Advice for lunch/dinner plans with 2 weeks in Italy
- Heeney Feb 12, 2013 02:09 PM
Wanting some feedback on a possible itinerary for 2 food fanatics with 14 nights in Italy.
Staying in Rome/Florence/Bologna/Venice.
We realize a lot of great places will be outside of the city and need a car (like places in Emilia Romagna). But we aren't going to be spending enough time in each city to merit always getting a car. So looking for great places nearer to cities.
We haven't accounted for what is open when depending on what days we are there. Just wanting to get an idea if we are picking good places or if some should be swapped/replaced.
Here is how I broke it down:
Rome Lunch - Der Pallaro (heard mixed things, but sounds fun)
Rome Dinner - Restaurante Paris
Rome Lunch - Roma Spirita
Rome Dinner - Il Convivio Troiani (or maybe Il Pagliaccio)
Rome Lunch - Sora Lella
Rome Dinner - Felice a Testaccio
Rome Lunch - Pizzarium
Rome Dinner - Nonna Betta e il Giardino Romano
Florence Lunch - Trattoria Cibreo
Florence Dinner - Il Latini
Florence Lunch - Trattoria Mario
Florence Dinner - Il Santo Bevitore
Florence Lunch - ? ( we will rent a car this day to tour one or two Tuscan towns, not sure which)
Florence Dinner - Del Fagoli
Florence Lunch - Nerbone
Florence Dinner - Ora d'Aria
Bologna Lunch - Ristorante Ciacco
Bologna Dinner - al Pappagallo
Bologna Lunch - Osteria Francescana (Modena)
Bologna Dinner - Da Cesari
Bologna Lunch - All'Osteria Bottega (or maybe a daytrip to Parma)
Bologna Dinner - Marco Fadigo Bistrot
Venice Lunch - Alle Testiere
Venice Dinner - Al Covo
Venice Lunch - Bar hop including Cantina Do Mori
Venice Dinner - Anice Stellato
Venice Lunch - Da Romano (Burano)
Venice Dinner - Alla Madonna
if you don't mind my saying, and perhaps others will disagree, but I think that once you have decided which days of what month you will be where and whether you are willing to rent a car for the Emilia-Romagna, it's fairly impossible to discuss your choices (at least for Emilia-Romagna).
Perhaps you don't know the cost of some of these restaaurants, but you appear to be willing to spend a huge amount of money on food, twice a day -- and many of your choices in Emilia-Romagna commit you to much more rich and fancy food than most anyone could enjoyably eat twice a day.
Apparently you've already picked up from past threads that "food fanatics" do not stay in Bologna. There is really no reason for you to be spending the kind of money you are contemplating for your Emilia-Romagna stay. If for some reason you must or genuinely prefer to stay in Bologna, the better strategy for food fanatics is to enjoy simpler places and the markets.
But none of it is worth going into in detail without knowing what month you are traveling and what days you intend to be where.
Well, nothing is even really set yet. But it would be in early summer sometime.
I've seen a lot of conflicting comments of people talking about how Bologna is not up to par with the rest of the region. Hence my comment about limiting ourselves to not having a car.
Osteria Francescana is a big draw for us to the region. And we picked Bologna as the place to stay because its the most logical one and we are not just traveling for food. But also for sightseeing.
I realize the prices of the places I listed. And we would be happy to reign it in to avoid overdoing it. If there are different places in the area you'd suggest I'd love to hear it.
There isn't much conflict about whether Bologna should be regarded as a "food fanatic" destination when it comes to restaurant dining. Everybody agrees it should not. The only conflict is about how to advise people who have no choice but to be in Bologna and can't be leaving the city for meals.
Don't know what your sightseeing priorities are and whether you are open to having a car. Having one isn't likely to interfere with your sightseeing. If you choose not to have a car (and you should ignore people who look down on you for that!), maybe the way you should approach Bologna is to track down some of the city's specialties rather than aim for "fine" dining or "innovative" dining. No Bolognese restaurant is going to match Osteria Francescana in that category, so don't set yourself up for expensive disappointment.
There are a couple of food experiences and dishes in Bologna that you might have fun tracking down if you are inevitably going to be there, because you might not readily find them elsewhere in the region. Depends on what you like to eat and if you are okay with funky trattorie or picnics.
But first it would help to know what date you plan to reserve at Osteria Francescana, and whether the decision about a car is final (and what that is).
Ok. I can always check back here with more info when more is final. But I'd love to hear your suggestions in Bologna ahead of time so I can plan with those in mind.
We would LOVE funky trattorie and picnics, so let us know. That was my whole point in posting this thread.
But Francescana would be for certain. And we're 90% sure there would be no car in Bologna.
The reason for this is simply because we are doing 14 nights in 4 different cities and already renting a car for a day in Tuscany. We really don't want to spend every single day traveling around my train and car.
I understand the freedom of renting the car (we had a great lunch at Etxebarri in the Basque Country a while back as a result), but with all the work around directions and parking and picking up and dropping off rentals we both decided that we have to find a happy medium between traveling for great food and also stopping to actually relax and enjoy vacation.
My view of it is that you really want that meal to Osteria Francescana to be centerpiece of your stay, and that you should plan your other meals around that event. The food throughout the region tends to be rich, and if you eat a lot of it ahead of your planned meal at Osteria Francescana, you can end up walking in the door of this world-famous restaurant wishing you didn't have to face another plate of food. Likewise, you aren't necessarily going to be looking for another restaurant meal shortly after eating at Osteria Francescana.
Also, you might reconsider -- if Osteria Francescana is a key reason you included the Emilia-Romagna on your trip -- whether you would like that meal to be lunch or dinner. Some people would immediately say lunch. Others, dinner -- it's a purely personal choice, but if you think you might prefer dinner, then you might want to base yourselves in Modena. You might find it is not hard at all to complete a sightseeing agenda from Modena using the trains (and there is really no reason for you to feel a need to explain your preference for not having a car for your vacation. One of my favorite things about no longer living in America is not having a car.)
It's just easier to suggest what might be a really digestible and delightful experience of Emilia-Romanga once you've posted whether you are having lunch or dinner at Osteria Francescana on a Sunday or a Tuesday, and where you otherwise plan to be touring during lunch and dinner hours during that time frane. Otherwise, we end up posting recommendations only to have you discover they'll be closed the one day you'll be near there, or that it's the wrong choice for dinner if you've eaten lunch in Osteria Francescana, etc.
In the meantime, Plotkin is a great resource for understanding the variety of regional cuisine and the local specialties, so if you visit particular towns, it isn't necessarily about sitting down to a grand meal at the most famous restaurant, but rather enjoying a dish unique to the locality.
In case it wasn't clear, my reference to "Plotkin" is the book by Fred Plotkin called "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler." It is a marvelous read, especially for understanding the specialities of the Emilia-Romagna, a region he has a special feeling for.
