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Nov 8, 2008 02:31 AM

Eating in Bologna Italy part one

Spent six days in October 2008 in Bologna and thought to hare some eating experiences

1) Book Melonocello well in advance. It's impossible to get into if you don't.

2) If you go anywhere in italy at this time of year be aware that some of the 'best' restaurants maybe empty and while we all agree the food is important it's pretty uncomfortable to be the only ones eating in a place
3) Eating on a Monday in Bologna is difficult. Make sure you research what's open before you go
4) We found trattorias some of the best places t eat. We booked GIANNI'S the day before. It's down an alley off Via Clavature by Bistro Rosa Rose. It was packed when we arrived at 8.30pm and a great atmosphere. O ur delightful waiter spoke English and we ordered the mixed antipasti as suggested which included two types of prosciuto, salami, a delicious creamy mortadella puree, mozzarella in carozza , a dab of butter (very unusual to find) and brushcetta, served with tiny brown and white rolls.
Our primi were a pasta I think called stringi( they wouldn't give me a menu as they said they only had a few but suggested photographing the menu outside the restaurant). They were thin string like threads with a thick rich ragu sauce. Dry as everywhere we had eaten by which I mean not very saucy as we are used to outside of Italy, but very tasty. The tortelli stuffed with pork and beef sausage, ricotta and radicchio were sublime and covered in melted butter. Very silk. We drank a bottle of Sangiovese di Romanga 05 by Perdiccha. It tasted a bit harsh to start with ( maybe because it was young) but improved in the glass. 18.00 euros . I hink the wine prices in the restaurants are much fairer than in the States and UK int terms of mark up. We shared a plate of chicory with a dash of peppericino flakes which was perfect but was too oily. For our secondi we shared a plate of tender medium rare pork sliced and covered in a creamy porcini sauce. Strong mushroom flavor, tender and totally delicious. It was served with the best mashed potato, made with milk, butter Parmesan and a a dash of nutmeg.
The desserts sounded great, a cream gelato with hot berry sauce, ciocolato cakes and pannacotta and zuppe inglese, but i couldn only manage a lemon sorbet. Total bill 75 euros plus I left another six as the waiter said service was not included. See a separate posting for this subject as it's very confusing.
5) On a Saturday we just managed to get a booking at TONY'S TRATTORIA on Via Rhigli off Via Independenzia by agreeing to coming at 9.45. He had nothing available for the rest of that week. Again packed when we arrived at 9.30 pm with a wonderful atmosphere going on.
We had the homemade tortellini in capon broth - no words to describe this simple dish, I could have eaten if forever. We had a tortelli with ragu, very nice. Again we shared a dish of pork sliced and covered with a truffle and porcini gravy, very nice but not as good as at GIANNIS . Their mixed salad had a dressing of 'old' balsamic vinegar on it,which was the best I'd tasted but I didn't feel inclined to spend 27 euros on a bottle or 88 euros for the 100 year old stuff, as I'd already purchased far too much elsewhere. We drank a Lambrusco Cardinale Pighini - L. Grasparosso Seco which was dry and tasty.Cost about 55 euros total for the meal.
6) The only pizza we managed to eat was at NICOLA's PIZZA known to everyone , with miserable staff but in a lovely square and with absolutely delicious wood oven pizza. My husband chose one with tomato, mozzarella, pork sausage, onion and mozzarella and although it was a bit burned around the edges, was the best we'd eaten so far in Italy.The crust may well have had some semolinea flour in it. Bear in mind the count was up to twelve by now and we didn't; travel to 'good' pizza areas.
I made the mistake of ordering Sphagetti Vongole, which was a bit mean with the clams and lacking in taste, but not texture. In the end I asked for some garlic on oil to add some flavour.
the wine was a half litre of the frizzante Pinot and it was light tasting. Together with a bottle of water the bill came to 29 euros.

