Bologna is often heralded as Italy’s BEST food town. I think it’s great, but I have experienced more than my share of awful meals recently–I was served a tagliatelle con ragù bolognese that featured what I believe was Fancy Feast where the meat sauce should have been. I think the famous food cities can rest on laurels or become victims of their own success, so I put together this handy guide so you can do it up in Bologna without wasting a single bite.
My guide to Bologna was published in the May 2019 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller. Read the guide here.
Trattorias and Osterias
Check out Osteria Bottega and Trattoria di Via Serra for bolognese classics. Literally everything is good except the wine list at Osteria Bottega, which needs to be much better to match the food on the table, but the lasagna, tortellini in brodo, tagliatelle al ragu, and salumi more than make up for it. For comfort food like passatelli in brodo, tagliatelle ripassate in padella, and lasagna, visit Le Golosità di Nonna Aurora. Vag in Uffezi is awesome for filled pastas like balanzoni (spinach tortelloni filled with ground pork and ricotta).
Gelato, Coffee, and Drinking
Cremeria Santo Stefano is ace for gelato, while I visit Caffe Terzi and Aroma for espresso (thanks to Justin Naylor for the gelato and coffee recs). I love drinking natural wines at Enoteca Faccioli, Favalli, and Il Pollaio (a poultry shop turned wine bar in the Mercato Albani). Grab a quick pastry or aperitivo at Gamberini and be sure to pop into Mercato delle Erbe across the street. For an even better market experience, head north of the Stazione Centrale to Mercato Albani.
You’re not going to want to miss Antica Aguzzeria del Cavallo, a shop selling amazing brass pasta tools and other kitchen implements since 1783. While you’re in the neighborhood, pop into Paolo Atti & Figli for a look at the homemade pasta. For more kitchen tools, visit A. Pezzoli in Via Santo Stefano.
Visit Rina Poletti, founder of L’Accademia della Sfoglia. She often takes her classes on the road!
How to Visit Emilia-Romagna
Bologna is great but I love Modena even more. You can find my full guide to the town here. Spend at least a couple of nights. Actually, I think you should stay longer and use Modena as a base for exploring the region. Rent a car and drive it around to awesome working farms/trattorie like La Lanterna di Diogene and institutions like Amerigo dal 1934. It also gives you the opportunity to visit traditional Lambrusco producers. You can read all about Amerigo and Lambrusco, respectively, in recent pieces I wrote for TASTE (here) and Imbibe Magazine.
Don’t miss the incredible Parmigiano-Reggiano of I Sapori Delle Vacche Rosse (to be precise, the farm has exited the official DOP of Parmigiano Reggiano and is not labeled as such. Regardless, it is part of this historic cheese production, albeit executed in an artisanal way, not a given in the DOP). My friend Mariangela has a wonderful acetaia called La Cà del Non where she and her family make Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP. My friend Andrea makes traditional balsamic in Emilia at Acetaia San Giacomo. SO GOOD.
If you plan to go to Parma, check out Ai Due Platani and Cocchi for traditional dishes.
For food tours check out Taste Bologna!