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6 Great Meals in Bologna

a
AWG Oct 23, 2011 12:28 PM

Breaking news: Bologna is a great place for food.

Shortly after arrival in Bologna we had lunch at Giampi e Ciccio. Plotkin called this his favorite spot for lunch in this article last year: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/des...

The place is totally charming and the food was quite good. First day in Bologna so of course we started with tagliatelle ragu and lasagna verde. Our first tastes of Bologna….both were quite good. The extra thin sheets of lasagna were light and layered with just the right amount of cheese. And the ragu was tasty. We then shared a secondi of roasted pollostrino with potatoes and grilled veggies. The chicken was succulent and the accompanying zucchini, eggplant and artichokes were all very tasty.

We had dinner at Da Gianni (Gianni A La Vecia Bulagna ) and were very pleased. First, passatelli and tortellini in brodo (BTW, my wife and I almost always order different dishes and we switch halfway through so we can both get to try everything). The passatelli was very tasty and quite interesting. I had heard it described as “spaetzle-like” and I think that is a good description, but I have never been to Germany so maybe I don’t know what real spaetzle is like. The tortellini was light and wonderful and the broth was super. Tortellini in brodo is my new favorite comfort food and I think I could eat it every day (almost did in E/R). First day we felt like we wanted to try everything, so we then ordered a plate of gramigna alla salsiccia to share. The waiter said “dopia pasta?” We replied “Si, Si!” and quietly said to ourselves “Is there a problem with that ;-)” The gramigna was a bit chewy as expected and very tasty in the rich sausage sauce. They were kind enough to split the portion and serve it to us in 2 small bowls knowing that we were sharing. For secondi was couldn’t resist trying the grilled mortadella with balsamico, a very interesting dish. Imagine grilled ham steak meets fried boloney in a very Emilian way. Tasted good, glad we tried it, but probably would never need to eat that again. And from the daily special board we tried a dish of chicken bocconcini with artichoke and potatoes. We were pleased with every artichoke we ate in any form during our first week in Italy so we were drawn to this dish and thought it might be “lighter” than some of the other meat dishes on the menu. It was quite good with a rich smooth sauce thickened a bit by the potatoes, very filling indeed, and we couldn’t finish our secondi (dopia pasta eventually catches up to you  ) Finished with an excellent café macchiato. Da Gianni deserves its great reputation and we were glad we had reservations to come back for lunch on our last day in town.

We were planning to have a “picnic” lunch at Osteria del Sole from food we would purchase at the market. We first made sure we could find the place with its obscure entrance and we are glad we walked in to look about. (It is a very interesting place, but quite warm inside during the warmest September ever). But when we set out to then buy our picnic we decided on a change of plan: We were both still craving more Tortellini in brodo! So we set out for Trattoria Anna Maria. Knowing how touristy and famous this place had become, we were expecting a crowd. We were surprised that at 1:00 PM on a Friday we were one of only 2 tables seated in the place! A few other tables arrived later, but not many. I can see why people would think it touristy with the menu translated in to 4 languages, but the reputation for great pasta is well deserved. We both had Tortellini in brodo and it was excellent. Super light pasta and wonderful broth and what else do you really need. The house wine was decent and we were pleased. I remembered reading quite a few mixed reviews of Anna Maria, but every one seemed to praise the pasta. So we bypassed secondi and ordered a dish of tortelloni with gorgonzola to share. “Dopia pasta?” “Si, Si!” . The pasta was again fabulous and the sauce rich, creamy and very blue-cheesy, maybe more blue-cheesy than I needed, but hey, if you order the gorgonzola what do you expect. We wanted to also try it with burro e salvia but we know our limits.

Dinner at Serghei was also fantastic. I had heard that there was no written menu, but there was one posted outside and we checked it out before entering in preparation. But when we sat down we were handed a written menu (strangely, later in the evening, we noticed that new arrivals were not being given a menu, only a quick recital by the proprietor, go figure). We hardly needed a menu because we knew what we wanted: More of Bologna’s classics. Tortellini in brodo, (can’t get enough of it) was good, although maybe a bit more “al dente” than it should have been, but really too good to find anything to complain about. Tagliatelle ragu was super, just super. Secondi were also excellent. Roast rabbit was tender, juicy… OK, I’ll just say it, succulent! And the Stinco di Maiale was great, literally fall off the bone tender and most flavorful. The small dining room is cozy and comfortable and we left Serghei very satisfied.