Bologna is definitely a larger city than Modena, and if you are not planning to do many day trips, then Bologna also has its extensive morning food markets as well as many other sights.
OK. Well 2 weeks in Italy is a go now (in May). Since I have more info I'll include it along with lunch and dinner plans version 2.0.
Feedback is appreciated:
Arrive in Rome on Sunday.
Day 1 (Sunday)
Lunch - Sora Lella
Dinner - Nonna Betta
Lunch - Pizzarium
Dinner - Roscioli
Lunch - Antico Forno Roscioli
Dinner - L'Arcangelo or Pipero al Rex
Lunch - Trattoria da Teo
Dinner - Felice a Testaccio or Checchino Dal 1887
Go to Florence
Lunch - Del Fagioli
Dinner - Trattoria Cammillo or Borgo San Jacopo or Trattoria Cibreo
Lunch - Nerbone
Dinner - Il Santo Bevitore
Lunch - Mario
Dinner - Ora d'Aria
Lunch - Not sure, plan to rent a car to visit maybe Pienza and San Gimi
Dinner - Not sure, it's a sunday and most everything seems closed. I know Il Latini was recommended to remove from the list. But it's open Sunday.
Go to Bologna
Lunch - Giampi e Ciccio
Dinner - All'Osteria Bottega
Lunch - Osteria Francescana (Modena)
Dinner - Scacco Matto
Lunch - Serghei OR Daytrip to Parma or Verona
Dinner - Marco Fadiga Bistrot
Go to Venice
Lunch - Anice Stellato
Dinner - Alla Madonna
Lunch - Chicetti from various bars
Dinner - Alle Testiere
Lunch - Da Romano or Gato Nero
Dinner - Al Covo or Il Ridotto
1. this looks better but it still feels like too many meals - Id keep some wine bar type restaurants in mind in case you dont really feel like a big meal in the evening - on your first day in Rome for example.
2. For your day out of florence I recommend finding a good relaxed country restaurant for a long Sunday lunch. If you start a new thread to ask for ideas for this you will probably get some good recommendations. Il Latini is not a good idea for an evening meal after a good lunch. Its a classic pigout tourist restaurant with notso special food. Not a good end to what should be a relaxing classic day for you.
3. We usually try to sit down for lunch (rest from touring) with a light dinner. Better on the stomach and also the feet - personal preference, which conforms to the middlay closings of many stores and attranctions. It seems to me you have a lot of lunches planned where you really wont get that chance to relax midday.
Look forward to hearing back about your trip.
For the Bologna portion of your trip, I wouldn't eat at Giampi e Ciccio for lunch your first day. I would look for something lighter, in particular a lunch of passatelli in brodo or tortellini brodo, and I personally would probably go for Bistrot 18 on via Clavature if it is open on Monday. Or Serghei if they are open for lunch that day, but only to eat a lighter pasta in brodo and maybe a secondo of melon or grilled vegetables.
I ate at Giampi e Ciccio a few weeks ago and I couldn't tell if it was the bite of austerity or the fact it had been a bitterly snowy day in Bologna that made the dinner sub-quality, but I would look for someplace else for that first lunch, and I would keep it simple and save yourself for Osteria all'Bottega (which you must reserve well in advance).
I recently read an Itallian food blog that declared the tagliatelle al ragu at Osteria all'Bottega the "best in Bologna." I've not had it there (and it's not my fave Bolognese dish anyway), but if you are thinking of making a point of sampling it while in Bologna, you might wait until you get to Osteria all'Bottega and test the proposition there.
If you haven't already, it would be to your advantage to read up on Osteria all'Bottega to learn their focus (cured meats), and if you want to make their house specialites the focus of your meal, know that this experiement doesn't come too cheap. Not the biggest tab you can run up in the center of town, but the per-gram prices for specialty meats can add up. I had a good experience letting the owner of the restaurant choose my wine.
I've not eaten at Marco Fadiga Bistrot, and probably never would (just prefer granny pasta). But if I did, i would not want a big meal for lunch. If you end up spending the day in Bologna, rather than go to Serghei. you could shop for an interesting lunch in the open-air markets and take your haul to the very funky Osteria del Sole, in Vicolo Ranocchi, 1/d. For the price of a glass of wine, you can eat your market-purchased lunch at a communal table. (You could also do this your first day in Bologna, if you know you will be there by 11am and are staying in the center of town.)
I seriously doubt you will want to eat much of anything after your lunch at Osteria Francescana. Depending on when lunch ends, you could visit Parma the same day, in the afternoon, after 4pm, when the religious sights re-open (but not the theater). On your way back to the train station, you could stop at Salumeria Garibaldi and get the makings of a light dinner.
As for Scacco Matto, my own opinion is that reach-comes-periously-close to-exceeding-grasp there. It's pleasant and sweet-natured (a bit inventive but very unpretentious); also unpredictable). But if I was going to bother to sit down and eat, especially fish (Scacco Matto is a pugliese kitchen), I'd go to Teresina. But on the same day with Osteria Franescana? No. You'll be risking a busted gut with either choice.
Other people know Veronese food better than I do. My extremely limited experience of it is that it can really stick to your ribs -- thicks grain soups, fat pastas, really rich soft cheeses and duck fat. That said, there are so many gorgeous fruits from that area in summer -- peaches and cherries and melons (likewise in Emilia-Romagna), that I would be on the lookout for those treats in lieu of another heavy meal.
Chowhound forbids discussions that veer away from food, but I will point out that Ravenna is a spectacular place which you might want to consider in lieu of Verona (another spectaular place!) and that Ravenna gives you the opportunity for a nice fish lunch -- although you have chances for that in Venice I guess (don't know, others will advise). If you decide to spring for Ravenna, the Osterie d'Italia guide or Gambero Rosso might have good suggestions. A final day in E-R that is a nice fish lunch in Ravenna and then maybe an enoteca-type dinner of cheese and sliced meats (at Divinis? Bistroit 18?) might be nice.
You should definitely invest in next year's good restaurant guides when they come out, and a copy of Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, where restaurant recommendations may be out of date but the fundamentals of what unique gems to seek out still hold true. If you understand the regional cuisines of where you are going, you won't end up in too many super-fancy restaurants eating highly manipulated food --- which you can really eat anywhere these days.
Hope you enjoy your trip to Italy and report back with your own impressions.
Thanks for the advice. We will certainly look for spots to reign in and go lighter.
I agree that after Francescana we may indeed want to go light the rest of the day.
I'm surprised to hear we would have time to visit parma after a long lunch. But that sounds fun and we will look at doing that.
Also, will consider Ravenna.
