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We had a group of 4, go to Bologna Cafe, the dinner place that makes you think you are in Emilia Romagna, last Saturday. Well, after Claudio and Barbara's annual trip to Italy; they came back with a few recipes from their families in Bologna.
The result is, after a complimentary taste of a delicious puree of root vegetables; an expanded selection of pasta and second courses including a Spezzetino de Pollo, a stew of chicken, peas, wine, in a sauce that is cooked down for hours. Delicious! All after his unrivaled "IL Torre", an appetizer of imported items, primarily cured meats and very special cheeses, including his housemade Mozzarella.
I noticed a very full display case of cheeses that I was not familiar with. Claudio said "I have been working with small producers that I knew in my old business,(cheese distribution in Italy) and getting them to export to the U.S. His wine list includes small Italian winemakers and a direct import that he has exclusively,(Mirabella a winery his friend owns, Italian film director, Lina Wertmuller).
The place was packed from 7:00PM until we left about 10:00. Almost everyone there was a regular, with one happy diner commenting "This is as close to italy as you get without going there."

Obviously, all at our table had a wonderful time; if you go, (especially fridays or Saturdays) a reservation is a must!!.

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  1. I guess I will be driving to Sarasota pretty soon. Sounds amazing. Thanks LMF

    2 Replies
    1. re: LilMsFoodie

      Maybe we can carpool! :D

      Sounds amazing....

      1. re: sweet_polly

        I enjoyed a pleasant lunch today at the small but comfortable Bologna Café. They now have a fuller lunch menu than they had in the past, which now makes it a much better place for lunch. Also, their wine list has been much improved. Everyone there is very accommodating. No wi-fi though.
        I had a delicious, sharp provolone (not as sharp as I would like) for an antipasta, excellent bread and then a tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce. They were kind enough to open a fresh bottle of Dolcetto d’Alba from which I had an enjoyable glass of it with my meal. I was already late for an appointment so an espresso was not able to be enjoyed.
        The Bolognese sauce was delicious, but it did not seem to be a “traditional” example of a Bolognese. However, it wasn’t the ersatz example of the famous sauce which is unfortunately common in most restaurants.
        Only two tables were taken while I was there. My guess is that lunch business is always slow, but from my experience it is quite busy for dinner.
        I highly recommend Bologna Café. It is nice to have a restaurant of this quality in the area

    2. We went in April 2012 and loved it. Great Bolognese and antipasti, and the pasta with truffles was to die for.

      Looking forward to visiting again during our vacation next year.


      1. Coincidentally, Bologna cafe is having a Fundraiser Special for the month of June. A full 50% of the revenue for the Special Lunch will be donated to the Emilia Romagna Relief Fund to help with the rebuilding of the region as a result of the recent 2 earthquakes. See the menu below.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ospreycove

          Cafe Bologna used to be one of my most favorite restaurants in and around Sarasota. I didn't mind the prices being a little higher than they should be, thought the food was good and liked the friendly service. Also, it has a nice list of wines—also higher priced than they should be.

          However, a couple of weeks ago I stopped in for lunch and ordered a nice antepasta of mixed cured meats and mixed cheeses. One of the meats was a bit “off” and one my friends complained that he had stomach trouble during the night. Now whether that was caused by the mortadella being off is a question. I did ask that we should not be served slices from the end piece of the mortadella, but my request went unheeded. The pasta was simply not good. Since I was hosting the lunch for two of my friends I did not complain about the lunch(s). We had bottled water, two rounds of coffees (espresso) and two glasses of wine. The price was a shade under $100 with tip.

          I haven't yet returned, but I will soon and discuss my complaints.

          By the way, their bolognese sauce is not traditional bolognese sauce. That doesn't make it bad however.
          In fact it is usually quite good notwithstanding that. It was not good the day on which this brief report is based.


        2. osprey-I recently moved to Sarasota, and one of the reasons for doing so was the Gulf seafood and the great small city. Having been to Italy, I see that you love the Bolonga Cafe and will go there because of this recommendation. However, I truly hope your review is legitimate. Any tips for dining there that won't cost a fortune? Thanks

          2 Replies
          1. re: vitaminD

            vD, you can trust osprey. He lives in Italy part of the year. And delucacheesemonger lives in Paris part of the year. They have good tastes so listen to them here. But getting them together is herding cats. I moved to the area for your same reasons, 6 years ago. It all works.

            1. re: vitaminD

              VitaD, Admittedly Cafe is not the most value oriented place to dine; but it is the quality of the imported items, the homemade pastas/dishes that are almost always excellent, and the charm of the owners, that drive this small restaurant. Tips for keeping the bill a range woiuld include sharing the antipasto, tell them it is for 1 and you will share just so you can taste several of the cured meats and wonderful cheeses. Also mention that it is your first time dining there. For Second course, I would stick to the pasta dishes of which there are several that are my favorites. Wine list is not overpriced, again ask what wine they would suggest that is not expensive; all of their red wine selections ,(only wine I drink), are good.Claudio, the owner is also very proud of his Espresso & Cappuccino!
              Hope this helps......

              Veggo, we will get together at some point, when the 3 of us are in town!!!

            2. I 100% concur with you. My wife and I discovered this place back in February. We had 2 anti-pastis, and 3 pasta dishes! I couldn't get enough pasta so I ended up ordering a 2nd dish. I'm such a pig.

