Two nights in Bologna
I have to decide where to eat in Bologna, only have two days and nights and am completely confused. The hotel recommends:
Drogheria, Vicolo Colombina and Sangiovese. Chowhound people seem to prefer Caminetto D'oro, Giampi E Ciccio, Osteria Bottega and Serghei. Any opinions?
I've not eaten at any of the places recommended to you by your hotel, but they are so close together in terms of streetscape that I am guessing that proximity to your hotel is at least one of the reasons they are being recommended to you.
As for the other places favored on Chowhound, in my opnion, you should only choose All'Osteria Bottega if you are very interested to focus on the artisan-produced cured meats that are unique to the region. If you are more interested to try some of the region's classic pasta dishes, both Caminetto d'Oro and Giampi e Ciccio are very reliable, but there is a big difference in ambience and price between them, with Caminetto d'Oro being upscale and subdued and Giampi e Ciccio being extroverted and informal (although not dirt cheap).
Serghei is solid on most pastas (but if you are very serious about tagliatelle al ragu, Caminetto d'Oro is better, I think). Serghei tends to hit more home runs with secondi (turkey and pork shanks in particular) than is typical of Bolognese restaurants. But if you choose Serghei and you don't speak Italian, spend a moment before you go in perusing the menu posted outside. Once you are inside, you won't be given a menu and the owners don't speak English, and they seldom if ever recite the whole menu. You are expected to know they only serve the classics, and to announce which one you want.
Don't know about your hotel's choices, but all the other places you mention require reservations, with the possible exception of Giampi e Ciccio (they are popular though) and All'Osteria Botttega is usually booked full for dinner well in advance (although I was seated as a walk-in for lunch). They are all in the centro storico and if your hotel is as well, you can easily walk to any of them. I don't think Serghei is open for lunch, but I am not sure.
We just finished visiting Bologna and had 2 very memorable meals at Sangiovese and Serghei. The former we enjoyed the whole experience more as the waitress/owner were so friendly and warm to us as we tried to communicate in broken English and an Italian phrase book. Here we experienced tortollini in brodo for the first time and it was so delicious, especially the broth itself, I am totally addicted to brodo now! Their ragu was delightful too. My SO tried to order the carbonara but I told him he had to wait to Roma. He was very happy with the local choices. The secondi were actually the best I have had so far here, but I think that may be a matter of taste. At Serghei we had the most amazing tortilloni con zucca. The pasta was so delicate and perfectly soft and the filling sweet, perfect balance with sage butter sauce, the ragu was also very good here. For secondi we ordered roast guinea hen and rabbit, it was good but seemed a little over cooked, but after having roast meats at 2 other recommended restaurants in ER and finding them over cooked too, I wonder if this is just the way it is done.
We found the male owner at Serghei not terribly willing to speak English at first but after some coaxing and compliments of the food we won him over and he was fine with reciting the menu in english(ish) from the beginning. By the end we were sharing photos of where we live.
As Claude Raines once famously said: "Ah, just as I suspected. A rank sentimentalist at heart!"
Someone once posted on Chowhound that they spent an extended period in Bologna and mentally converted the name of Serghei's to "Surly's" because of the often brusque-when-busy personality of the owner (whose mother and wife operate the restaurant with him). He's never been too brusque with me (more abrupt or harried when the place is full), and I have indeed experienced a personality shift on his part when he sees me enjoying the food -- suddenly he'll shoot a warm smile my way as he zips by.
I've never tried to speak English with him, but the usual experience I've had is that when he arrives to take my order, he almost flippantly says: "Mortadella? Formaggio?" -- meaning "What antipasta do you want?" Likewise with the primi -- just another desultory prompting: "Tagliatelle? Tortelloni---?" -- and if I answer "gramigna?" that's fine, he disappears, and that's what I'll get set in front of me.
So it's good to relate to first time visitors that they will be dealing with a distinct personality and style, not a pro forma waiter experience. Same is true at Giampi e Ciccio, but in the polar opposite direction: The owner who spends most of his time on the premises is a former champion soccer coach who will make a stab at any language he and a guest might have in common although plainly he only speaks Italian, and will finally resort to precise sign language to achieve understanding. (And there is a printed menu.)
I've sometimes thought overcooked secondi in Bologna was a feature of when you arrive for dinner. (Later you dine, more the risk of overcooked meat). But I've also suspected some lesser eateries of microwaving. Maybe a defensive strategy would be to always go for the fattiest meat on the menu in Bologna.
Where else did you eat and how did you come to choose al Sangiovese?
Brusque yes definitely describes him at first, I am sure he only told us part of the menu, I was happy I stopped listened at the zucca though, I may never forget that.
I have just posted my full trip report for ER here:
We were told about Al Sangiovese by our B&B which was just around the corner.