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Bologna, Italy


LizH
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I am off to Bologna, Italy in a week or so. I am sure I can do no wrong food-wise, but any advice is appreciated. Cheers.

Enviable. You're right, you can't go wrong, unless you're looking for pizza. There is no culinary capital of Italy, but Bologna comes close. The pride of Bologna is pork and pasta, so Bolognese dishes tend to be rich. As for particular restaurants, I lived in Bologna about 20 years ago, so my advice doesn't count for much, but ask around, find out where the locals eat. The osterie and other small places can give you inspiration for what real cucina Bolognese is all about. The ones I knew were around the via Belmeloro: very simple places where laborers (and my professors) would go for lunch. Then there are the high-end places as well. Get out into the countryside if you have the time, which is beautiful, and has some nice establishments as well in the hills overlooking the city. Buon viaggio!

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Enviable. You're right, you can't go wrong, unless you're looking for pizza. There is no culinary capital of Italy, but Bologna comes close. The pride of Bologna is pork and pasta, so Bolognese dishes tend to be rich. As for particular restaurants, I lived in Bologna about 20 years ago, so my advice doesn't count for much, but ask around, find out where the locals eat. The osterie and other small places can give you inspiration for what real cucina Bolognese is all about. The ones I knew were around the via Belmeloro: very simple places where laborers (and my professors) would go for lunch. Then there are the high-end places as well. Get out into the countryside if you have the time, which is beautiful, and has some nice establishments as well in the hills overlooking the city. Buon viaggio!

For an upscale dinner, Bitone is one of my favorite restaurants in Italy. This is not to say that it is as good as Le Calandre or Pergola but it has a Michelin star and is considered by some to be Bologna's best restaurant. Still, the overall experience is outstanding. It is chef owned and the chef is exhuberant and a huge ambassador for his city and his restaurant. If you are looking for one of Italy's best overall dining experiences the three Michelin star Dal Pescatore is near Mantova which is about a 50 mile drive north on the autostrada to Mantova and then 7 or 8 miles east. It is an extraordinary country restaurant and was called "the best restaurant in the world by John Mariani ten or so years ago in Esquire. You must reserve in advance however.

In Bologna there is a very good enoteca directly off the Via Independenza a block or two down from the Baglioni. In the other direction is one of the best markets in Italy. I wrote this about a cheese shop there a number of years ago on Chowhound: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/289941?que...20cheese%20shop

In reading this again (for the first time in five years) I found some comments of mine further down in the thread about the appreciation in cost of wine since Italy went to the Euro. Solaia in the store mentioned above went from 120,000 lira to 120 Euros in a two year period. What is really a "hoot" is that when I wrote that the Euro was .85 to the US Dollar!!!! Today it is 1.36-about 60% more expensive!

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Anyone have any tips on cooking classes in or around Bologna?

And, while I'm asking, anything else in or around Bologna that can't be missed? I'm thinking of day trips to Parma and Modena, but using Bologna as home base rather than staying overnight in Parma and Modena. Good call, or should I move around?

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Trattoria Battibecco served me up the defining dish of octopus for me - Smoked octopus of a medium large size. Blew.Me.Away. We had a superb dinner at Caffe del Museo as well - it was all about the porcini at the time. There was another place, for lunch, away from the hot places and the few tourist spots, it was more of a business gets done kind of place on the west side of the centro, and we ended up there for a late lunch and it was great. I'll have to dig up the name of the place. The guy who ran it gave us a fresh look at the new truffles he's just gotten in. Heady!

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Ristorante Garganelli, at the edge (or perhaps just outside) of Bologna is in the Hotel Savoia. We had a very nice meal here, with well-polished service, including a very professional wine service. Our antipasti courses were exceedingly worthwhile, as was our primi piatti (my passatelli was amazing). The secondi were disappointing after the first courses, however; my veal cutlet bolognese style was an overdone wienerschnitzel, and was too much--too much cheese, too much ham, and too much breading. We skipped dessert but had nice espresso. Its worthwhile if in the area--I'm sure that there are more exciting places in Bologna, but between the great, friendly service and the excellent renditions of regional dishes, you can't go too wrong.

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4 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Despite me being 25% Bolognese (my maternal grandfather arrived at Ellis Island on a boat), I've only been to the train station in Bologna.

You are missing out.  Bologna is for Italian food what Burgundy is for French - its heart and soul.  I'd correct that immediately.

Google Flights to Bologna

If you want art, go to Florence.  If you want history, go to Rome.  If you want love, go to Venice.  If you want to eat - go to Bologna. (Translating from an Italian expression here.)

I say this being 0% Bolognese.  Maybe 2% from everything I ate while living there.

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Planning a trip to Italy for next fall (I know far in advance) and intending to stop in Bologna. Any recent recommendations from folks who have been there? Either for food, places to stay, places to visit.

Have been doing general research but the suggestions on these boards are invaluable. It sounds like asking around locally for great places to eat is a solid bet, but curious if anyone has particular places they love.

Additionally, this would be on a 7-10 day trip spanning northern Italy and western Slovenia - how long would folks ideally spend in Bologna? Maybe a day there and a day in the surrounding countryside?

Thanks for any advice!

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On 11/30/2016 at 0:02 PM, arldiner said:

Planning a trip to Italy for next fall (I know far in advance) and intending to stop in Bologna. Any recent recommendations from folks who have been there? Either for food, places to stay, places to visit.

Have been doing general research but the suggestions on these boards are invaluable. It sounds like asking around locally for great places to eat is a solid bet, but curious if anyone has particular places they love.

