3 nights in Bologna and one in Milan
Help! I am leaving on Friday for a car trip through northern Italy and France. I have all of my hotels and inns booked, and haven't dealt with our meals. Not a good place to be since we are all about food and not so much about sightseeing. I will be with my wife and 2 sons (14 and 18). we are from Manhattan, so 4 star restaurants aren't our goal. We love to eat lunch and dinner at authentic local places. we also love to search out markets and local flavors. We will have a car, so we can travel from the "bases" I noted in the title to this post. Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated.
Be sure to do "Search this board" searches for both Bologna & Milan. There have been a good number of comments on both cities here over the past 6-12 months and you should find many helpful suggestions.
If you are spending 3 nights in Bologna, I would recommend a day trip or two to nearby cities such as Modena, Ferrara and Parma. Again if you search for those names, you will find many prior comments & suggestions.
The Tamurbini food shop in Bologna and the Giusti food shop in Modena are two true shrines of Italian food.
If you are leaving on Friday and you live in Manhattan you have time to go to a bookstore and buy Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler. Xerox the pages for where you are going. Fred Plotkin, I think, has a special feeling for Bologna and spends a fair amount of time in Milan. He has recommendations in all price categories, and formal and informal eateries.
As the others have said, there is a lot of stuff on the board for this region. Last week, I got back from two weeks in Italy - the best meals I had, were on the three days I was in and around Bologna.
In that region, I dined at:
* Trattoria della Gigina in Bologna
* Osteria di Rubbiara (near Modena
) * Arnaldo's Clinica Gastronomica - http://www.clinicagastronomica.com
All were excellent. I think my most memorable meal of the trip was at Arnaldo's.
I strongly agree with the recommendation from barberinibee to pick up Fred Plotkin's book. Read as much of the introductory chapters as you can before you leave, then Xerox or cut out the sections for Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia. But I would add, cut out the food glossary at the end of the book. I found that very valuable and took it with me into every restaurant!
allende is correct that Osteria di Rubbiara has a fixed menu each day. Plotkin writes that you should expect to find this in osterie. He writes: "This, I believe, is a positive thing: I would rather have an inspired chef using the freshest ingredients than one who may be tiring of making the same old standbys."
I agree with Plotkin. To suggest that this practice demonstrates that the owner does not care what the customers want is ridiculous. Most customers know this is how Osteria di Rubbiara serves meals, so therefore, they ARE getting what they want.
I had an excellent meal at Rubbiara (http://www.acetaiapedroni.it).
I went there on the recommendations of fellow chowhounders who also had good experiences there. allende apparently has a different view, which is good to hear. Perhaps Pedroni was having an off day? However, if you search the board you will find his opinion in the minority.
The Rubbiara patron is clearly a character who rubs some people the wrong way - Allende's is not the first complaint Ive seen online. For a person with limited experience in the food of the region (like me) a limited menu is not a bad thing - everything is new and interesting, and the Pedroni "take" and approach is as valid as any other - I may get more out of accepting a recommendation or menu than by making free choices. For a person with wide experience of the regional cuisine, new dishes and more selection might be preferable.
Osteria di Rubbiara aside,I am really glad to have an additional great choice pointed out near Bologna (Slowfood agrees with Allende in rating Da Amerigo high and Michelin has given it a star http://www.viamichelin.it/web/Ristora...
Hi there - I just got back from my first trip to Italy, including three nights in Bologna. I also live in Manhattan and it sounds like your attitude is the same as mine going in - e.g. looking for non-fancy local places that cook well. So let me share the places I dined at. But first let me tell you, relax - it is almost impossible to go wrong in Bologna. There do not seem to be alot of tourists, and businesses would not stay open if they didn't serve excellent food.
Caminetto D'oro - Via de' Falegnami, 4
- Highly recommended for food, but not as 'local'. This was our first dinner in Italy. We were a little worried that the displayed menu had English subtitles, but we decided to try it anyways as we had heard good things. This was probably the most 'fancy' and least 'local' of the places we went to in Bologna. About half the people seemed to be tourists (but not conspicuously so), but there were definitely locals as well. Having said that, the meal was possibly the best we had. I had the pasta (pappardelle?) with seasonal wild mushrooms, and it was one of the biggest highlights of the trip. I have never tasted mushrooms quite like that before. One problem I found with dining in Italy is that the secondi never seemed to match up to the primi - this isn't saying anything negative about their secondi, it's probably just that I am somewhat used to good meat and fish prepared well and much less used to delicious pasta and risotto. Having said that, this restaurant was the closest to being an exception, as the rabbit al forno with seasonal vegetables was absolutely superb. Being our first night in Bologna, my wife had the tagliatelle Bolognese, and followed it up with an extremely fresh fish fillet (branzino?) - both were excellent, while not quite matching the high bar set my those I was lucky in choosing. We finished it off with a very good medley of three chocolate desserts. As for prices, I can't remember exactly but I think we only paid 110 euros or so for two primi, two secondi, a bottle of wine, and dessert and espresso. That is, a little pricier than the local trattorias, but not much so, and certainly way better than what you'd pay in New York for much less impressive food.
Trattoria del Rosso - Via Righi, 30,
- Recommended for great casual food with the locals. We stopped by here for lunch. The atmosphere was very much loud, bustling, and quick service - they take your order and get your food to you quickly, and leave you the bill and you pay up front. Although probably more relaxed for dinner, it seemed like a great place for lunch. As for the food, the pasta dishes here were incredible. I had the gramigna con salsiccia. Apparently this is a Bolgnese specialty - small tubular pasta in a sausage ragu. The ragu was incredible, and the pasta perfect. My wife got a tortellini stuffed with some kind of meat which may have been the best tortellini I have ever had. Again she got it with a bolognese ragu, and the consensus at the table was that her tortellini served with my salsiccia might be the most perfect dish imaginable. We ordered some second courses that were good but nothing special - I had some fried lamb and my wife a caprese salad. The pasta was the highlight of this place - the thought that we could get two incredible pasta dishes with a half-litre of wine for 20 euros was awe-inspiring.
Trattoria Meloncello - Via Saragozza, 240
- Reccomended for food, local casual fare, service. We made the trek out here on recommendations we had heard - it was about a 15 minute walk from the city wall to the west. We took a cab back for about 10 euros, which I would recommend as the walk was fairly uninteresting. The server (owner?) was incredibly nice and talkative in English to us. I can't remember what my wife had for a first course, as everything paled in comparison to my ravioli with butter and sage. I have often cooked italian foods, such as veal saltimbocca, and I could never quite understand their love for sage. Now I do. The sage I had here, worked perfectly into the pasta, was a revelation. It is so hard for me to pick a favorite course I had in Italy, but this was definitely top three. Oh yes, I now recall my wife had a tomato-based gnocchi - I suppose a poor choice considering we don't usually love gnocchi, but then again I didn't love sage until my course. Oh well, it was still good, just not life-altering. For seconds, I asked for a recommendation and the waiter/owner suggested the rabbit dish - i'm not quite sure how it was prepared, but it involved combining rabbit with prosciutto and vegetables and grilling the whole thing, and serving under a rich sauce. It was good, probably not as good as the rabbit I had had the night before, but they were really different preparations. My wife had some very good meatballs, which I think were served ala Bolognese (again). All in all, three good meals and one sublime meal.
Trattoria Trebbi - Via Solferino, 40
- Recommended, just a good casual local trattoria. There is no entry for this day's lunch as we randomly decided to daytrip to Venice, as I had never been - nothing against Bologna of course, which we loved. As such, we were looking for a place near our hotel and this very local-looking place seemed just the spot. The pasta was good, as always. I had a tortellini dish served with prosciutto and asparagus - delicious, although perhaps not mind-blowing as a few others I had. My wife, on the other hand, had a very strange dish of tagliatelle in style unlike anything I had ever tasted - I believe it may have been called 'galletta' or something along those lines. Anyways, it had an incredibly interesting spice to it (nutmeg?) that was unlike anything we had ever tasted. I had a hard time deciding how I felt about the dish, but was very glad we had ordered it, and certainly it was of high quality. For seconds I ordered some thinly sliced veal, and my wife basically chose from the menu at random and was served something akin to mozzarella sticks. Neither was particularly great, but we were used to first course surpassing the second by now. We always joked that my wife would order two pasta courses next time, but for she never ended up doing so.
In addition to the places we went to, I would recommend checking out Drogheria Della Rossa (Via Cartoleria, 10) - I tried to get a reservation here after coming back from Venice in the evening, but it was absolutely overflowing.
I think that perhaps in subsequent trips to Italy, your chances of being pleased with your secondi will improve if you stick to ordering highly local dishes, in season. Mozzerella and branzino are not "native" to Bologna, and I think of lamb as best in early spring.
You joked about eating two pasta courses, but I also love pasta dishes, more than I do most secondi dishes, and I often feel that the Italian food I love most is the food I eat when I am hungry. I now usually split a secondo with my dining partner if I've had a pasta course. Otherwise, when a lot of food arrives after I've just relished a rich pasta, it just doesn't seem appetizing, as it might if I were truly hungry.
Nearly everything I ordered in Italy was a local speciality (e.g. rabbit twice in Bologna, beef in Florence, pesto and seafood in Ligura). It was my wife who ordered a few things that weren't regional, given her irrational aversion to some of the courses offered - I wasn't about to give her a foodie lecture. As for the fried lamb, there were only a few secondi offered at that trattoria for lunch, the most popular of which seemed to be melon and prosciutto. It is not like I was missing out on some local specialty.
It didn't have to do with being hungrier, I just found the first courses much better throughout all of Italy than the second courses. I know that I am not the only one who holds this opinion.