7) On a monday we ate at Biagli della Grada on Via della Grada, a litttle difficult to find and a huge restaurant. There were only seven of us eating in total, but the waitress was a sweetheart. We ordered a bottle of Chianti Classico Peppoli (Antiniori 2006) which was a reasonable 21.00 euros, soft and delicious. To start we had a platter of mixed meats, super smoked ham and a delicious salami. The very thin flat bread tatyed very floury to us so we stuck with the rolls. (BBy the way, the bread in restaurants always seemed superior to that which we purchased in bakeries). For our primi we chose a rissotto with zuma (pumpkin) and tiny pieces of smoked cheese. it was cooked to perfection with the cheese just put on top at the last moment. A great mix of flavors. We also ordered taglietelle ragu with a very strong meaty taste. We shared cotoletta a thin piece of breaded veal covered in ham and melted mozzarella and manzo, thin slices of beef cooked medium rare and very tender. Both dishes were served with tiny oven baked potatoes and we also ordered a grilled gratined vegetabels. The tomato was not as sweet as it could have been but the griller eggplant and the zucchini were lovely and smoky. Only a sorbet for dessert and the total bill was 99.00 euros. It was worth it just for the rissotto alone.

8) On Wednesday we ate locally on Via San Felice at a local trattoria, Trattoria DANIO that had been packed on Sunday lunchtime. No reservation was needed and they had a huge back room. A little handwirtten sign in the front window said that homemade handmade pasta had been made in the restaurant for 37 years, and next to it was a pile of flour with an egg dropped in the center. It was packed with locals in for a quick dinner, students, foreigners, and very down hom and simple. Wait staff helpful and friendly. We ordered tortellin with pasticcio and cream sauce ( the bst yet) and I had tortelli verde stuffed with ricotta and with a truffle sauce. It was a dream. Tortelli was a little tougher than some but probably because it was made with spinach. We followed it with a light risotto with shrimp, which was excellent. I made the mistake of ordering two side dishes. The fried artichokes were covered in a thick batter and so were the olives stuffed with beef. Would have been tasty to have one of them as an appetizer but it was all too much. My husband said that the artichokes would have been great with a spring roll sauce! I had some strawberries (underripe and out of season so it serves me right) but still good with lemon juice and sugar. We drank a liter of the cold house red, very acceptable and the total bill was euros 47.

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  1. Thank you for the very informative reviews. This comes in very handy as I am planning next year's trip.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rrems

      Your welcome. Do go to Zanarini cafe in San Stefano Square to people watch if nothing else. Especially ritzy on a Sunday, when you may have to wait for a table after about Inside is a buzzing coffee bar too. I wasn't as bowled over with the cakes as everyone else seems to be ( I thought there were better in Bologna, but the chocolate cakes was very dense I must say and topped with strawberries and cream . We paid 16 euros for a very large Campari Spritz, an OK cappuccino, a cake and all the olives and stuff you get when you order a drink, but it's a wonderful atmosphere. Apparently the brioche are wonderful.
      I preferred the cakes at Gamberini on Ugo Bassi Street just after Via San Felice.
      Also we tended to eat gelato over cakes as other threads have suggested the flavours and the quality are the best in this city.
      One of the best things about this city as well is the snacks or cichetti type snacks you get at drinks time. This seems to start after work when the bars compete for your evening drink. It's starts about 6pm and seems to end about 7.30pm. The bars lay out mainly tiny slices of thin type baguette bread with prosciutto, smoked meats, salami, olives, nuts etc, mozzarella topped snacks, shrimp and mayo, all very tasty with a nice glass of red. Expect to pay anything from 5 euros to 7 euros for a glass of wine. This includes the snacks. Also I tend to go for the snacks at the beginning of the evening when they haven't been sitting out too long. One place I think it's called Montenero on a very noisy part of Via Ugo Bassi, opposite Gamberini Bakery did particularly nice snacks indeed but there is the street noise to contend with.

    2. Many thanks! Brought back memories of a great lunch at Gianni a few years back! What a great food city!!

      1. Hi Pam! Just found your great eating report and printed it out! My husband and I just booked a 3-day trip to Bologna in mid-May. Can't wait! I am hoping to do one of the food tours as well.

        Do you have any other suggestions on what to do in the city? Or hotel recommendation?