Last day in town, we went back to Trattoria Gianni, for lunch this time. Tagliatelle ragu was as good as can be, and tortelloni con burro e salvia was very nice. The simplicity of butter and sage is a great way to fully appreciate the light and very tasty pasta. The stinco was completely delicious and is now my new favorite Italian meat dish. (And I will admit that for some childish reason I love saying “stieeeenco” putting the emphasis “eeee”). It was served with what may be the best roasted potatoes ever (I think possibly roasted with the pork shin for flavor; they were amazing). Mrs. AWG is less a fan of stinco than I am and had carapacio of beef with rucola and grana that was also very, very good. It is easy to run out of superlatives but simply put: Da Gianni is a great Trattoria.

Last dinner in Bologna was at Teresina. The outside patio is on its own secluded alley so unlike other sidewalk eateries it is quiet, traffic free and very charming. We usually avoid outdoor seating to avoid having our meal ruined by smokers, but this terrazzo was too pleasant to pass by on this perfect warm evening. We got lucky; the first detectable puff of smoke did not arrive until I was finishing my macchiato. Teresina has a 2 page menu: “terra” featuring Bolognese classics and “mare” featuring seafood that they are well known for. Having tried the classics and nearly 2 weeks of meat in Tuscany and E/R, we were ready for a change of pace. The Mrs. had pappardelle with porcini mushrooms, very good fresh pasta. I had linguini with clams. Incredibly tasty with just the right amount of garlic and parsley. The clams were the smallest I have ever seen and the dish contained a gazillion (I exaggerate, but by much) tiny Italian clams and it took me a very long time to shuck and eat all gazillion clams. I was exhausted, but very satisfied. It was very flavorful. For secondi with both went with bronzino fillet with a “crosta” of potatoes. Thin sliced potatoes were layered on top of a perfect fish fillet and browned forming the “crust”. Fantastic! A big fan of bronzino, this was a great preparation. Enjoyed a cool vermentino from Sardigna that went great with our meal (after 5 days of drinking sangiovese Romagna and even few bottles of pleasant Lambrusco it was a nice change of pace). Boy, fish is so much lighter than stinco, so for the first time of our trip I had dessert- A Sicilian canolo with excellent ricotta cream and a crispy crust.

Note: we had one less than great meal in Bologna at Drogheria della Rosa. I posted a detailed review here:

Also of note: we paid 2 visits to Divinis for aperitivo. The wine list is extensive and reasonable priced. Both times we sat outside and casually enjoyed a bottle of Prosecco. It is located on a very quiet little street making the sidewalk seating a most peaceful and pleasant spot. The inside is also very atmospheric.

Almost made it to Camera a Sud for aperitivo, but it was swelteringly hot inside. There was no outside seating although there were a few dozen 20-somethings sitting on the curb of the sidewalk outside drinking glasses of wine. Not quite what we had in mind so we passed and moved on.

On Friday night en route to Serghei, we enjoyed a very boisterous aperitivo hour at Gesseto on piazza San Martino. The complete antithesis of quiet Divinis, a Latin band was setting up on the closed off street, while the PA system played loud Motown music. We returned later after dinner for a few drinks and to enjoy the music and the spontaneous salsa dancing that was breaking out all around us on the street. It was a very fun place for drinks on this warm autumn night.

Had gelato only once at Gelateria Moline. The cioccolate fondente mixed with nocciola, my favorite combo, was excellent. Perfect texture and bold powerful flavors.

All of the 6 meals described above were wonderful and it would be hard for me to rank one’s tagliatelle or tortellini over another. The pasta at Giampi e Ciccio was maybe a notch below that of the others, but a very small notch. Anna Maria’s tortellini in brodo was possibly a smidge better than the others we tried, but a very tiny smidge if that. Maybe I am not enough of a connoisseur to note the subtle differences, or maybe these great restaurants are just, well, all great at what they do. We found it very easy to eat very well in Bologna!

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Serghei
Via Piella, 12, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna 40126, IT

Teresina
Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 4, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna 40126, IT

Trattoria Anna Maria
Via delle Belle Arti, 17, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna 40126, IT

Giampi e Ciccio
Via Luigi Carlo Farini, 31, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna , IT

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  1. b
    barberinibee Oct 23, 2011 03:05 PM

    This is great. If you don't mind, I am going to insert a link here to your original thread on Chowhound asking for suggesetions about Bologna, so people who later come to do a search can see how your plans worked out:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/805349

    And I'd also like to add a link here to the Bologna thread that discusses many of the same restaurants, also in 2011:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/808499

    And I'll link this thread to the others.