I don't know when an elaborate lunch at Osteria Franescana ends, and how quickly you can get from there to the train station. But Parma is 30 minutes by train from Modena, and it shuts up in the mid-afternoon for lunch (including in sights). You just have to look at train schedules. Since the historic center of Parma is a healthy 20-25 minute walk from the Parma train station, you might want to invest in a quicker taxi ride when you get off the train.
If you are early risers, you could do it the other way: Parma first, get to Modena by 1.30pm.
Also, if you are not planning to go to Ravenna, it may be that Modena or Parma would be a good "base" for you food-wise. Devil is in details. (Like restaurant opening days and train skeds, appealing hotel....)
Similar objection to Rome choices - a food fanatic would not eat in many of these. How did you put your choices together, they seem to be very "old", as in recommended years ago but not anymore (quality of most restaurants in rome does change fast). For example, der Pallaro is a terrible place that only hoards of bus-travel groups like. Paris used to be good, but quality has went down. Roma sparita has declined since being touted by bourdain, food and service are below any standards. Convivio troiani has stayed in at least a decade ago (though have to admit maureen whom i respect a lot likes it), pagliaccio is very good but also another of the uninteresting-if-visiting-just-for-few-days, international type. There are more interesting fine dining restaurants in rome at the moment (metamorfosi, pipero al rex, all'oro, glass).sora lella might be one of the best choices on your list (for what it is, in its category of traditional roman jewish cuisine), felice is not the same since felice himself died (checchino or cesare al casaletto much better choices), pizzarium is great, nonna betta is one of the best in the jewish ghetto.
My choices were put together based off early research of well rated places. Like Michelin, Gambero Rosso, and yes, Bourdain.
It's been years and years since we've been and its still just early planning.
If I knew all the good "new" places there wouldn't be much point in me posting here.
That's what I need all you for. :)
Glad to hear Pizzarium is good and so is Nonna Betta. We will certainly keep those. You saying Checchino is good and Felice went downhill is the inverse of what I heard other places so I'll look into that more.
Heard good things about Pipero al Rex.
I appreciate that you went the extra mile to include alternate suggestions which is exactly what I was looking for.
If you were to pick 4 or 5 must vists in Rome what would they be?
I haven't been to Convivio in quite some time but have always respected Angelo Troiani and have no reason not to think the place is still good. Not everybody warms to it, however. We went to Pagliaccio about ten days ago for our anniversary and thought it pretty much of a bust -- even though our previous visits had been great. We thought our dinner at Agata e Romeo a couple of months ago was much better. I like Metamorfosi, though my most recent experiences there were for special evenings with set menus. I also like Pipero, but not Glass (two disappointments, e non c'è due senza tre, so that's it). We gave up on Sora Lella years ago -- we found it overpriced and half the dishes and wines we asked for weren't available. And the carciofi alla romana tasted boiled. I like All'Oro, but the one time I went without my Italian cavaliere but with two American guests, the service was several degrees less friendly than usual. Pallaro, hmph. Have still not made it to Cesare or Nonna Betta. In Testaccio we are loyal to Checchino. Can't imagine that OP heard Checchino went down and Felice up, but it may be that Checchino is always the same and Felice has renovated since the days of old Felice himself, nothing to do with the kitchen, of course.
Nobody ever mentions Antonello Colonna on this board, but I like him/it.
In any case, I think OP has planned too many meals. Best to leave room for bars, gelato, snacks, and spontaneity (NB I do not recommend spontaneity for dinners you care about, except maybe once in a trip).
Oh dear....you've done a lot of research, but somehow have listed a lot of places I would never recommend.
Pallaro, Paris, Sora Lella, Nonna Betta, Giardino Romano.
Take off: Latini, The rest of your choices are good. Remember Fagioli is not open on weekends (and doesn't take credit cards)
Venice: I think Testiere and Covo in one day might be a bit much? They are both excellent, but you may not fully appreciate Covo by the time you get there.
Burano: I prefer Gatto Nero. I know Bourdain went to Romano, but....
If you want a real non-touristy experience at a very off the beaten path place in Florence, and you love wine, I suggest Enotria: http://www.enotriawine.it/eng/home.html. You can get there by bus (17) or taxi from the historical city center. Run by a husband and wife team, their wine by the glass offerings are always intriguing and the food is divine.
if you're interested in housemade pasta (and another wine nerd wine list), Coquinarius is the only edible restaurant near the Duomo in my opinion. It's on Via delle Oche. It's also open between lunch and dinner which is a rarity in Italy, so good place to go if you're off the normal dining hours for some reason.
Alle Testiere, Al Covo, Anice Stellato are fine.
Haven't eaten at Da Romano recently (since Bourdain) or in Burano in many years
As for Alla Madonna, foodwise, I would skip it. My previous experiences, first time 30 years ago, two times more recent have been similar: bacala mantecato has a slight refrigerator taste, sloppy oversauced primi, acceptable grilled branzino (farmed but given the moderate price not a sin) and overlogged contorni. Friends who have eaten there have never found the food more than just acceptable. The display of the seafood and contoni in refrigerator cases when one enter should give it away. It is one those restaurant 'mystery' to me that other people had great food. Could be just my bad luck as it is always packed. Ok if one is looking for a large old-fashioned bustling trattoria with waiters in white tuxedo jackets running about, large menu and moderately priced.
If you are visiting the bacari around the Riato, make sure it is not on a Sunday (all are closed) or Monday. The pescheria is closed both days and not much going on except tourists.
We actually had a great lunch at Alla Madonna 2 months ago. Among the things we had - and enjoyed - was a truly great bacala vicentina, seppie in ink with polenta, and I thought the bacala mantecata was quite good. And there is something kind of festive about the big, bustling atmosphere.
Well, less than 2 weeks till we leave and this looks to be the final schedule. I guess now my only real question is how much exactly we have overdone it.
In most cases we will limit lunch to an antipasti and a primi or secondi. Try to keep it lighter.
Arrive in Rome on Sunday.
Day 1 (Sunday)
Lunch - Felice a Testaccio
Dinner - Cesare al Casaletto
Lunch - Pizzarium
Dinner - Roscioli
Lunch - Asino D'Oro
Dinner - L'Arcangelo
Lunch - Trattoria da Teo
Dinner - Pipero al Rex
Go to Florence
Lunch - Trattoria Mario
Dinner - Del Fagioli
Lunch - Nerbone
Dinner - Il Santo Bevitore
Lunch - Latte Di Luna in Pienza
Dinner - Ora d'Aria
Day 8 (Sunday)
Lunch - Trattoria Cammillo
Dinner - Don't have plans. Will probably go light for dinner.
