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Bologna: the best food in the world?

So I've read multiple times that some of the best food in the world is to be found in Bologna. We are making a stop in Bologna in our tour of Northern Italy specifically to eat. Now normally we are very very low budget travelers subsisting on street food and grocery store picnics, but really, if something is to be called the best food in the world...well I'll have to be the judge of that!

So please recommend a place (hopefully not to pricey) for us to try this fabulous food. Extra points for character and not fancy.

Oh, and we'll also be visiting Venice, Padua, Ferrera, Mantua and Milan, so if you know of cheapo eats there or street food finds please advise as well.

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  1. keep your expectations in check, bologna is not all that imho

    1. Personally, I think the food in the Piemonte region of Italy, especially around Alba, is at least as good as what you will find in and around Bologna.

      That being said, do "Search this board" searches here for Bologna, Parma, Padua and any other cities you are thinking of visiting. You will find many helpful recommendations already available to you.

      Look here for discussion of the special lunch served at the Guisti food shop in Modena. It could be the one place for a special meal on your trip.

      2 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        i totally agree, i dont think it exists any longer, but in alba, was a wonderful small trattoria called vicoletto, food was fantastic

        1. re: DavidT

          Oh yes, Peidmonte. I was an exchange student there and the food turned me into the raging Chowhound I am today.

        2. The region has some great food. It's not necessarily about where you eat but what you eat - the regional specialties are:

          Tortelli de Zucca: a type of tortellini filled with pumpkin and amaretti
          Fettuccini Bolognese: obviously !
          Pretty much any pasta is great.
          Also, make sure to have some Lambrusco wine.

          Find a small street cafe on a side street in Mantua (great little town) or Ferrara. Bologna is much bigger and more touristy but you can still find great food.
          Expensive isn't necessary; just find a small non touristy place (without an English translation on the menu) and you should be good.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ifl1

            I may be odd man out on the topic of Tortelli de Zucca, but I'm not a great fan of sweet fillings for pasta. The versions we encountered throughout Emilia Romagna ranged from the sweet to the obscenely sweet. Twice, I let the waiter's praise of Tortelli de Zucca ("It is one of the great dishes of Emilia Romagna.") bulldoze me into ordering something I knew I was not likely to enjoy.

            That said, I'll add to the above list of dishes:
            Parmesan cheese drizzled with Balsamic vinegar
            Prosciutto and culatello
            Tortellini in broth (brodo)
            Lasagna

            1. re: ifl1

              After coming from Florence and Venice, we found Bologna to be delightfully untouristy. Leah in Bologna hit the nail on the head -- Sorbetteria Castiglione is fantastic. Also, we had perhaps the best meal we ate in Italy at Drogheria della Rosa, very close to Sorbetteria and recommended in the NY Times "36 Hours in Bologna" piece.

              1. re: chompchomp

                We plan on eating at Drogheria della Rosa, thanks for the tip.

            2. Oooops, wrong place.
              Thought this was a discussion about "bologna" like in Oscar Meyer.

              But, bologna is originated from Bologna, right:?

              3 Replies
              1. re: monku

                What is made and commonly referred to in the U.S. as "bologna" is, in most cases, a poor imitation of what is made and known in Italy as mortadella, which did originate in the area in and around the city of Bologna. Try a taste of Italian-made mortadella some time and you will never go back to Oscar Meyer again!

                1. re: DavidT

                  Of course I've had imported Italian mortadella, Italian bologna in my book.
                  Italian deli I get it from has a pretty good one that's made in Canada and the price is right.

                  Bologna and mortadella do taste similar.

                  1. re: DavidT

                    David T, once again you are so right. We got some mortadella in Bolonga at the other deli across the street from then more famous Tamburini deli. The young man had to heft the huge hunk to the slicer and we bought enough for several days. We always had run short before and we didn’t want to repeat that mistake. American bolonga doesn’t even compare; that Italian stuff is heavenly and addictive. We first started getting it from a lady at a little market Montalcino in Tuscany.

                    At Tamburini, we got a rather long lecture on the different styles of cooked chicken from an Italian gentleman. He finally realized that we didn’t understand Italian, which he made known with hand gestures and a shrug of the shoulders. The funny thing is that I think we did understand him: both styles of Tamburini’s wood-fired, cooked chicken, spit and brick roasted, are special and the best.

                2. In Ferrara, Oca Giuliva, via Boccacanale di Santo Stefano 38 http://www.ristorantelocagiuliva.it/
                  In Mantova, La Porta Accanto, which is the offshoot of the restaurant Aquila Nigra.

                  Both places will meet your requirements very very well

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: allende

                    Oh man you people are making me seriously hungry. Thanks for the great tips!