    I agree with your rankings of pasta in the restaurants you tried.

    Tiny clams are so flavorful, they are worth the minor bit of extra work, but if you eat enough of them, you quickly develop a method for flicking the clam meat out of its shell, and getting rid of the shells as you go. I've seen those small clams sold in NYC, and cockles are a good substitute if your only other choice are those huge Atlantic clams or Mahogany clams.

    While I have never found a pasta in America equal to what I've found in Bologna, the ricotta ravioli from Borgatti's on 187th Street in the Bronx (near Arthur Ave). tastes awfully good with butter and sage.

    http://borgattis.com/ravioli/index.php

    If you are a fan of stinco, I have eaten unforgettable stinco di maiale in Le Marche (NeNe, near Urbino) and unforgettable stinco di vitello in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia at La Subida.

    Unlike you, I can't wait until I develop enough of a hunger to eat Da Gianni's grilled mortadella again. I find it a very filling plate, and it is probably a good thing you ate it so early on in Bologna.

    Did you eat anything at Divinis? I never have but I heard nice things about their cheeses. But I also heard nice things about their wines by the glass, and I thought it was kind of an uninteresting selection. That said, I very much enjoy their location (although last time, unfortunately, a man smoking a cigar gave me a splitting headache).

    Good to know Camera a Sud is an oven when it's hot outside. It is a youthful hangout. Enoteca on via del Carro (the next street over) gets poor reviews for food, but if one is in that neighborhood on a hot night and in search of something simple like a prosecco, it has a lovely quiet outdoor space in an ancient alley way off the raucus via Zamboni

    http://www.enotecadelcarro.it/dovesia...

    7 Replies
    1. re: barberinibee
      b
      barberinibee Oct 23, 2011 03:13 PM

      PS: I wanted to add that I was speaking just tonight to someone of what an oasis Teresina's outdoor space is in the summertime in Bologna.

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      Teresina
      Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 4, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna 40126, IT

      1. re: barberinibee
        a
        AWG Oct 25, 2011 04:40 PM

        Agree that the exhausting work of the tiny clams was well worth it for the fabulous flavor.

        We did not eat anything at Divinis (other than a few nuts and tiny crackers served alongside our wine). We ordered a bottle both times and didn't pay too much attention to the by-the-glass list, but I remember commenting after noting in the menu that a "glass" was only , I believe, a tiny100ml. The wine list was presented as a very large binder book with an impressive large selection from the region and all over Italy and elsewhere. We thought the bottle prices quite reasonable and I will note here the the entire extensive list is available to-go at very favorable prices. While we sat there in the late afternoon we noticed many people stopping in, bags containing dinner ingredients in hand, and leaving with a wrapped bottle to go.

        I grow sage in my garden every year and love it. If only I lived in a place where I could stop on my walk home from work and pick up some fresh E/R pasta. After this trip, I am now motivated to try to make my own.

         
        1. re: barberinibee
          a
          AWG Oct 25, 2011 04:44 PM

          Just noticed that the entire 98 page wine list is posted on Divinis web site here:

          http://www.divinis.it/images/CartaDei...

          1. re: AWG
            a
            allende Oct 25, 2011 08:02 PM

            Pretty incredible list in terms of numbers of different wines; certainly among the largest selection I've seen in the north. Unfortunately, as with most Italian lists that try to be all things to all people, the number of off years and over the hill wines represents a fair portion of the list. This is particularly true of foreign wines (see some of the French selections as an example), but also, in this case with a number of Italian whites and some of the reds (i.e. Piemonte, Toscana). Why the need to try to be all inclusive, at the expense of quality, always puzzles me. There are a number of these places in the north, and in my opinion they would do much better with a much shorter list.

            1. re: AWG
              b
              barberinibee Oct 26, 2011 12:43 AM

              AWG

              I actually did buy wine there "to go", and just asked the owner for his recommendation on a high-quality local red, but when I came back several days later, I only looked at the day's offerings on the blackboard for wines by the glass, since a glass was all I wanted. I didn't study the binder.

