We have enjoyed so many amazing dishes and experiences in a mere 5 days! Starting in Bologna with visits to Al Sangiovese, Serghei and more.
Al Sangiovese was our first experience here in Italy and it lived up to all our expectations. You never forget your first you know, that is, tortollini in brodo and tagliatelle a la ragu. I will never make chicken noodle soup at home again, the broth was so remarkably complex and yet so simple at the same time. In fact this is what we have found with most dishes here, at first they seem so simple, but the layers of flavours that build in your mouth the more you chew seem to shout out to years and years of perfecting recipes and carefully chosen ingredients. We were incredibly nervous trying to communicate with the waitress/owner but we soon created a fun form of speaking through my phrase book and her limited English. They were incredibly warm and welcoming here.
The experience at Serghei was less warm but the owner again did come around by the end. The lack of menu was daunting, but we fared just as well. The tortilloni con zucca was the star of the meal with pasta so delicate you would swear it was made with silk, the pumpkin was smooth, sweet and a perfect balance to the sage and butter sauce. The roasted fowl was a little dry for my tastes though.
We took time to visit the self serve lunch and food shop Tamborini. A great way to have a quick enjoyable meal in a food lovers paradise.
Funivia won out against Sorbetterio (and all the other Gelaterias we have visited so far).
After Bologna the adventure really began with visits to two Acetaia, Giusti and Giorgio. The former being more focused IMHO on industrial non traditionale production and the later only on traditionale. Both were welcoming, but the personal touch of Giorgio (the production is under the family roof)and the quality and variety of their balsamico beat out the other.
We dined in Rubiera at Gastronomical Arnaldo, this was a truly unique experience. Most of the service is by food cart. We took part in the boiled and roasted meats. While both were something to try neither left me saying wow, but I feel this is my taste more than quality. I was happy to try tongue and calf's head for the first time, but would not rush out to do it again. I was surprised at the tenderness of all the items as boiled to me equates to dry and chewy. The roast pork and veal were again overclooked for me but the au jus that they created and were sitting in was rich in both color and flavours and the potatoes were so perfectly crispy on the outside and soft in the middle without being greasy that I could have eaten my weight in them.
Our visit to a Parmagiano Reggiano producer near Reggio Emilia was such a treat. This 2 hour long, FREE tour with a guide form the consortium was so educational and thorough. We watched the process right from the addition of renet to the splitting of the cheese mass and had an awe inspiring look at the rows upon rows of aging wheels. Of course the best part was trying out the 4 different ages of cheese plus the ricotta that had been made that day. Buying this quality of chese for such a crazy low price made us laugh out loud and the shop keeper's jaw dropped when we told her what the equivalent amount would cost for us at home.
Our last meal in ER was at La Buca. The tour of the culatello is what I will always remember here as well as the very old owner trying to speak to us about the history of the cantina and culatello. I had been very much looking foward to this meal for a long time, but was again let down by the roasted meats for secondi. This time I had the duck and my SO had the guinea hen, again dry and seemingly overcooked. The primi with tagliatelle and Zibello ham was amazing though, reminding me a lot of a carbonara. We also had them slice up some ham to take with us and we have enjoyed this daily since then. The Zibello ham, which we learned comes from the rump of the pig instead do the shank and is deboned, has been our favorite of all the cured hams so far, I sure wish I could bring some (okay a lot) home. I hear they actually have meat sniffing dogs at our airport though.
I almost forgot to mention we took a pasta cooking lesson with Ilsalotto di Penelope in Bologna, an amazingly knowledgeable couple of women whom I will always remember for their warmth and encouragement. We made tagliatelle, tortollini, tortolloni, and gnocchi as well as a tomato sauce, ragu and butter and sage. Unfortunately not enough time for the brodo, but I have been promised a recipe by email.
I am so happy and thankful to all of the chowhounders that helped me with planning this portion of our trip, there are so many memories already (and I am sure a pound or two gained). I am readily following the advice many of you gave me of eating the local specialty where ever possible (and where i know) and it does make all the difference in the world. Please forgive any spelling mistakes in this post as I am too full and tired to do a thorough check. I will try and ad links tomorrow.
Thanks for adding this for future posters, and for bringing such a broad set of values to judging the food experiences of the region. I finally swore off eating boiled meats in Emilia-Romagna. The fact they were served from rolling carts didn't do much for me, and something about boiled meat leaves me flat.
It is wonderful that Serghei afforded an opportunity to be amazed by the silken quality the best Bolgonese pasta achieves. I have yet to figure out how it is done. Divine, miraculous are the words that spring to mind.
wow I hope you had something other than meats at Arnaldo- their pastas, cured meats and other items were first rate and people were slurping up bowls of brodo with stuffed pastas like nobody's business. My husband had the boiled meats and I had a plate of salad instead and picked at his platter - some of the meats were wonderfully flavorful and juicy, especially with the homemade mostarda and green/bread sauce (dont think its called salsa verde. tho from an american perspective they might have seemed a bit overcooked.
