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Jul 26, 2012 12:24 PM

Light Bologna dinner after Italian Days Food Tour?

Going on the Italian Days Food Tour in Bologna in October. They take you to Parma where you sample parmesan cheese and parma ham, and Modena where you see how balsamic vinegar is made and then of course sample it, too. The tour is from 7 a.m. and you're dropped back off at hotel at 5 p.m. You also have a light lunch sometime in the afternoon that I hear is anything but light - with multiple courses, wine, etc.

I still want to try and maximize the number of meals I eat in Bologna, since I will only be there for 3 days! Are there any recommendations of maybe some lighter meals in the main area? From the reviews, I read you are very full after, but I still want to eat something much later in the evening. I'm staying at Al Cappello Del Rosso Hotel. Also, what time do people eat both lunch and dinner in Bologna (maybe a range of times would be helpful info)?

Thanks! ~ Stacey

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  1. When it comes to restaurants and the most-often recommended eateries, Bolofna follows the Italian "norm": lunch is between 12.30 and 2.30, and dinner is 8pm to 10. However, Bologna is very much a student town, so you will find food (not necessarily good) being served at all hours.

    No point in making reservations anywhere until you know how hungry you are at dinnertime, If you aren't very hungry, consider Trattoria Twinside, which has an eclectic menu that serves salads, couscous, pastas, soups, even hamburgers. The kitchen is open until fairly late -- but hedge your bets by making a reservation as soon as you know that's where you want to eat.

    if you really only want to nibble, check out the wine bar Divinis, which is quite close to your hotel.

    If it turns out you are craving a full-blown meal, you might ask your hotel to help you snag a reservation at Giampi e Ciccio, or Serghei, or Da Gianni. They're all convenient to where you are staying and, in my experience, are enjoyable places to eat.

    1 Reply
    1. re: barberinibee

      It occurred to me later to add that if you just want drinks and grazing, Le Stanze is a very enjoyable bar in a lovely historic palazzo that puts out an enormous buffet spread at the cocktail hour. The food is wildly hit or miss. I've had some incredibly delicious and addictive small plates there, and at other times I've encountered food that is inedible. Thing to do is try a bite of everything, then zero in on what you found tasty. There's usually loud music and the cocktails are very good. Remember to hang on to your receipt once you have paid because you will be asked to show at the door as you leave.

    2. How about the restaurant/ wine bar at Tamburini? That seems the perfect place since you won't know exactly how hungry you'll be.

      4 Replies
      1. re: minchilli

        What a great suggestion! I actually wanted to fit in that restaurant anyway, this seems like a perfect way to do it! :)

        1. re: chattys82

          What are some good suggestions for a dinner in Bologna when we are hungry for a full meal?

          1. re: chattys82

            have you read the suggestions above by BB and also looked at the Discussions You MIght also like to the right and up which links to a number of suggestions?

          2. re: chattys82

            Maybe I'm too late, but i actually think the food at Tamburini is rather tired these days. Another poster who recently visited felt the same way. It's very touristy. I'd sooner take my chances on Divinis or Le Stanze.

        2. Stacey,

          Typically, lunch would start at 1:00 and dinner would start at 8:00. In the summer, they eat later in the evenings, but nobody eats before 8:00.
          I heartily 2nd Barberinee's recommendation of Da Gianni---they serve good traditional food. I would also suggest Cesarina (closed Mondays), which is right across from the ancient church of
          Santo Stefano. You'll find it a bit more expensive than Gianni, but they have a better wine list. Another place dear to my heart is La Traviata (via Urbana 5; closed Sundays). The lady of the house is one of the warmest people I've ever met, and her husband and son work alongside. They serve flawless Bolognese dishes. I'll never forget the dish of lightly scrambled eggs with bread crumbs, lots of parmigiano and....shaved white truffles on top! That was in November, so maybe the white truffle might be in season when you're there in October.
          So when your tour returns you to Bologna, have a coffe and start walking so you'll work up an appetite!
          PS: You can ask your hotel to reserve you a table at any of these places. Gianni & Traviata are pretty small.

          14 Replies
          1. re: jaybeck

            The menu at Cesarina looks pretty extensive! My husband and I aren't big wine people...probably at most of the places we'll go, house wine will be fine. We're going to Italy more for the food! So, which would you pick out of Da Gianni or Cesarina? Thanks for the suggestion! I heard La Traviata was fantastic and had planned on adding it to my itinerary. Since we're doing a food tour one day and a pasta making class another day, we have 1 lunch and 3 dinners to fill. Good idea to start walking to work up our appetites. I am confident we'll be able to do so!

            1. re: chattys82

              Curious, do most of the restaurants in Bologna serve sangiovese or lambrusco as their house red? We happen to be very pleased when it turns out that the house wine is excellent (it happens) - are any of the places on this thread or otherwise in Bologna recommendable for what they pour in their carafes?

              1. re: jen kalb

                In my experience, it's sangiovese, and if you ask for the house wine, you'll get an inexpensive bottle of a local sangiovese, or maybe offered a choice of a bottle of sangiovese or a bottle of lambrusco. I've not encountered many carafes. Some very old-fashioned trattorie will put an unlabled bottle on the table and you pay for what you drink. Best wine-food match I've ever had in Bologna was at All'Osteria Bottega, while the wine list I enjoyed most has been Trattoria Twinside. Diana serves a bottled sangiovese with its own house label that I enjoyed but getting a good plate of food there is a long shot.

