Bologna – Centro Storico – eating and drinking like a student

Bologna University is the oldest in the world (founded 1088) and today it’s still the most popular university in Italy with over 86,000 students attending its schools. All these young people need to be fed and watered, cheaply and regularly, so there are heaps of good value bars and restaurants to serve them. Here are some of the places I can recommend for people on a budget, and some that I don’t. You can find everywhere I mention on my Google map.

The epicentre of student social life is Piazza Giuseppe Verdi on Via Zamboni. There are two places I like here…

Scuderia Future Food Living Lab, 2 Piazza Giuseppe Verdi,

La Scuderia reminds me of a Student’s Union at a British University. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner whilst also being a cocktail bar, concert venue and night club. It’s the former stable of the destroyed Palazzo dei Bentivoglio, built in the second half of the 15th century, and it’s worth coming in just to look at the lovely vaulted ceiling even if you’re not eating. It’s current manifestation as a ‘future food lab’ would have been worth looking into if I’d had more time.

Personally I prefer to hang out on the terrace of…

Piccolo E Sublime (Intermediate A), 4/A Piazza Giuseppe Verdi

This is the perfect spot for skiving off lectures, or just hanging out watching the world go by.

There are heaps of other bars and osterias along Via Zamboni but for food, this next place is a time-honoured classic…

Osteria dell’Orsa (Elementary B+), 1 Via Mentana,

‘The Bear’ has been around since the early 70s when it began life as a venue for punk music. It still holds events like poetry readings and debates but the live music has switched to jazz. I went for lunch and shared one of the grafitti-covered communal tables with a couple of other customers so I got a chance to practice my Italian as well.

I started with a Crescentina Bolognese, the local version of round ‘focaccia’, here filled with mortadella and edam cheese. It tasted better than it looked (B).

The main reason I was here though was to try their renowned Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese which I couldn’t fault (A), especially at just €7.50.

As in the other two places I ate this classic, I asked them if they put any dairy in (the official recipe uses milk) and was told ‘just a bit of Parmesan’, which seemed a bit pointless once the waiter has finished grating even more Parmesan over it, but I suppose not everyone has extra cheese.

Just for the hell of it, I also ordered the Cono Fritto Bologna which involved deep-fried tortelloni di ricotta, tortellini, crocchette di spinaci and patate fritti (€7).

It was way to much for me to eat after the previous courses, and not my best choice (C), but it was interesting to try deep-fried versions of the local pasta.

They serve classics such as Tortellini in Brodo, Salsiccia alla Brace, Cotoletta alla Milanese (Italian schnitzel) and the famous Cotoletta alla Bolognese (turkey with bacon and cheese), as well as other daily specials. Their Tiramisù also comes recommended.

This next place is on Via del Pratello, the art street which featured in my street art post.

Pasta Fresca Naldi (Elementary A), 69/C Via del Pratello,

This is a takeout place although there is a bar just down the street which allows you to sit and eat your purchase at their tables.

They are a pastaficio, a pasta factory, and you can see the ladies making Tortellini, the local pasta.

I came for lunch (they open at midday) and had their Tortellini in Brodo, stuffed pasta in chicken broth, which were great (A). If I’d have time I would have come back for their version of Tagliatelle al Ragù which also has a good rep.

There are lots of other bars and osterias along Via del Pratello, which is a very popular street for students.

The reviews above were from 2020 whereas the following (all still open) are from 2009, before I started taking photos…

To Steki (Intermediate B+), 4e Via Largo Respighi,

Good simple Greek food at a very cheap price. It’s great for a change but make sure you reserve as they are 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, two 300ml Paulaner beers (€3 each), some Milopita (supposedly apple ‘pie’ but more like cake), glasses of Moscato di Santos and (complementary) Samos dessert wines (yes I’m a pig) for under €30. There are lots of veggie options starting at €6 or salads at €4, great olives and an outside terrace. Makes a really nice change.

Ristorante Moghul (Intermediate B), 16a Via dell’ Inferno (near the towers),

After weeks of Italian food, I really needed a change so I went for a curry. I had Murg Massala, Channa Massala, roti and rice, all fine if nothing special. Beers are rather extortionate at €6.80 for a 660ml Kingfisher. My bill came to €30.30 in all, but as usual I was being greedy. The surroundings are plush and the service is friendly. It’s a bit hard to find this strangely named street but you get a good feel for the atmosphere of medieval Bologna along the way.

For more on food and drink in Bologna, please see my Sunday lunch post, my deli post and my coffee, ice cream and aperitivo post.

Moving on to mid-range restaurants next!

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