If you want to experience the absolute best that Italian cuisine has to offer, you have to visit Bologna. There are many dishes that you might not realize originate in (or near) Bologna, such as well-known pasta dishes like tagliatelle al ragù bolognese, tortellini and lasagne. There are delicious cold cuts like prosciutto, parma ham and mortadella. The local wine from the Emilia-Romagna region is fantastic, especially the slightly fizzy lambrusco red wine. There’s also tart, tangy balsamic vinegar, and the strong, defined flavour of parmigiano reggiano which is world’s above standard store-bought parmesan cheese. In this post, I share my favourite local restaurants which showcase this scrumptious cuisine in its truest, most authentic form.
Bologna is probably most famous for three dishes – tortellini in brodo, tagliatelle al ragù, and lasagne bolognese. At Trattoria dal Biassanot, you can order a trio plate of smaller portions of each one. This is a great way to sample these classic dishes in a cosy trattoria setting. Other dishes we enjoyed were tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms and green raviolini with pistachios, stuffed with mortadella and potato. Mains include veal ossobuco, roast rabbit, and grilled meats. My boyfriend and I first heard of this restaurant when we saw it on a show with the legendary Rick Stein, so if it’s good enough for Rick, it’s good enough for us.
The first thing you will notice at Sfoligia Rina is the window display showing off an assortment of freshly made local pasta, such as tortellini and gramigna. The menu is split in two, with one offering traditional classics like lasagne and tagliatelle al ragù alla bolognese, and a weekly menu with some lesser-known dishes. While there are plenty of similar style eateries throughout Bologna, Sfloglia Rina has the advantage of its great location right by the two towers.
This casual eatery is a great spot for lunch, and has an informal atmosphere with communal tables (along with some smaller tables). If you order a coffee, you get a cute little individual moka pot. If you don’t fancy eating in, you can buy the pasta by weight to take away and cook it at your accommodation.
Hidden away on a small side street is Ragù, a small takeaway restaurant that specialises in (you guessed it!) pasta with meat sauce. If you’re a fan of Ragù alla Bolognese, you must try it here! In addition to the traditional recipe of minced beef and pork, Ragù also serves an “antica” version consisting of pork belly and chicken liver. Other traditional pasta dishes are also served here, such as lasagne and gramigna with sausage ragù. In addition to pasta, you can also treat yourself to hearty sandwiches, filled with either the traditional or antica recipe. Both are delicious, albeit rather messy! While it is mainly a takeaway restaurant, there are a few stools available, as well as some outdoor seating.
After you’ve satisfied your pasta craving, it’s time to devour a board full of delicious meat and cheese, washed down with a glass of wine. Salumeria Simoni is the perfect place to do so. This deli/restaurant – located in the heart of the old town – serves a wide selection of delicious and freshly cut meat and cheese, in a fun and buzzing atmosphere. As well as being a perfect place to try some mortadella – Bologna’s most famous cured meat – you can also enjoy other tasty salumi such as prosciutto, bresaola, porchetta, and culatello di zibello.
The taglieri (platters) vary greatly in size, from small plates of one type of meat and cheese, to jumbo platters made up of several salumi, a variety of cheese, crescente (local flatbreads), jams and pickles. While platters are the big draw, you can also get panini (sandwiches). Whatever you order, you won’t be disappointed.
On the subject of mortadella, this hole-in-the-wall takeaway spot specialises in enormous sandwiches overflowing with delicious mortadella ham. The menu is large with various fillings on offer, as well as different types of mortadella, including wild boar, truffle, or spicy varieties. I went for number 4 on the menu: mortadella, baked potato, provola cheese, pistachio cream and neapolitan tarallo (a crunchy snack often eaten with an aperitivo). The combination was divine! Salty, savoury, nutty, crunchy and smooth from the provola cheese. It made me want to smother everything I eat in pistachio cream. In fact, it was so good we went back twice!
There is usually a queue, but it operates on a ticket system and moves quickly, so don’t be put off. Make sure you wash your sandwich down with a glass of Lambrusco.
If you want to try something more contemporary, Trattoria de Me may be just what you are looking for. Although the restaurant actually dates back to 1937 (when the original owners moved to Bologna), this latest iteration offers some of the most experimental food in Bologna. Think “cheese gelato”; three scoops of high-quality homemade gelato made from different types of cheese (stracchino, robiola and gorgonzola), deep fried mortadella skewers with a vibrant beetroot sauce, agnolotti pasta stuffed with braised veal and a lambrusco wine reduction, or crispy pork belly with celery mayonnaise, green celery, and a green apple mostarda.
All the food is of a very high standard, which is reflected in the higher-than-average prices. Trattoria de Me is extremely popular; when we arrived, there was a big crowd of people outside waiting for the restaurant to open. Make sure to reserve in advance!
Eating in the city centre is always convenient, but it’s also nice to venture a little further afield to try a more local, rustic restaurant. Located just outside the city walls (roughly 10 minutes away by bus from the centre) is Trattoria Bertozzi, a charming little eatery serving delicious dishes typical of the area. Everything we had was excellent, especially the lasagne and meat platter. For something more unusual, try the gramigna bertozzi, a pasta originating from Emilia-Romagna with guanciale (pig cheek), zucchini, and saffron, topped with parmigiano reggiano shavings.
The staff were incredibly friendly, spoke excellent English, and are happy to explain the menu. Trattoria Bertozzi also has an excellent selection of wines.
Just north of the central station is Trattoria di Via Serra, a typical Bolognese restaurant serving up high-quality regional dishes. The friendly staff will take you through the inviting menu, which includes delicious antipasti such as frittelle di baccalà (cod fritters) and flatbreads with fig jam and squacquerone (soft cheese), and pasta dishes like tortellini in brodo, green tagliatelle with prosciutto ragù and gramigna with sausage ragù. If you’d like a drink before or after your meal, head to Fermento, an excellent bar just down the road.
I hope this post has given you a lot of ideas about where to eat in Bologna, and how to sample the incredible ingredients from the Emilia-Romagna region. If you have any other recommendations, please leave them in the comments.
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow