Schellenturm is the place to come for a taste of Old Stuttgart. "Schellentum" means "bell tower," and the name comes from the bells sewn onto the clothes of the prisoners who built the original tower in 1564. The current tower, formerly used to store Stuttgart's plentiful wine, inherited the name when the original Schellenturm was torn down in 1811.

Since the Schellenturm's restoration in 1980 by a group of local preservationists, the wine is still flowing freely in the squat, half-timbered stone turret. When we arrived, everyone was sitting outside at tables set under the trees, enjoying the soft lingering summer twilight. The gleaming wooden tables in the cozy round stone rooms seemed to be waiting for the winter fires to be lit and everyone to come back inside.

It took some time for the waitress to hunt up an English menu, always a good sign in a place that anywhere else would be a kitschy tourist trap. Meanwhile, we tried to decipher the specials handed to us on a little plate. Another great sign was that the chef works with only fresh market produce. It didn't take long to spot the special wild mushroom menu.

Nobody would accuse Swabian cuisine of being delicate, but the feather-light, handmade maultaschen stuffed pasta pockets (€10.80, big enough for a main course) turned out to be the best of the trip. At Schellenturm, they layer a surprisingly summery minced pork and spinach stuffing loosely between four layers of fluffy handmade pasta. The effect is a light Swabian lasagna sauced with just a dollop of onion marmalade and served with a warm Swabian potato salad in vinaigrette and baby mache salad. Sour tripe (Saure Kutteln, €9.80) is an acquired taste, but it was also surprisingly delicate for such a hearty dish. Soft honeycombs of pure white tripe were bathed in a tangy tomato-burgundy sauce.

We washed the starters down with a simple, pleasant local Riesling by Rotenberger Schlossberg grown somewhere in the vicinity of the Daimler factory. At €4.20 for a 250ml crockful, we thought it was a little pricey for the quality. However, it was far better than the syrupy, anemic, blood-warm Trollinger trocken by the same winery. Auto factories don't seem to do much for wine.

For the main courses, we took advantage of the seasonal specials by ordering chive crêpes smothered in fresh chanterelles and creamy bechamel sauce (€12.80). The Schweinefilet mit pfifferlingrahm (€16.80) turned out to be a trencherman's portion of two giant pork chops on a mountain of handmade Spätzle (you can tell by how irregularly shaped it is) and covered with a rich brown chanterelle sauce. Swabian food, as far as I can tell, always seems to come with a main-course sized side platter of yet more potato and green salads.

By the time the fresh berries and cream (€5.80) arrived, so had darkness. The soft street lamps were glowing along the quiet back streets of the Bean Quarter, inviting an evening stroll to work off one of the best Swabian meals of the week. —by Lydia Itoi

Contact: Weinstube Schellenturm, Weberstrasse 72, 70182 Stuttgart, tel. +49/0711/2364 888, fax 226 2699. Closed Sunday and holidays.
Rating: QUALITY 15/20, VALUE 15/20