). You won’t find that all places include your beverages, but Mistral Bar does!

Mistral Bar seems to be very popular with local road crews, construction workers, painters, manual labor type jobs. The food reflects this. Large pasta portions, red meat always on the menu, potatoes, really good earthy red wine. Simple dishes, fresh ingredients, full of flavor, prepared the right way. Plenty of good food to fill you up right to get back out and fueled for the rest of the day’s work. A few office types come in as well and enjoy the food just as much, though we may not need it!

We chose from today’s menu the following hearty local classics:

Fusilli pasta with tomatoes, pepper, grated mozzarella, and olive oil.

Fusilli pasta with tomatoes, pepper, grated mozzarella, and olive oil.

Penne all'arrabbiata (angry pasta) with fresh grated grana padano

Penne all’arrabbiata (angry pasta) with fresh grated grana padano

bresaola with rucola and fresh grana, dressed with fresh squeezed lemon juice

bresaola with rucola and fresh grana, dressed with fresh squeezed lemon juice

Needless to say, another authentic experience. These local places are off the beaten path and well out of the way of any tourist destination, but worth seeking out. Some of the best food you can eat can be found in no name towns all over Italy. The locals have to eat somewhere, and they certainly aren’t going to pay for bad food. Mistal Bar has been making customers happy in the same location for over 10o years!

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About aguamaul

World traveler, frequent flyer, wine enthusiast, blogger, cat owner, and husband.
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