In general we dont eat roast meats in italy, they always seem on the overcooked and boring side, but there is so much else to eat that we can just avoid them. Also agree with@ bb that the meats served as secondi aren't the highlight of this region. glad you were able to sample so many specialties.
re: jen kalb
@Bb, I completely agree about the pasta. When we took our class our teachers talked about the pasta in restaurants was too soft for their tastes. They said this could be because of any of the following things use more egg, the food processor and a pasta sheeter instead of all by hand. I will agree that the texture of what we made in class was rougher than that of the restaurants . I plan to play around with this a bit at home.
@jen, yes we did enjoy the other offerings at Arnaldo. I had the tort in brodo again and felt it was not as good as in Bologna. Almost everyone that night was having the meat trolley so we figured it must be the speciality. We had some lovely items from the veggie and dessert trolley. The poached pear with zabaglione was the best, with the pear being candied and poached somehow, my SO is a huge fan of custards, and is now a convert to zabaglione.
I forgot to mention an Osteria just on the outskirts of Modena, the name of which is escaping me, but I enjoyed the most perfectly cooked risotto I have ever had. Granted it is the only one so far in Italy. The reason I ordered it was because it was with balsamico and combo with parmigiana shavings was to die for !
Glad you enjoyed La Buca. Miriam is not so old, only 70, but being on your feet in the kitchen, six days a week for fifty plus years, does take a toll.
For you, when and if you go back, and everyone else who goes for probably one time only, here is the perfect menu of what La Buca does best (and arrosti are not their specialty as you see only three on the menu). First have plate of culatello and spalla, making sure to really further clog your arteries with the fresh butter that it is served with it.
Then for a primi, do as Cleopatra did and have the tagliatelle con culatello, one of the great dishes of any restaurant in ER (or in Italy). Do not have the anolini or tortelli, HAVE THE TAGLIATELLE CON CULATELLO. Then, for a secondo, have the mariola or prete, two incredibly rich local sausages. They will be served with Miriam's own mostarda. If lumache trifolati or anguilla con piselli are on the menu in the spring, you could have those as secondi or stracotto di lingua, all really good. My point is that the faraona and anitra are not what one should be eating there.
Obviously, anyone who is a vegetarian should stay very clear of La Buca.
Another note. If you get stuck on the language, just ask for Laura or Luca, Miriam's daughter and son-in-law, both of whom speak fluent English.
Hope this helps those who wind up going to La Buca in the future.
Not trying to be nitpicky, but in the spirit of aiding future diners at La Buca, I am thinking some menu items listed in your post need a run through the spellchecker (unless these are dishes I've never heard of?):
anguilla con piselli
Yes? Did I miss any others?
re: jen kalb
The green sauce that traditionally accompanies bollito in Emilia Romagna is indeed called "salsa verde." Also, regarding roast meats on menus in Italy, I don't have an oven in my apartment and even if I did, it would most likely not be big enough to roast meats, and I wouldn't want the heat inside my house anyway for most of the year. The only way i can eat roasted foods is when I'm dining out (or buying from a rosticceria), and maybe their presence on so many Italian ristoranti menus is a hangover from the days when going out to dinner meant eating something the home cook couldn't duplicate. Don't know. By the way, spit-roasted chicken from a rosticceria in Italy is often quite good if you haven't tried it.
I've never eaten at Clinica Gastronomica Arnaldo but whenever I've read about it, I always read about the meat trolleys as being the main draw. It's one of the reasons I've never eaten there.
@allende, I should have asked beforehand what to order. At least we experienced the tagliatelle, it was superb. We did have Luca as a waiter and he spent some time with us in the Culatello. It was after this that Miriam inundated us with more information about the place, which she is obviously and rightfully very proud of, in Italian only. I wish we understood more of it, but we got some pieces.
the boiled was good but as stated the roasted did not interest us. their real attraction to us was that they have the ladies skilled in making the local dishes including the handrolled pastas. And you get to taste assortments, never getting stuck with just one thing. the cured meats were exceptional too (but then, I they were thoroughout the area. We didnt have the tortellini in brodo so I cant comment except to say many were ordering it, but the pastas in the tris we did have were all exceptional. The most delicate and delicious vegetable ragu and a sumptuous wild mushroom layered pasta.
re: jen kalb
Then maybe I'll go sometime if the pasta is good. Most reviews are so enamored of the rolling carts, they barely mention the specifics of the food. I hope to go to Reggio nell'Emilia in October, so that might present an opportunity. I'll also need to overcome my aversion to the name. The combination of "clinica" and the idea of stainless steel rolling carts sounds so unappetizing to me! It will be easier if I remember to think of it as Arnaldo's.