UPDATE: My guide to Bologna was published in the May 2019 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller. Read the guide here.
I have been spending a lot of time in Bologna, partly because I have been writing a pasta book with chef Evan Funke (it’s called American Sfoglino and it comes out in September 2019) and partly because it’s a delicious city. 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 ragu 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.
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 Cafe 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
If you’re in Emilia-Romagna and plan to go to Parma, check out Ai Due Platani and Cocchi for traditional dishes. And I cannot recommend Modena highly enough. It’s amazing. 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.