Go to Bologna
Lunch - Go food shopping and have a picnic
Dinner - Camminetto D'Oro
Lunch - Osteria Francescana (Modena)
Dinner - something small (snack dinner)
Lunch - Giampi e Ciccio
Dinner - All'Osteria Bottega
Go to Venice
Lunch - Chicetti from various bars
Dinner - Anice Stellato
Lunch - Da Romano
Dinner - Alle Testiere
Lunch - Al Fontego dei Pescatori
Dinner - Il Ridotto
Feedback always appreciated.
Sorry I haven't posted an update to this in a while. We got back a couple months ago so I'll try and cover details of each place from memory.
All in all it was a great trip and we had a wonderful time. From a food perspective it had lots of highs. But sadly there were more lows than I expected, you can see in the details.
ROME DAY 1
Was raining pretty heavy so decided to run directly to lunch indoors. We went to Da Felice. Nice, casual dining room filled to capacity. Good service. A decent number of tourists but was surprised at the fact that a good 80% were Italians. We started with two pastas: I had the cacio e pepe and wife has the special which was tagliatelle with artichokes and favas. Cacio e pepe was solid and finished tableside. Really good after a long flight. The tagliatelle was slightly better with the fresh favas. Good umami flavor. Mains were the roman tripe for me and a veal cutlet for wife. We both struggled with these, not because they were not good, but because we were feeling full. Stomaches and internal clock just hadn't adjusted yet. Tripe was good and sauce had very clean pure flavor. Veal was good but I don't remember much of it. We split a tiramisu for dessert. Not bad.
When dinner came around we had plans to go to Cesare al Casaletto. But we were so tired and still full. So we cancelled. Kinda broke my heard because I had a feeling we missed out on a highlight. Next time we go back I guess.
ROME DAY 2
Spent most of the day at Vatican City. Again rained hard so it was a good move. Seriously, if you are going to the vatican museum pre-buy tickets online. We walked to the front and were in within 3 minuites. The line for tickets seemed infinite. Standing in a torrential downpour. Smartest move I ever made.
For lunch we stopped by Pizzarium. Really good. Had two suppli and some slices. Chicken Liver and Onion, Prosciutto with some kind of greens, a slice with potato, couple cups of wine. Line was moderate and we were in and out pretty quick. Ate on the sidewalk. Really fantastic crust. Must-go in Rome IMO. Only complaint was that I wish the suppli had been warm. One was pasta filled and it just needed some warmth to me.
For dinner we went to Roscioli. This was the highlight of my dining in Rome honestly. Started with a plate of mixed salumi and the burrata. Salumi was excellent but the burrata was almost supernatural. Incredible. Wish I had it right now. You can;t leave without having that. Went into the pastas where I had the carbonara and wife had the spaghetti with bottarga. Carbonara was great as I've heard. Very rich. Excellent pork flavor. Bottarga pasta also excellent. Tilted a little to oversalted but not quite.
For mains the wife had a fish and I had pork. I honestly cannot remember the details but they were both very good but we couldn't finish because we were stuffed. I can't remember dessert.
ROME DAY 3
After walking around the colloseum we went to Asino D'Oro for lunch before returning to the Forum. Good Umbrian cooking. Very quiet. Even at full swing it was about 1/3 empty. Set lunch menu for 12 euro pp. Insane deal. It was a nice light lunch. Started with what I remember as a pea soup which was very nice and then went into a small portion of ravioli with asparagus. Main was lamb if I remember correctly and was cooked perfectly. Dessert was cookies which included almonds I think. I'd like to go back at dinner and try another menu. But the lunch was nice and had good flavors without being too filling to sap you the rest of the day. Price value is great.
For dinner we had reservations at L'Arcangelo for gnocchi but they called us and had to cancel our reservation because the kitchen has issues and they couldn't open. Pretty sad about that because I heard good things. And they cancelled that morning. Probably couldn't be helped, but we had to shop around for other plans. Ended up going to Da Teo in Trastavere.
Seriously, I cannot understand why I heard good things about this place. Easily the low in Rome and maybe of the whole trip. It hurts to dislike this place because it is such a pretty place and the service staff were lovely. Our waitress ran out into the square to help two old gentlemen from the neighborhood break up a fight their dogs got into. I mean, it was so sweet it seemed almost scripted.
Anyway, the food just couldn't hold up to the atmosphere. Started with a shared plate of fritti (zucchini blossom, fish, artichoke). It was all overly battered and greasy. The blossom was ok.
For pasta I had rigatoni amatriciana. It was swimming in sauce. Like a bad red sauce joint in the states in the 70s. Can't even remember the wife's pasta other than the fact she didn't like it.
For the mains she had what I think was beef and I requested baby lamb chops. They said they didn't have the grilled kind and brought be the fried ones. Again, greasy, boney, bland. More dang fried artichokes like we had to start. I didn't finish.
Dessert was forgettable because I forgot it. We may actually have skipped it and had gelato somewhere else.
Such a let down. If I could have Rosciolis food at Da Teo I'd be in love. But I just cannot recommend this place to anyone.
ROME DAY 4
Spent a great morning at the Borghese gallery. Even on return visits its just fantastic. For lunch we went to Armando Al Pantheon. This is the one place we returned to from our last trip to Rome. Glad we did. The food there is not amazing but it is good trattoria fare and restored my faith after Teo.
We started with pastas. I had another cacio e pepe and wife had pasta with fresh chicken livers. My cacio e pepe was the low point of the meal. I little too watery. Not up to the standards at Felice. Wifes was great though. Chicken livers were delicious. For the mains she had beef with argugala and I tried again to get the baby lamb I wanted. This time I got it. Nice grilled lamb chops. Nice charred flavor with some lemon. The beef with arugula was good with balsamic. I have made that at home a couple times myself since we came back. For dessert we split a roman ricotta cake with berries. Really good. Can't seem to find a recipe but I want it. The cake and the livers were the highlights.
For dinner we went to Pipero Al Rex. Tiny place inside a very old-school hotel. I'm not used to restaurants that really center around the front of the house as opposed to the chef. But he chef was no slouch and the meal was good. Pipero himself is a very good host and we put ourselves in his hands and the hands of the chef for the food and wine. Dinner had some good highlights like a starter which was a kind of wafer sandwich with mushroom puree. And their carbonara which was even better than Roscioli. But my wife found it overpowering. Also, it was so heavy it made the rest of the meal tough.
That being said, many dishes have been forgotten. And one that I do remember was a chicken dish which bordered on undercooked and was not appetising. I think this place getting a michelin star is a stretch. It's close but not quite there.
What was tough was that there was a couple next to us from San Francisco who were just unbearable. The woman was ok but the man was just an absolute loudmouth tool. He walked in like he owned the place and brought a novel to read at the table. He seemed to delight in being difficult and harrassing. Poor Mr. Pipero held it together very well but he was constantly being brought over to deal with this jerk. The man at one point sent back the fantastic carbonara calling it "macaroni and cheese". Eventually he overheard us speaking English and struck up a conversation. We put on a good face and tried to be polite and eventually he left us alone. But I think just us talking to him soured Mr. Pipero as he was less jovial with us. I tip my hat to him though since he handled what I may rank as the worst patron I have been in a long time.
