Bologna – Centro Historico – eating and drinking like a professor

This post is about some mid-range restaurants I have visited in Bologna. For more on food and drink in Bologna, please see the previous post about dining on a budget, my Sunday lunch post, my deli post and my coffee, ice cream and aperitivo post.

You’ll find all the places mentioned on my Google map.

One day I received the excellent news that Emilia Romagna would remain a Covid ‘yellow zone’, meaning the restaurants could stay open. This definitely seemed worth celebrating with a full lunch at what is now my favourite restaurant in Bologna…

Drogheria della Rosa (Upper Intermediate B+), 10 Via Cartoleria,

This is a beautiful restaurant, a former pharmacy, located on a relatively quiet street. It has lots of seating outside on the terrace under the porticoes, and a beautiful antique interior which is where I decided to sit.

If you like a bit of character with your food, this is definitely the place to come. The owner Emanuele Addone (Manu) has it in spades and likes nothing better than working the tables and entertaining his guests. When he’s not chatting, he’s usually walking around waving his hands singing along at the top of his voice to the opera playing out of the house speakers.

The food is superb.
To start, a complementary glass of Vermentino (from Tuscany) and thinly sliced local mortadella

Tortellini in Brodo is a Bolognese classic and is eaten throughout Italy as part of the traditional Xmas meal. The pasta is stuffed with minced pork loin, mortadella, prosciutto crudo, parmesan, egg, butter and a hint of nutmeg. Served in a capon broth with a sprinkling of parmesan.

I stuck to the local classics, starting with some thinly sliced Mortadella before moving on to Tortellini in Brodo (stuffed pasta with minced pork loin, Prosciutto di Parma, mortadella, and Parmigiano Reggiano, served in capon broth) followed by Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese (with a little cream added). After this I was a little distracted but I think I had roast quail with roast potatoes for my secondo, and for dessert, a semi-freddo of some description and a glass of Marsala ‘Old John’ sweet wine. Some kind of amaro from an unlabelled bottle finished things off. This was basically a perfect meal as far as I was concerened.

Manu came and sat with me for a while and chatted about his love of Oxfordshire and about when he met AA Gill who wrote something about him apparently, all the while my glass from his own bottle, a fantastic 2016 Sangiovese called ‘Thea’ (A+). I stayed and chatted while the staff had their meal at the end of service and he was kind enough to recommend restaurants in Ravenna where he used to live. He even phoned a local friend to get the lastest update for me, which was very kind, although I’ve never heard the word ‘cazzo’ used so many times in a conversation! We parted good friends and I really have to go back to see him one day. Grazie mille per l’ospitalità Manu!

Another restaurant I really wanted to go to on the last day of my visit in 2020 was Al Pappagallo in Piazza della Mercanzia. I was thwarted by the shifting Covid regulations which changed from yellow to red on the last day, meaning all restaurants had to close for lunch as well as dinner. Next time!

The following restaurant reviews are from 2009, before I started taking photos of everything I eat. All these places are still open at the time of writing, in May 2021.

Trattoria Fantoni (Intermediate A), 11a Via del Pratello

In 2009 this was my favourite restaurant in Bologna after 6 days of intensive research. It has great, reasonably priced food and 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 neighbouring tables. 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. Very popular so make sure you reserve first, especially if you want to sit outside in the summer.

Da Gianni a la Veccia Bulagna (A), 18 Via Clavature, the entrance is down the side alley, closed Sundays/Mondays.

A bit formal but popular and very good food. I had the signature dish Strozzapretti ‘Gianni’ (pasta twists with prosciutto and asparagus) which was excellent (A). 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 rather than a starter. Two thick grilled slabs about a centimetre thick 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.

The following three Italian restaurants are all on the same block just to the south of my work hotel, the Zanhotel Regina.

Il Portico (Intermediate B+), 11 Via Augusto Righi

A good value for money eatery by Bolognese standards, with good food and an outside terrace, I had Lasagne al Ragù, veal chops, grilled veg, a small carafe of merlot, strawberries, grappa and water for a reasonable €35. On another occasion the Gorgonzola and Walnut Tortellini was good too. Only the house wine was a bit ropey. Big salads are €6.50. Apparently the pizzas are decent too.

Trattoria Mariposa (Intermediate B), 12 Via Bertiera,

The placemats include a frame for customers’ to insert their mini-artworks and doodles and walls are adorned with the amusing results. I had the Zucca Tortellini al Ragù pasta stuffed with pumpkin in meat sauce), which was a bit too sweet for me (C), and the typical Polpette e Piselli (meatballs and peas) which were also just okay (C). The house red was pretty decent though (B). To finish a very stingy grappa which, along with the smallish portions, would explain why it’s so cheap. It’s tolerable though, and very local as it’s off the beaten track.

Trattoria dal Biassanot (Intermediate B), 16a Via Piella,

This is a very friendly and popular place with an outside terrace. They have a very good rep (Rick Stein came here) but sadly on my visit I think I made the wrong choices. I wasn’t too impressed by the Tagliatelle al Ragù or the veal with porcini mushrooms (both C), but I’m sure other dishes are 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!

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.

A great bar is Le Stanze at 1 Via del Borgo San Pietro which is very beautiful (the former private chapel of a noble family with high ceilings and ornate frescoes) but expensive (€5 for a Corona in 2009!). Fans of Gomorrah, the Neapolitan gangster series, might like to know that it was the bar that Patrizia and Mickey went to when they were in Bologna (video here).

The local food market next!

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