Written April/May 2009
Bologna, aka ‘La Grassa’ (Fat City), is the food capital of Emilia Romagna, if not the whole of Italy. No one has ever heard of Spag Bol here, it’s Tagliatelle al Ragu which can be defined as a meat sauce of beef, carrots, celery, tomatoes and onions only, cooked for a long time). You’ll find the ‘official’ Accademia Italiana della Cucina recipe here.
Other famous local foodstuffs include mortadella and tortellini, in fact they claim to have invented pasta here.
The amazing delis and food shops on Via Drapperie (eg Gilberto) and Via Clavature are great for stuff to take home. Please click on these photos to get a better view.
It’s great for food photo ops, as well as having a thriving lunch time self-service buffet (12 till 4.30) and an enoteca next door.
I had the ‘Emilia’ with Crudo di Parma, Salame Felino, Mortadella and 2 types of cheese, washed down with a glass of the delicious local fizzy white, Pignoletto (DOC). €2 for the wine and €10 euro for the food, which was too much so I got it to take away and had it next day too.
You might want to eat at one of the places above after you have scaled the 500 rickety steps of one of the nearby Asenelli towers. If you dare that is. Click on the photo to the right to fully appreciate the different angles the twin towers are leaning at!
Trattoria Fantoni (A), 11a Via del Pratello, Tel 051 236358. GEM ALERT!
My favourite place here after 6 days of intensive research, great food, reasonably priced and in a nice atmosphere. Red checked table clothes and modern studenty art on the walls. The tables are a bit cramped but that makes it great for eavesdropping and I soon got chatting with both my neighbours.
I had the Maccheroni alla Norma (named after a character in a Bellini opera) (A) and the Stinco (shank) di Maiale Nostrano (B), which was a little dry but still satisfying, with roast spuds on the side. The house Sangiovese (B) was very potable. I finished with the Pannacotta and strawberry sauce (B) and a perfumey Montenegro amaro (A). Filtered water is free. My bill came to €33.50 in all.
They have a vegetarian platter on the menu for €9, and a good wine list starting at €10. Mr Fantoni seems a bit miserable but is probably a nice chap if you make the effort. About 15mins walk from the hotel but well worth it. Very popular so make sure you reserve first, especially if you want to sit outside in the summer.
There are lots of bars and osterias further down Via del Pratello, which are very popular with students. Osteria del Montesino at 74b has a nice atmosphere, and a cheap menu, though I haven’t tried the food. On the way home take in the eerie sepulchres at the corners of the church yard of Chiesa di S.Francesco in the piazza of the same name.
Another street good for student-style nightlife, and off-beat art happenings, is Via Zamboni. Check out the amazing vaulted ceilings of La Scuderia pub at Piazza Verde which opens at 7pm. The live music is different every night, dodgy rock when I went, so I adjourned to the more chilled Al Piccolo next door for a cold beer in the sun (€2.50 a half or €4 for a media).
You could also check out the beautiful but expensive Le Stanze at 1 Via del Borgo San Pietro (€5 for a Corona!) before going to…
Da Gianni a la Veccia Bulagna (A), 18 Via Clavature, the entrance is down the side alley, Tel 051 229434. Not open Sundays/Mondays.
I have never been sold on mortadella but this was the place to have it if anywhere and I was intrigued by its inclusion as a secondo. Two thick grilled slabs arrived on a bed of radicchio (red chicory), doused in balsamic vinegar, and it was… delcious! if a bit much (A turning to B). The tomato and onion Friggione contorni I could take or leave (C).
The house Sangiovese (by the glass) was sublime (A+) and the homemade Grappa di Frutti di Bosco (mirto, fragole etc, B) was very good too. Total cost €30.
Trattoria Mariposa (B), 12 Via Bertiera, parallel with Via Independenza.
An even cheaper place just around the corner from the above (the other side of the block). The placemats include a frame for customers’ mini-artworks/doodles and walls are adorned with the amusing results. I had the Zucca (pumpkin) Tortellini al Ragu, which was a bit too sweet for me, and the typical Polpette e Piselli (meatballs and peas) where were edible enough (both C) but the house red (B) saved the day.
Very stingy grappas, and smallish portions, which would explain why it’s cheap. Nice enough though, and very local as it’s off the beaten track.
Trattoria dal Biassanot (B), 16a Via Piella, Tel 051 230644
This is a very friendly and popular place with an outside terrace. Sadly I think I made the wrong choices and wasn’t too impressed by the Tagliatelle al Ragu and the veal with porcini mushrooms (both C), but I’m sure other dishes are more interesting/better.
The house red was fine but the best thing was the fresh strawberries with lambrusco ice cream (A), followed by a glass of dessert wine from Friuli. You can see one of the hidden canals running under the building if you look out of the toilet window!
Il Portico (B+), next door and around the corner from Trattoria dal Biassanot above
A good value for money eatery by Bolognese standards, with good food and an outside terrace, I had Lasagne al Ragu, veal chops, grilled veg, 1/4lt merlot, strawberries, grappa, water for a reasonable €35. On another occasion the Gorgonzola and Walnut Tortellini was good too. Only the wine was a bit ropey. Big salads are €6.50. Apparently the pizzas are good too.
Cafe Pasticceria Zanarini, 1 Piazza Galvani, nr Piazza Maggiore.
This is a posh wine bar, famous for cocktails, and with lots of tables outside served by attentive waiters. It was my aunties 70th so I celebrated for her with a glass of prosecco and a phone call. It cost €8.50 but you get a plate of pretty mini-sandwiches with it (you can choose your own) and various stuzzichini (‘toothpick’ nibbles) which could make a small lunch if you time it right.
Ristorante Moghul (B), 16a Via dell’ Inferno (near the towers), Tel 051 232911
Really needed a change after all the above! I had Murg Massala, Channa Massala, roti and rice, all fine if nothing special. Beers are a rather extortionate at €6.80 for a 660ml Kingfisher. My bill came to €30.30 in all, but I was being greedy. Surroundings were plush and the service friendly.
Hard to find this aptly named street but you get a good feel for the atmosphere of medieval Bologna along the way.
There is another curry house at 92d Via s.Felice, which might be cheaper/better.
To Oteki (B+), 4e Via Largo Respighi, Tel 051 268012
Good plain Greek food at a very cheap price, great for a change but make sure you reserve, this place is very popular.
I had Melinzomosalata (eggplant mashed with parsley and garlic) with warm bread, the Tris Special (meatball, lamb on skewer, schwarma, feta, salad), rice, 2x300ml Paulaner beer (€3), Milopita (apple ‘pie’, more like cake), Moscato di Santos and (complementary) Samos dessert wines (yes I’m a pig) for under €30.
Lots of veggie options starting at €6 or salads at €4, great olives and an outside terrace. Makes a really nice change.
Nutella Cafe, 45a Via Indepenza, on the same block as the Hotel Regina.
Get your Nutella pizza here! As well as crepes, ice cream and my favourite,the Nutella corn flake slice. Fat city is right…
Jog/walk it all off in Parco della Montagnola, a medium sized park opposite Piazza del 8 Agosto, which adjoins the Hotel Regina.
The tourist info is in Piazza Maggiore. You must check out the maidens squirting water from their nipples on the fountain in Piazza del Nettuno next door! This statue of Neptune is the symbol of the city.
Bologna is great. I totally recommend it for a weekend city break.
2016 note: Al Pappagallo is listed in 1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die.