              1. re: barberinibee
                b
                barberinibee Oct 26, 2011 05:08 AM

                PS: This might interest you

                http://www.zerve.com/PizzaaCasa/Pasta

                Don't know your route from work to home, but these places are making fresh pasta

                http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=fresh+pasta&find_loc=New+York%2C+NY

                http://www.pastosa.com/store_locations.asp

                http://www.gourmet.com/food/2009/06/e...

                Can't vouch for quality however except for Borgattis

                1. re: barberinibee
                  a
                  AWG Oct 26, 2011 10:41 AM

                  I appreciate the links for sources of fresh pasta. My route from work to home is very short, but it is a 4 hour drive to NYC.:-) (Grew up in NYC, but I now live far, far away.)

                  May have to check out Borgattis next time I visit the city.Thanks

        2. z
          zerlina Oct 26, 2011 07:58 PM

          Linking.

          It's sometimes confusing to link on the Italy board: so many restaurants go by a number of names: Gianni, Da Gianni, Trattoria da Gianni, etc.

          -----
          Gianni a la Vecia Bulagna (aka Trattoria da Gianni)
          Via Clavature 18, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna 40100, IT

          1 Reply
          1. re: zerlina
            jen kalb Oct 26, 2011 08:33 PM

            Absolutely true. I mentioned on the other thread, the easiest way to find these missing links is by putting the simplest part of the name (in this case Gianni) into the dropdown box that appears after Manage Your Links is clicked. Im no longer inputting "Trattoria" ."Osteria" and such in the restaurant names because it is literally impossible to add restaurants with this first word into the system. Consequently If a restaurant is a trattoria or calls itself a trattoria, this will normally be indicated elsewhere in the Restaurant Page entry (in the cuisine box)

          2. j
            juliadevi Nov 3, 2011 02:36 PM

            thanks for the report, AWG, we've been wanting to go to Bologna for a while now (we live a few hours from there) and I've bookmarked this thread.

            one question: we love aperitivo as they do it in Torino, Genoa etc, where you buy a drink and they give you a plate of food, sometimes it's a buffet - what's the aperitivo situation like in Bologna?

            3 Replies
            1. re: juliadevi
              a
              AWG Nov 6, 2011 05:00 PM

              juliadevi, Yes you will find a similar aperitivo practice in Bologna as you see in many parts of Italy.

              For me personally, after enjoying a full multi-course restaurant lunch and looking forward to a full multi-course restaurant dinner, the last thing I want at aperitivo time is a big plate of food. I sort of loved that about Divinis, that I could enjoy some wine and just be served a few crackers and nuts to go along making it easy to save my appetite for dinner. We did have an aperitivo at a small bar in the food market area one night and was served a plate piled high with focaccia sandwiches including some tasty spicy sausage. A plate of food, although nothing special, also was served aside the drinks we had in Piazza San Martino, but we were on our way to Serghei for dinner so we passed on the food.

              Bar Zanarini looks like a great place if you are looking for an aperitivo buffet. It is located in the atmospheric Piazza Galvani and the drinks are mighty expensive, especially to sit outside, It is a swanky sort of place, but the expensive drinks include what looked like a very extensive buffet of tasty looking treats.

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              Serghei
              Via Piella, 12, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna 40126, IT

              1. re: AWG
                j
                juliadevi Nov 8, 2011 01:52 AM

                Thanks for the info (and all of your other reviews)!
                I have to admit, I can't handle 2 resto meals a day... in Italy, our eating sched (if we're not staying with friends) looks more like coffee + pastries, small lunch and/or gelato, aperitivo and dinner.
                I love aperitivo - it's a great moment for people-watching and reflecting on the day's activities - and that first glass of wine or a spritz with some munchies just hits the spot!

                1. re: juliadevi
                  b
                  barberinibee Nov 10, 2011 04:12 PM

                  The bar scene at the apertivi hour in Bologna isn't exactly like what you find in Torino or Milano, but because Bologna is a student town, there is a plenty of cheap eats action, with varying quality of food, especially around the university district, and especially on the via Zamboni and the via delle Belle Arti.

                  Other interesting streets to check out at the apertivo hour are the via Altabella or the via Claveture.

                  Also consider Le Stanze at ia Del Borgo Di San Pietro 1), or Caffe Maxim in piazza della Mercanzia. Bothe have substantial buffets. Inside the Galleria Cavour, there are a couple of upscale spots serving drinks, but usually just light nibbles.

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