        Thanks again for writing such a long report!

        5 Replies
        1. re: myturkishjoys

          Ah, the "Service is not included" scam. It is only used on tourists who have trouble with the language. I was in a somewhat nice trattoria in Sulmona, Abruzzo last year and the waiter said in English "Ma, Signore, the service, or how do you say Tip(?) is not included. I answered him in Italian oh, should I tell that local family over there that servicio is not included? He said with a little smile, "well I tried", after that we visited that restaurant several more times and we became fast friends. By the way we always gave him a little "extra".

          1. re: ospreycove

            I think you meant to post this on a diff thread! its a great story tho.

            1. re: jen kalb

              Yup, it is a little off subject, but the quote by the OP about the "DElightful waiter who spoke English and reccommended....etc. etc." and said the service is not included, so OP "Left him E 6.00"

              1. re: ospreycove

                ah, I didint reread and thought you were replying to the other thread!
                You are lucky to have had a good comeback and enough Italian to bond with the waiter -it can easily be otherwise (My husband refuses to go back to a very expensive place which tried to trick us this way - it was just so obvious that the waiter was lying)

                1. re: jen kalb

                  Jen kalb....Don't think I did not fall for this routine many times in the past!!!!

        2. Thank you for your trip report on Bologna, and I agree that one should do some research ahead of going. We ventured to Bologna for a few days this January to make a change from our beloved Piedmont, but we thought that being sort of adopted Italian, that we could wing it with restaurants, after all Bologna is famous for food right (il grasso)? But we were somewhat disappointed by the restaurants we found, Bologna is a very tourist city with many restaurants to serve the trade, and although quite good by most standards, not up to what we would expect in Piedmont. We loved the city though, found a great little B&B (except for their restaurant recommendations) close to the city centre and walked a lot. Next time we will consult the gourmet posters on Chow Hound!

          14 Replies
          1. re: Villasampaguita

            <quite good by most standards, not up to what we would expect in Piedmont>

            You are absolutely right. We had 2 great meals and 2 mediocre ones in Bologna, despite doing a huge amount of research. We were much more impressed with the Piemontese food, which is why we will be going there again this fall. Bologna is a great city, though, and we did have some memorable meals in Modena, and around the Po valley.

            1. re: rrems

              Our best meal in ER came from near Modena at the Osterie Scandiano, after we visited the Acetaio Discandiano, whom we had met at Salone Del Gusto, for a visit and tasting of Balsamico concentrate. The Osterie was very good and I would have written a review except I thought the owner had an attitude to foreigners speaking Italian, but he probably thought I was the one with attitude when I told him his restaurant was good enough to be in Piemonte!!!

              1. re: Villasampaguita

                Villa.....Excellent reply to the owner. Are you sure he was not French???

                1. re: Villasampaguita

                  wondering how he wanted foreigners to communicate!
                  do yo have more to say about their food?

                  Osteria in Scandiano
                  Piazza Boiardo, 9, Scandiano RE, Emilia-Romagna 42019, IT

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    In fairness they had just opened after the holiday, and we were the only people eating lunch except another couple who looked like friends of the owner and we were being quite slow and taking our time with pictures of the plates, but it felt like they wanted us to hurry up and leave, and this is a Slow Food osterie too. But the food was worthy of what we would expect in Piemonte. Maybe I will do a review when I have time but our spring and our season are rapidly approaching.

              2. re: Villasampaguita

                What restaurants did you try in Bologna?

                1. re: erica

                  You know Erica, I don't remember, that's how memorable they were, one was close to the centre, had upstairs and downstairs and had been around for some time, I remember the old Lyoyd Triestino menu on the wall since my first experience with real Italian culture was a trip on the M.V. Africa from Mombasa to Durban in 1963, and the other was a football restaurant with signed shirts on the walls, we sat under Maradonna which we stumbled into after wandering the streets on a freezing cold holiday. The food was quite good, international Italian, it would have been great in London or New York (well maybe, you are from, NYC so no insult intended) but average by our standards. And the local Lambrusco wine, say no more...