                I really don't expect much in the way of memorable wine when I go to Bologna, and if the wine list offers bottles from other regions (very often from Friuli-Venezia-Giulia), I usually opt for one of those.

                1. re: barberinibee

                  thanks for the info. At most trattorie we go to on our italian visits, our default order is a half liter of red - Its fairly uncommon for that not to be available although occasionally a bottle of house red is what is presented instead. If the wine list is of interest thats a different matter.

                  In addition to providing a taste of the locality, this approach definitely keeps the meal tab down - and a half liter is about enough for an average lunch. where we dont want to splash out.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    I think it may be a quirk of the places I most frequently eat in Bologna that they don't serve a house wine in carafes, but instead stock ordinary table wines in bottles. Just for fun, I googled up a place I've never eaten (I have nothing against it), but which is located smack in the middle of where you find quite a concentration of every day Bolognese trattorie. As you can see from their online menu, they offer house wines in half-litres and such, and it's inexpensive:


                    So if you return to Bologna, you might find plenty of places to keep you happy in that regard. It's possible Giampi & Ciccio has house wine in carafes. All the times I've eaten there I've been alone at lunch, and just had a glass, which they poured from a bottle, but it was a workaday wine, not pricey by the glass.

                    You might also be asked, if you order a house red wine, whether you want "still" or "frizzante", rather than asked if you prefer sangiovese or lambrusco.

            2. re: jaybeck

              Would a 9:30 or 10 p.m. reservation be too late in Bologna? I've found that in Rome and Florence this is a very typical time to eat dinner.

              1. re: chattys82

                Some of the places nearest the university are still serving at 9.30, especially on weekends. Trattoria Twinside would probably still be serving. Many of the family run places will be running out of steam. Did you have someplace particular in mind?

                  1. re: chattys82

                    Gigina is out of town somewhat - do you really want to take a cab there late in the evening?

                    La Traviata is a TripAdvisor fave; the italian bologna locals posting there like it but not quite as much as others; is seems to have put itself squarely on the tourist trail with its pasta classes etc. which is not necessarily a bad thing but if you go, a report would be interesting.

                    Have you read through some of the earlier threads? you might see something to inspire you in connection with the bologna threads you have going.

                    1. re: jen kalb


                      Gigina is less than a 15 minute ride from the historic center. It's just a bit too far to walk, that's all. And the restaurant is happy to call a cab to take you home.

                      It is actually pretty hard to find a reliable restaurant in Bologna. I wouldn't discourage people from going to Gigina by leading them to believe it is a hassle to get there. I put off going for several trips to Bologna based on just that impression and am sorry I did. The pasta and other food at Gigina is considerably better than other places in the center.

                    2. re: chattys82


                      You can call them or have your hotel call them and ask if you can get served a 9.30.

                      1. re: barberinibee

                        I have absolutely no problem traveling any distance for good food! :) I can certainly handle a 5-10 minute cab ride. We're staying at the Albergo al Cappello Rosso, so I'm thinking it shouldn't be toooooo far. If there is anywhere else you can think of that might be a little ways away (even if pricier than some other places) and that you feel is a "must try," let me know!

                        1. re: chattys82

                          There is a very disciminatiing poster here named allende who often recommends Osteria Numero Sette, which is also a very short taxi ride from the center, but it is on the side of Bologna where you will be staying. I've yet to eat there, but you might want to check it out.

                          1. re: barberinibee

                            Thanks for the compliment barberinibee.

                            Just so there is no mistake, here is what i said about Osteria Numero Sette:
                            "Only a decent meal, nothing more, and am not recommending it as a special destination, but better, in our opinion, than anything else in the city."

                            The city, as i've said, is really very mediocre with regard to restaurants (IMO, the most over rated restaurant city in northern Italy), but a fabulous city with regard to food, one of the most interesting, if not the most interesting, in northern Italy. What a pity that the restaurants can't cook well.

              2. Stacey, How was the Italian Days Food Tour, do you recommend? :)

                1. Stacey, I'd also love to hear about your Italian Food Days tour. I have mine scheduled when I'm in Bologna in late August. Also, where did you end up going for dinner? Would Traviata be too heavy?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: SamanthaP5

                    Hey Samantha! I just did the IFD tour a week or so ago. I haven't gotten around to my trip report yet, and I'll go into more detail then about the tour... but no, you won't need ANY dinner. You don't eat the "light lunch" until about 2 pm and it lasts for hours...many courses. 1 antipasto, 3 pasta courses, meat course, then dessert. Then you go home from the lunch, which ends about 4:30, and you're stuffed. Everyone who was at the lunch was feeling sorry for the people who couldn't get out of their pre-existing dinner plans. One couple cancelled their reservations and had to go change their train tickets as they would not be able to stay in Bologna for dinner as they had planned. Our back up plan should we need dinner that night (we didn't) was either A)this nice bar next to the McDonalds across from Piazza Maggiore where they have a free antipasto buffet with your cocktails B)a pizzeria where you don't reservations or C) gelato but we couldn't do any of the above. This from the girl who eats dinner after gorging at Thanksgiving lunch-- if I can't eat dinner after, nobody can!

                    1. re: sarahbeths

                      Thanks, Stacey! Ugh, 10 weeks is too far away! :) Looking forward to your full report.