Additionally, this would be on a 7-10 day trip spanning northern Italy and western Slovenia - how long would folks ideally spend in Bologna? Maybe a day there and a day in the surrounding countryside?

Thanks for any advice!

I haven't been to Bologna is 13 years, but man alive the food I had there still has me dreaming. Trattoria Battibecco made what I like to call a 'teenage' smoked octopus (not baby, and not adult) - it blew my mind and is forever etched in my culinary brain, never to be removed.

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On 11/30/2016 at 0:02 PM, arldiner said:

Planning a trip to Italy for next fall (I know far in advance) and intending to stop in Bologna. Any recent recommendations from folks who have been there? Either for food, places to stay, places to visit.

Have been doing general research but the suggestions on these boards are invaluable. It sounds like asking around locally for great places to eat is a solid bet, but curious if anyone has particular places they love.

Additionally, this would be on a 7-10 day trip spanning northern Italy and western Slovenia - how long would folks ideally spend in Bologna? Maybe a day there and a day in the surrounding countryside?

Thanks for any advice!

I'll give you three grades of recommendations - Bologna restaurants really hew to these classifications more so than most other cities in Italy: Ristorante is the best service, most classic presentations.  Trattorias are a little more laid back, but focus remains firmly on the food.  Osteria is a wine and food place.  The food at the last can still be outstanding though - it's more about the ambiance.

Da Cesari is a solid ristorante for Bolognese classics.  Classic Bolognese dishes down with great service.  They can occasionally get creative in the kitchen - wouldn't recommend following them down this rabbit hole.  Stick with what they do every day.

Battibecco (which Poolboy mentions above) is very good and worth a visit.  Trattoria Da Me is worth trying is well.

For a feast, Osteria Braccaindosso is good food served in an osteria (more casual service, wine as a key focus).  It's going to be crowded with locals, so not the right place for date night, but a great experience.  It's a little odd in that you just tell them which courses you're going to have then pick a primo and secondo from the menu.  Appetizers and deserts are unlimited.  I have never left not completely full and I have never ordered the secondo.  I am also not a little guy.  Took my family here a couple years ago and while everyone wanted a nap afterwards, it's the one place they still talk about from our trip.

Last one - if you want to eat, drink wine and hang out for hours, I'm a big fan of Osteria Il Cantinone on via del Pratello.  Owner keeps several vegetarian options on the menu at all times as his daughter is vegetarian.  Diners skew college age - you'll be hard pressed to talk out with a tab over $30 per person as a result.

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At the risk of sounding overly fawning I just have to rave about our tour guide last week. We just returned from a trip to Italy, the highlights being our five days in the Emilia-Romagna region. For 3 days of that period we enlisted the services of Helena of Yummy Italy http://www.yummy-italy.com/ to take us on tours of producers, lunches, and a walking tour of Bologna. Helena prefers to have a conversation with her about what you're interested in and she makes a suggested itinerary based on your interests plus logistical matters (what's open, etc.). Tours are just with Helena and it's such a wonderful, intimate experience compared to larger tour groups we've done in the past. We had two wonderful sessions on the local wine, first learning about lambrusco, a style I vastly underappreciated until now, and another where she introduced us to pignoletto, our new favorite grape. Other days she took us to a acetaia for balsamic vinegar de Modena and a local dairy for parmigiano reggiano production. In all locations Helena provided wonderful context to the food, culture, and the history, plus went into detail about stringent requirements for each item to be produced under IGP/DOP certifications (including how to spot "fakes," such as it is.) With the exception of the acetaia, the two of us and Helena were the only others there besides the producers. Helena also took us on a rollicking tour of Bologna, buying us food at different stops for other products special to the region that we hadn't gotten to try yet. She also gave us a crash course in how to taste various products like the vinegar and wine (cramming things in your maw is not the ideal way to really appreciate foodstuffs, apparently). Helena is incredibly knowledgeable, cultivates a respectful relationship with her producers, is a true champion of Emilia-Romagna, and was generally just such a delight to spend time with. I wish there was a Helena for every vacation we took. I fully intend to join her in the future for a truffle hunt.

formaggio.jpg.e4ccbfad3dec91c7fc3b8dc8ed3cff80.jpgvineyard.jpg.3bcef30a7ac7efdbb5672146e8228201.jpg

(I wrote this originally for this wonderful site but intend to post it to her Tripadvisor page as well, in case you wander over there and think I'm some bot trying to up her rankings)

 

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On 7/7/2017 at 11:50 PM, arleneivana said:

At the risk of sounding overly fawning I just have to rave about our tour guide last week. We just returned from a trip to Italy, the highlights being our five days in the Emilia-Romagna region. For 3 days of that period we enlisted the services of Helena of Yummy Italy http://www.yummy-italy.com/ to take us on tours of producers, lunches, and a walking tour of Bologna. Helena prefers to have a conversation with her about what you're interested in and she makes a suggested itinerary based on your interests plus logistical matters (what's open, etc.). Tours are just with Helena and it's such a wonderful, intimate experience compared to larger tour groups we've done in the past. We had two wonderful sessions on the local wine, first learning about lambrusco, a style I vastly underappreciated until now, and another where she introduced us to pignoletto, our new favorite grape. 

I lived in Bologna and had never tried Pignoletto. I’m here now and did a vineyard tour at a local producer called Manaresi - I’m a convert. The price to value on this thing is a fraction of the industrial production Prosecco we can get in the states (clearly I’m most partial to the Frizzante). 

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