That summed up our leg of the trip in Rome. It's a fantastic place and we loved it. As for the food. It was decent but nothing to gush about. It had most of the lowest points on our trip though there were others. The highs would have to be the pizza at Pizzarium, the roman ricotta cake, the carbonara at Pipero, and the crown jewel would be Rocioli's burrata.
More to follow.
Thanks for getting back with this very complete report. Im a little puzzled because your summary is more negative than the individual reports suggest.- my own experience is that eating a whole string of full meals, two per day, saps our appreciation. We also find ourselves skipping the secondi frequently and the dessert almost always (Armando is one of the only trattoria level places that has very good desserts - glad you enjoyed that cake) to avoid this effect.
Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip!
re: jen kalb
I think the summary is more driven off expectations.
Also, I typically have very good recall of dishes without note taking or photos. But not so much this time. Which leads me to feel a lot of things were not memorable.
Plus, the mind-altering awesomeness of the Roscioli burrata couldn't outweigh the crushing disappointment of Teo.
That being said, we ate well, I just should have grounded my expectations more.
FLORENCE DAY 1
Arrived in Florence around noon on the train from Rome. Raining again (this would become a recurring theme). By the time we checked in it was too late for us to go have lunch at Mario like we planned so we went to the market to Nerbone. VERY long lines. This place is obviously known around the world as their were a large mix of multi-national people in line (including italians). It seems like the market workers got to jump the line from the side and get theirs quickly, which didn't bother me and I thought it was a nice touch. Food is very affordable and good quality which explains the crowds. Got mixed crostini which included some great chicken liver crostini. Had those several times during our trip. Also got the panini with bollito. This is something I had last time we were in florence years ago and it was still just as good. Juicy bollito with good salsa verde. The real star was the great rolls. Nice and crusty and good with the meat juices. I just wish you didn't have to get it seperatly. By the time I had the sandwich in hand my wife had almost finished her food at the table. This is exactly what happened last time we were here.
For dinner we went to Del Fagioli which was possibly a highlight of the Florence leg of the trip. Excellent classic tuscan. Had pasta with a rich ragu and wife had ribollita which was steller. For the mains I had roast rabbit which was well seasoned but a little on the dry side. I cannot remember the wifes. Dessert was biscotti with Vin Santo and I tore through it with gusto. Certainly recommended.
FLORENCE DAY 2
At lunch we went back to our plans to go to Mario and we were glad we did. Just a stone throw from the market they are turning out classic tuscan to about equal parts tourists and locals and its all very good. Communal tables and we were sat with a local Florentine so basically followed his lead on the menu choices. Its not for the claustrophobic or the shy but worth it.
We wanted to pick two starters and a main so we picked a pasta with fresh shrimp, fried squid, and decided to let this be our place for a Florentine steak. What we didn't realize was that the fried squid was also a main so it was a bigger meal than we planned. The pasta with shrimp was very good, mostly due to the freshness and clean flavor of the shrimp. The fried squid were decent and tender but a little greasy. The steak was the smallest we could order but still a nice big Fred Flintstone size slab of beef. Very rare in the middle but good char on the outside. Shockingly we were able to get through it all very easily. Must have been the fact we went light on pasta. A good bargain for the steak too. This place and Fagioli are must-gos in Florence.
At dinner we went to Il Santo Bevitore which was a change from the casual Tuscan dining and more dressy and upscale. Food was more refined but still tilting to classic tuscan flavor combos. For some reason the menu for my wife is difficult to recall at all but I do know she enjoyed it very much. My pasta was a fresh papardelle with wild boar and it was good but I wish the boar had been less chunky and more braised and broken down. Flavor was on point though. My main was a good piece of monkfish wrapped in a potato next with zucchini puree. Very good. I'm a monkfish fan and was wanting a food piece of seafood after all the meat. This did the trick. Dessert involved lemon somehow but it eludes me. Good place for a special night out in Florence.
FLORENCE DAY 3
Had a quiet and relaxed day planned so after the Bargello we went back to the market to visit this stall near the back we saw. I cannot remember the name but its a fish stall that fries up its own good for you on the spot. Big basket from fried seafood for like 6 euros. It was very good. Best fried seafood I had so far on the trip. Very fresh and basic and you just pull up right in front of the stall and dig in. Perfect coating and not greasy at all. They also play pretty decent music very loud which was fun. After that we went by Nerbone but the line was so long we went to a stall next to it with table seating and ordered some eggplant and and rissotto ball. Both were pretty terrible. We paid the bill and escaped and waited in the line at nerbone for some more crostini to make sure we finished on a high note. Lesson learned. You can't cut corners. :)
For dinner we went to Ora d'Aria for our planned "high end" meal in Florence. It was a nice place and the choice of tasting menus was either the chefs riff on seafood or his take on classic tuscan. We wanted to each do one but were told we could not. So we went with the tuscan. It was a good meal but just like Pipero there were a lot of forgotton courses. One that stands out though was a dish of wonderful suckling pig which had perfectly crisp skin and was served with caramelized apples and poached apples. Very good. I remember the wine pairings being very nice too. I'd rank this over Pipero for food but under for atmosphere and service. It is deserving of it's michelin star. But I wish they had given me a copy of the menu to take so I could remember better. Special note to the restaurant on their tea selection which is shown via tubes filled with the infusions for you to smell. Kind of like how Mugaritz in Spain does it. Much smaller selection but still very nice.
One oddity is that we were sat on the lower floor and the food was delivered via dumb-waiter downstairs. Dishes were sent back the same way. Not sure if this is normal in some restaurants but to me it seemed so strange and impersonal to have michelin food delivered via dumb-waiter.
FLORENCE DAY 4
Our last day was a Sunday so selections were smaller. For lunch we stopped by All'Antico Vinaio. Right near our hotel. Small hole in the wall turning out good sandwiches which seem to be popular because the line stretches across the road and is always shifting to let cars through. Waiting about 10 mins in line but got in. Split a sandwich with prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, and tomato. It also had a artichoke spread and overall was a satisfying sandwich with good bread. Guys behind the counter were having fun with the customers and keeping one eye on the football game on the TV. Recommended.
For dinner we went to Il Latini. I know. I know. Please hold your scoffing. It was more a sentimental reason and the fact it was open on Sunday. Our first trip to Florence when we were younger and less food focused we went and had a great time. We wanted to revisit.
The crowds were huge as usual. And yes, mostly a lot of tourists though the table of 8 near us were full of italians. Starters were good. prosciutto and melon and the melon tasted very fresh. Crostini was good. The pate was better at Nerbone but the crostini at Latini edged it out.
Wife had the ribollita to start and it was decent but a let down as we remembered it being so much better. The one at Fagioli easily exceeded it. I had gnochhi with rabbit ragu and it was very good. Fluffy gnocchi and the rabbit gave it a nice gamey flavor. Best dish we had there. Mains were a slab of roast pork and a slab of roast veal. Both were OK. Veal was just a little too rare for me and pork was a little too dry. But the gravy on the pork made up for it. Dessert was just more biscotti and vin santo and were enjoyed very much.
I realize all the criticism of Latini is deserved. It is a giant place catering to tourists and churning out Tuscan basics. It didn't really hit any highs except the rabbit. But then again it didn't really have anything I would call a terrible miss or a boring dish. It's just kind of floating in that upper middle. Scoff if you must but you can do worse in Florence for sure.
That rounded out Florence.
Still have Bologna and Venice to come later.
I want to give a special mention to Carapina in Florence. THE BEST GELATO ON THE PLANET. I am not kidding. It was insane. DO NOT leave without going. We went once on our first day, once on our second, and twice each of our last two days. We tried other places and they just couldn't hold up. They don't have piles of gelato sitting out to lure you, they stay safely in tubs with labels and it changes each day depending on what is best that day. Anything they don't sell gets tossed and they start from scratch. Flavor and texture are incredible. I almost asked if they were using liquid nitrogen because the texture was so silky. I miss that place already.
BOLOGNA DAY 1
Arrived in Bologna mid-afternoon on the train. First time for us to stop in the Emilia region so we were excited to look around. Bologna is surprisingly small and not quite as astounding as the other big three. We had 3 nights there but I think 2 would have been enough. The food markets are very good but personally I found Mercato Centrale in Florence to be better. We did go shopping a little and enjoyed our purchases later in the trip.
We were planning on going light at lunch but when we arrived we were very hungry to we went down to Giampo e Ciccio. We were the only non-italians there and it was a small quaint place that seemed surrounded by a lot of more modern places.
The food however just did not meet expectations. You come to Bologna hearing that it is the culinary capital so I was expecting to be wowed. I had tortellini in brodo and wife had tagliatelle with classic bolognese. Brodo seemed ordinary and boring, the cheese in the tortellini seemed decent but nothing special. Wife's bolognese was not good. Tasted like plain ground beef cooked till it was grey and then canned tomato sauce poured in. Basically the kind of bolognese you would get at a friends house when his mom got home late from work and had to cook quickly. I was shocked. I forgot my wifes secondi but mine was a veal cutlet with ham and sauce. The sauce was heavy and gloopy and you couldn't taste the veal very well. I think we skipped dessert.
Dinner was at Camminetto D'Oro and was better. This time I went with the tagliatelle ragu and it was much better. Richer flavor and better pasta. It also included peas which were nice. I can't remember the main but it came with wild mushrooms which were very nice. For dessert the wife had a cake and I had ice cream with aged balsamic and it was very good quality balsamic. We also had a bottle of lambrusco which was nice and dry.
BOLOGNA DAY 2
OK. Off to Modena for Osteria Francescana. Very high expectations and they all were mostly met. Modena seems to be a very nice town, quiet. We didn't see other other English speaking person in the whole town. Amazing cathedral.
Service at Francesana was in keeping with a 3 Michelin star restaurant and the dining room, while very sparse, was very comfortable and relaxed. It keeps the focus on the food. We did the full "Come to Italy" with me menu including wine pairing. The wines were well paired. I wish I had gotten a copy of the menu and the wines but they did not give that. That is my one downside of the experience. A place like that needs to give that as a memento.
Started with an almond grantia with capers, coffee, and bergamot. Very refreashing and prepped the palate. It was followed by two types of macarons: one with oyster and one with anchovy. These were incredible. Two of the best bites of our whole trip. It gave me what I had been missing during the trip so far, a full flavor of the ocean. We had been having so much meat lately and the fish we had didn't match the crisp ocean taste that we got from these macaroons. Exceptional. A selection of breads were laid down including wonderful grissini. The breads were changed very frequently to ensure they were always warm. It included both cows milk and goat butter that were very nice. It was followed by a sous vide cod with lemon and crumble on top. The fish was perfectly cooked and firm and the sauce providing a nice betterness and the crumble giving a saltyness and texture. Following that were "How to burn a sardine in three days" which were 3 pieces of quality sardine that were gently cooked and then coated with a vegetable ash to appear charred. Presentation was whimsical. But I think it owes a nod to the "burned lamb" from Mugaritz.
Following was "Risotto where the river meets the sea", rice was perfectly al dente and had 3 sauces which included a chlorophyll sauce. It had tiny fish balls (carp I think). Then we had "eel swimming up the po river". This was an eel which was heaving caramelized, and was alongside a dollop of polenta and a green apple sauce. The eel tastes like a very good grilled japanese eel and the green apple was tart with rich polenta.
Next was a tribute to Normandy: a cleaned oyster shell filled with raw lamb of high quality and a mayo made with oyster water. Both flavor and texture mimiced an oyster very well, and this was a highlight of the meal.
The next two courses were heavily driven by wild herbs and veggies. The first was "Think Green", a combination of herbs, flowers, asparagus and peas, with parmesean and sauce. Mimicing a field in which a cow would graze and then produce milk for the cheese. Earthy and complex. Then we had "snails under the grapevile" which was gently cooked snails, trufflesm porcini, herbs, and a sauce with red wine and balsamic. Kind of a part two to the Think Green dish, expanding on the same concept but driving deeper into the earthier territory.
On to a pasta with Ravioli with Leeks, Foie, and Truffles. Really piling on the luxury here. Three ravioli globes filled with creamy foie and black truffle, with a veal sauce and leeks. It was as good as it sounds and that's about all I have to say on that. Another high from the meal.
Hunting the Pigeon: pigeon breast with red beetroot juices and turnip. It included fresh horseradish which complimented without overpowering. Nice.
The Pre-dessert was a set of candied leaves with a jam. It was nice and kind of hinted back to the herb courses from earlier. Not a standout though.
Dessert was "Opps I dropped the lemon pie." Essentially a smooth lemon pie plated and then broken on a custom plate designed to look smashed. It was good but the crust was lacking and nothing stood out. The idea also was a little forced. One of those things you just chuckle at politely. Lunch ended with very good petit fours and a good cup of espresso.
Bottura came out mid meal and spoke with us and was very pleasant and happy with all the recognition the restaurant has received. And with good reason. Francescana is certainly one of the greatest restaurants in the world and worth the effort to visit. I'm not sure I'd rank it at #3 ahead of somewhere like Mugaritz or Alinea, which I think are pushing the boundries more. But it is certainly deserves a very high ranking when compared with other 3 star elites. Would go back in an instant. Easily the peak of our trip as it should be.
Returning back to Bologna we knew we would not want to eat so we finished our day with a picnic of excellent Salumi and cheeses bought from the shops off the piazza.
Will finish out the trip report with our final day in Bologna and our final 3 days in Venice.
Thanks for taking the time to post a detailed report. I am a bit surprised you retained such high expectations of Bologna in general and Giampi e Ciccio in particular, given the exchanges in this thread dating back to February. But I am glad to hear that Caminetto d'Oro at least passed muster for you, and of course that Osteria Francescana was such a high note for you.
Looking forward to the rest!
BOLOGNA DAY 3
Thought about taking another day trip but decided to stay in Bologna and skip yet another train ride. This may have been one day too many because we felt we had already seen a lot. But we decided to just wander. And I'm glad we ended up eating here one more day as you will see in a moment.
For lunch we went into Serghei. Very small and quiet and at the time we were the only non-locals there. The food was very simple but good and very affordable. We had a bottle of Lambrusco which was the best we had. Even better than Casaletto. I started with Tortelloni in brown butter and sage which was just a good simple dish with strong sage flavor and was lightly dressed so that the pasta was the center of attention. To follow I think I had a kind of meatball and a side of fresh seasonal vegetables that they pulled from the small buffet in the dining room. For dessert we had fresh strawberries. I do not remember the wife's dishes but she enjoyed them. Again, nothing amazing but good simple food and very relaxed. A great improvement over our first lunch in Bologna.
At dinner we went to All'Osteria Bottega. Hands down the best meal of Bologna after Francescana. It was close to the city center but just slighly hidden off in a much quieter and slightly seedier area of Bologna. This is the must-do in the city for me.
They seemed to have trouble finding our reservation but seated us anyway. Very cute dining room and service seemed more formal that I would expect for such a small little trattoria. We started with a plate of fantastic mortadella and excellent pecorino. Then we moved on to the pastas. The wife made one more attempt at the classic bolognese ragu and it turned out to be decent but not that special. Better than Gampo BY FAR. But just short of Casaletto. And overall I'd say we had better ragus in tuscany than emilia. Even in many places in the states it has tasted better. Maybe expectations were too high.
However, I had the tagliatelle with culatello. This is now in the running for the best pasta dish I have ever had. It was so simple and perfect it is hard to describe. My wife was actually laughing at me because I was trying to talk about its greatness in between shoveling mouthfulls in and then swapping to share with her. I couldn't stop. Essentially it was just perfectly-made tagliatelle dressed in a touch of good olive oil and topped with small slivers of very very high quality culatello. The pasta was unreal, it has a very wonderful eggy taste with perfect texture. The culatello just the right amount of salt in the cure and a rich delicious flavor. In a way it was like transporting me back to a childhood memory of eating a good plate of ham and eggs prepared by my parents. It may have been the single best thing I ate on the whole trip. Certainly ranking with the Roscioli burrata and the oyster macaroon at Francescana.
For the mains I think I had rabbit and I cannot remember the wifes main. It was just all a blur after the pasta. For dessert I had the zuppa inglese which I could have lived without (way too sugary). Wife had some gelato which was decent. We also had a bottle of champagne with the whole meal that the owner selected for us and he made a great selection at a very good price.
Sadly the night ended on a low note because after desert was cleared it took us over an hour to get the check. I realize that the idea is to sit back and relax and we certianly did that. But this was just too much. The owner who was a wonderful gentleman took forever in the corner planning our check. It kind of left a bad feeling in us because we were practically begging to leave. The italians at the table next to us found themselves in a similar situation too.
But would I go back? In a heartbeat.
This finished our leg in Bologna and the next day it was off to Venice for our final 3 days.
VENICE DAY 1
Arrived in Venice around 2pm in another torrential downpour. Venice is in my opinion the most beautiful city in the world but it is really hell in the rain with the narrow streets and the crowds. It's tricky navigating among other people all holding umbrellas. Anyway, we didn't let it slow us down and after we checked in we decided to go on a Cicchetti crawl since it was later in the afternoon. We went by Do Mori, Pronto Pesce, Ruga Rialto, Alla Vedova, and one other I cannot remember. The highlight was a toss-up between Alla Vedova for their amazing meatballs or the cod at the place I cannot remember. All were mostly pretty good and fun to jump from one to the other. The meatballs at Alla Vedova are something we remembered from years ago and very pleased at the fact they were still every bit as good as we recalled. Stopped there several times during our stay to have more.
At dinner we went to Anice Stellato. This is one of the must-visits to me I'd recommend. Off away from the crowds and filled with a lot of locals it was excellent venetian classics. I soon discovered that despite Venice's prevalence of bad food places if you plan well you have great meals. It may have been the fact I was craving more seafood and less pasta as well. But Venice actually turned out to be one of the best legs of our trip.
At Anice I started with spaghetti and scampi. The two langoustine's were very fresh and served whole on top of a big portion of pasta with a very pure tomato sauce with ocean flavor. Very rich and warming for a rainy night. My wife has the classic spaghetti with seppia and ink sauce. Messy and a big stain risk but tender seppia and good flavor from the ink. Wife prefered the scampi and I preferred the seppia. Both very good though.
For the main we decided to split a large plate of fried seafood. This was the best fried platter we had in Italy. Large variety of anchovies, sardines, calamari, shrimp, green and red peppers, and others. Served with grilled polenta. Crispy and not greasy at all. All tasted very fresh. Hard to finish since we were getting full. Desert is fuzzy.
VENICE DAY 2
Missed the water bus to Burano so had to sit around at Fondamenta Nove for a while waiting. Got to Burano and it started raining again. So headed straight to lunch at Da Romano.
This place was like stepping into a time warp back to the 30s. In both a good and bad way. Tuxedos waiters and tableside service. Food unchanged for decades. But overall an enjoyable lunch. Though more expensive than normal and I'm not sure the price is justified.
We started by having the famous Romano risotto for 2. It was very good. Super creamy and good deep fish flavor. Lightly seasoned with herbs. Enjoyed very much.
For the mains my wife had grilled calamari and I had the Romano mixed grill which included several different types of seafood. It was all very simply grilled but good quality. Just a little lemon and a side of asparagus for the table that was nice but a little stringy. The waiters were very good and we enjoyed talking to them. A downside is that this place is now so well traveled that they were setting up almost a 50 top for a tour group coming in. They were telling us they get those regularly and they just get a plain set menu. Thankfully the tour group was very late so we missed them but the restaurant was angry because they were kept waiting by them. I enjoyed the place but next time I want to try Gatto Nero.
At dinner we went to Alle Testiere. Another must-do. Reservations are essential as they turned away hordes at the door. But worth the effort to get in. Small place but daily driven market menu of good quality. We got a bottle of prosecco and decided to skip pastas and instead start with some seafood based appetizers and go into the secondi. The starter for me was the crab salad served in the shell. Hers was something I can't remember but it was just OK. For the mains the wife had tuna cooked with balsamic and rosemary. I had local spiny lobster with a potato salad. She preferred hers and I preferred mine. Both were good. The tuna looked and ate almost like beef and the lobster was very crisp tasting. For dessert we had a ricotta cake with strawberry and it eclipsed the cake from Armando in Rome. Fantastic. I must learn to make it. Recommended to visit here.
VENICE DAY 3
For the final day of our trip we decided to finish strong. The weather was wondering and clear so we skipped any plans for indoor siteseeing and just walked non-stop all day getting lost.
For lunch we went to Al Fontego dei Pescatori. Sat outside in a very pretty area. It was almost totally empty so hopefully this place is mostly undiscovered. The waiter was very friendly and offered us ideas for a great lunch which we took. Again we skipped all pasta and to start we had a crudo of scampi and a variety of fresh cooked scallops. The scallops where very briny and delicious and game out as one large scallop surrounded by several smaller ones all served in the shell. The scampi crudo was very light and clean and tasted faintly of the heads which was nice.
For the main we ordered a whole turbot roasted. It was cooked along with tomatoes, olives, and potatoes and was all plated tableside. The fish was very good and obviously super fresh and the olives and potatoes giving a nice filling accompaniment to an otherwise light meal. A recommended cold white wine in a caraffe complimented a good lunch on a warm day.
My only complain was that the waiter served the entire top meatier portion to my wife, while I recieved the entire bottom half of the flatfish which was thinner and bonier. Sometimes it just pays to be a pretty girl I guess.
At dinner we finished at Il Ridotto. Had heard mixed things but as far as "upscale" dining went we felt it was second only to Francescana, beating Pipero and Ora d'Aria.
It's located right on an extremly tourist heavy path off San Marco but certainly doesn't seem to be catering to the tour group crowd. It was another very small dining room which tricks the eye by having the back wall mirrored. So you tend to be socked when you realize its actual size.
We both selected the fish tasting menu. We had to select the same menu again just like Ora d'Aria. For some reason I cannot recall many of the dishes though I do remember the meal being very good. The head chef was a very excitable and engaging guy and came to describe many of the dishes personally. One dish that stood out included oyster and anchovy and a foam of the oyster water with a variety of herbs and it was fantastic. However the dessert was a very uninteresting panna cotta and we both considered it a "throw-away" course.
At any rate. We didn't really have one weak dinner in Venice which we considered a win given its reputation.
That pretty much concludes it. I apologise for not having more details. As I said some dishes were decent but not memorable and also I wish Italian restaurants would follow the lead of others who allow you to take the menu as a memento.
Hope this was helpful.
It was very helpful. Thank you.
I would like to respond to a few of the observations you made.
I can well believe you enjoyed the ragu you ate in Tuscany better than what you ate in Bologna, but I think there is a general misperception among Americans about Bolognese ragu that is similar to the misperception that they have about Neapolitan pizza.
A great many English-speaking food writers for a very long time have made a big huge to-do about how "inauthentic" Spaghetti Bolognese is and that to eat the authentic dish in Bologna is a revelation. Yes, it is true, and the revelation when you get to Bologna is that one doesn't necessarily care for the "authentic" ragu, just like a great many people just don't care for the style of Neapolitan pizza.
In many a true Bolognese ragu, the meat is often very finely ground, to the point of being paste. There is not much liquid in the classic versions, and liver is frequently a part of some recipes, which puts off a lot of people. The seemingly meager amount of "sauce" is to guarantee that the taste of excellent fresh pasta is not buried.
Even when the pasta itself is tops, I prefer to eat tagliatelle with mushrooms or with a simpler tomato and onion sauce that isn't so dry. But above all, there are a dozen alternate pasta dishes found pretty much only in Bologna that I really treasure (when well done), from lasagne to tortelloni to passatelli and creamy sauces made of parmagiano, or gorgonzola or butter etc. I dearly wish more people would forget what has been a kind of "one-up-manship" or journalistic sure-sell by writing up Bologna as the place to eat "the real Spag Bol". A true Bolognese ragu is not at all what you expect and takes a talent to make -- and even then, it is subjective. (I also happen to like it at Caminetto d'Oro, but others say they don't).
The other thing I wish to comment on is that IN ITALY, YOU CAN GET UP FROM YOUR TABLE AND PAY THE CHECK AT THE CASH REGISTER IF YOU WANT TO GO. It is fine. It is okay. It is simpler all around and better than killing the joy of a meal you otherwise enjoyed. It may take a moment for the waiter and the manager to verify your entire order and tote up the sum, but unless you make the first move, you may never get the check, so make the first move.
Well, we certainly made the first move and flagged them down and requested the check no less than 3 times.
At one point I honestly did joke about getting up and going over there and filling out the check for him. But for some reason the atmosphere in the dining room didn't make that feel appropriate. :)
By "move" I literally meant "move." Leave your table and move to the cash register. Don't wait for the mountain to move to you.
I hope you don't mind my adding the details for future travelers that all'Osteria Bottega is actually inside the historic center of Bologna. It is about a 15-minute walk from the piazza Maggiore. The other venues where you ate are in the hotel or luxury shopping districts of the city, and the street scene largely reflects that, but I would not describe the area of all'Osteria Bottega as "seedier". I realize that is a subjective call, but had you gone earlier in the day, you would have seen there are many expensive art galleries in that neighborhood, and gracious residences.
(Also, I think you meant to say Caminetto d'Oro, not Casaletto. Can't tell.)
Thanks Heeney for this excellent and comprehensive trip report! And Barbarinibee and Jen as usual for some thoughtful responses. I tried bolognese once in Bologna and did not find it to my taste but I wasn't actually expecting to like it because I understood it was going to be made quite differently from how I prefer. And your description of the pasta with culatello had my mouth watering...I remember La Buca's version of that was my most memorable pasta of our 10 day trip.....
Thank you for writing such a wonderful and detail post on your trip. Venice does have an overwhelming share of bad food because most visitors do not care what they eat and do not want to spend much. As you stated, one can eat well with some planning and willing to pay a little more. Off hand, I can think of at least couple dozen restaurants serving good traditional Venetian cooking, more than enough for most visitors on a short stay.
i'll actually be in Florence and Bologna soon and am really happy you posted these tips! I already have a reservation at Osteria Francescana and am now more excited than ever.
researching through the many bologna threads, i was trying to find a place to have dinner on a Monday and saw that Serghei was one of the few mentioned options open then. i'd read some mixed things but am glad you liked it - i'm feeling better about checking it out :)