              Here are some photos from our first time there.

              2 Replies
              1. re: duckfat73

                This is going to sound crude but those pictures made me want to lick the screen on my tablet. I want smellovision.

                1. re: suzigirl

                  Haha, that's too funny! I was actually getting hungry just looking at the photos.

              2. Will be in SRQ late July, want to go to Bologna Cafe ?, contact me on info page.

                1. The food at the new location was excellent, but the service was very slow, and my party was upset to discover that the appetizer the waiter recommended for the table was $84! It was mozzarella, prosciutto, olives, basil, tomatoes and olive oil. When the waiter recommended it, he asked if we wanted the tomatoes. That was an extra $12. We complained to the manager that we should have been told the price in advance but he just defended the quality of the ingredients. The women were given a "ladies' menu" with no prices; odd in 2013. If you go, ask the price of the specials.

                  12 Replies
                    1. re: kengk

                      There was a single price for 3, a surcharge for the 4th, then $3 listed 4 times for the tomato. This is penny wise, pound foolish. The restaurant should have given us some sort of credit when we expressed our surprise. Now we won't return, and we're all telling people -- who, in turn, have said they're turned off about the place. It's the principle. We should have been told that the appetizer was $84.

                      1. re: wheaton24

                        I agree that they should have said the price if it wasn't on the menu. Most restaurants, in my experience, do when they are reciting a special that is not on the menu.

                        1. re: wheaton24

                          A pomodoro salad with a couple olives and a slice of prosciutto for $21 does sound a little high.

                          1. re: wheaton24

                            That is very strange, the most expensive dish in the Antipasti. is the "Torre or Fontana", if it was ordered for 4 it should be 4X $18.00. Now, that is an assortment of at least 6 different Italian imported cheese, and Salumi, consisting of , (I am relying on my foggy memory), Prosciutto, Speck, Calabrese Salami, Copa, Prosciutto Cotto, Mortadella Salami Toscano, and enough house made bread, cured olives, castelvetrano, al forno, and oil cured as well as a fresh small salad of Arugula with a warm Toma Bianco dressing
                            After this "Tour of Emelia Romagna"; I usually wave the white flag and settle for a half portion of Tagliatelle Bolognese, and a cafe!
                            One may say that I know too much about this place, well I do, as it is one of the few restaurants in Sarasota where we dine on a regular basis. The food here is authentic and outstanding! This is NOT a place for those who find venues like "the Spaghetti Factory, Olive Garden, Buca, etc. etc.to be good Italian food!!

                            1. re: ospreycove

                              The point we objected to is not being told the price, given that it was so high. We told others about the experience, who said they won't go there based on our experience. There are other excellent Italian restaurants in town. The manager should have said, "I want you to be satisfied. Sorry about the misunderstanding. I'll reduce the bill." That's what a good business person does. As I said, it's the principle. If he had done that, we'd be happy -- and would gladly return.

                              1. re: wheaton24

                                What are the excellent Italian restaurants in Sarasota?

                                1. re: snobman

                                  I'd start with Oh, Mamma Mia! on Gulf Gate.

                                  1. re: wheaton24

                                    Never been. I look forward to trying it, thanks.

                                  2. re: snobman

                                    I had a good dinner with excellent service at Café Amici downtown.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      Yes, Cafe Amici is another good one.

                                2. re: ospreycove

                                  The waiter made a big point of it being the special, that the mozzarella was made that morning -- and it was very good. He suggested we order it for the table.

                          2. We are going to be on LBK the first week in October this year. How is it down there that time of year? We usually go in the middle of summer.

                            Strictly food related, don't you know. : )

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: kengk

                              Too bad you will miss the opening of stone crab season, Oct. 15.

                              1. re: Veggo

                                Hey Veggo!

                                Wow, this past Stone Crab season was the worst in recent memory. All the crabbers actually pulled their traps early, haul so low it didn't cover the fuel. Let's hope next Oct-May season is better. I hope what is being said about the octopus invasion is the only reason for the poor harvest. Lingering fears/rumors of BP still persist.

                                1. re: ospreycove

                                  Irregular currents and temperatures are also suspect, no one knows for certain. Not every mystery has an answer. Let's hope for a better 2013-14 season.
                                  This may not help, but not many years ago in Maine the lobster harvest was so poor that every environmentalist had an explanation. 2 years later, the lobster harvest was so plentiful that nobody had an explanation.
                                  cheers to you, osprey

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Where are the Yellow Edge Grouper at A.P. they haven't had any deep water boats going for these beauties in more than several months. Having said that, the Black Grouper has been plentiful and very good! Also a few weeks ago I snagged 2 really nice Pompano that a day boat had just brought in; prepared both whole on the grill, excellent!

                                    1. re: ospreycove

                                      Pompano is indeed one of our local delicacies. I can't think of a tastier pan fish.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        They are also lot of fun to catch if you get a big school feeding in the surf. I also like them charcoal grilled, whole.

                                        1. re: kengk

                                          The "Nuggets of Gold", as the old timers call Pompano, were here until the water temp went north of 75*, now I have not seen or heard of any being caught. Specs, (Sea Trout), are strong now, as well as Spanish Mackeral, American Red Snapper opens in a few days, 1 June. There are BIG Snook around and they are hitting live bait, but for Snook it is still catch and release. Red Fish are along the shore in the surf now, gold spoons seem to still be the best for them.