                  1. re: Villasampaguita

                    I've spent a fair amount of time in Bologna over many many years.

                    The restaurants are the worst in the major Italian cities I know, in terms of quality: reputation.

                    Today, Ristorante Diana is nothing more than a tourist trap. 35 years ago it was wonderful.

                    For me, the most pleasurable place to eat in Bologna, aside from outside the city, is Osteria Numero Sette.

                    However, by far, for us, the most enjoyable Bolognese food is at Da Amerigo in Savigno, 20 km. from Bologna. I've written about it here before.

                    Forget Bologna for food (but a great, great city for everything else). If you want to get a real feel for the food of Emilia-Romagna, the countryside around Parma, north, east and west (but not south), is a great place.

                    Osteria Numero Sette
                    loc. - Rastignano ,Via Andrea Costa 7, Pianoro Bologna, Emilia-Romagna , IT

                    1. re: allende

                      there is another bologna thread going where there has been a bit of discussion of da Amerigo.

                      Da Amerigo (Amerigo dal 1934)
                      Via Marconi, 16, Savigno, Emilia-Romagna 40060, IT

                      1. re: allende

                        Allende: I am surprised because I thought the food in Bologna was great. But then, I have scant experience compared to you, and I've only had one visit to that city. So if someone wanted a (n urban) base in ER from which to explore the region, by using trains, would you recommend Parma? Modena? Anyplace else accessible by public transport so that day trips could be made with ease?

                    2. re: erica

                      No it wasn't Diana, I looked it up, Ristorante Da Nello al Montegrappa, to quote one of my favourite poets" Now you would not think to look at him, But he was famous long ago" . Reminding me of being in London many years ago. The other with the futbol heroes was La Braserie.

                      1. re: Villasampaguita


                        When it comes to taste, each to his/her own. If you thought the food in Bologna was great, that is all that matters. My opinion doesn't count at all. The fact that I've had lots of experience over a long period of time, again, doesn't mean anything if you enjoyed yourself.

                        As to your second question: I think that the most enjoyable food and ristorante/trattorie in ER are in the countryside, not the cities. A good example is Locanda Mariella in Calestano, 32 km. from Parma, which is head and shoulders above anything in Parma, even though it is a trattorie in the middle of nowhere, with not only great food, but an incredible wine list. Other examples of wonderful country restaurants in the countryside around Parma are Cavallino Bianco, Da Ivan (food and wine) and La Buca (food and wine). This type of restaurant doesn't exist in Parma, Modena, or Bologna. It exists in the countryside around the cities. Around Bologna, for example, at Da Amerigo in Savigno, 31 km. from the city. Therefore, it really can't be done by trains or other public transport. It must be done by car.

                        If I were using a car, and wanted to stay in a city, and wanted to access ER food in the countryside, I'd actually stay in Mantova, in Lombardia and go to ER from there. Mantova is a "more fun" city than Parma, has a wonderful hotel (Casa Poli), has "better" restaurants than Parma, is not that much farther to Modena and Bologna (than Parma is), is easier to get around than in Parma , and the ER/Parma countryside with the wonderful restaurants is, in many cases, actually closer than from Parma. Just MHO.

                        La Buca
                        via Ghizzi 6, Zibello (PR), Zibello, Emilia-Romagna 43010, IT

                        Da Ivan
                        via Villa 73, Roccabianca di Fontanelle, Emilia-Romagna 43010, IT

                        1. re: allende

                          Ditto Cavallino Bianco.

                          This whole area of E-R and nearby Lombardia is really rich and amazing in food traditions - would like to have more opportunity to explore it in detail

                          Al Cavallino Bianco
                          Via Sbrisi, 2, Polesine Parmense, Emilia-Romagna 43010, IT

                          Locanda Mariella
                          localita Fragnolo,Strada Provinciale 61, Calestano, Emilia-Romagna 43030, IT

                          1. re: allende

                            Allende and Jen: Many thanks for the comprehensive information. It certainly appears that one needs to rent a car to access the better eateries in the region..but perhaps a stay in Mantova is in my future. What a country! Each and every corner yields incredible delights!

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