Just back from a week long trip between Bologna, Ravenna (for a wedding), Venice and a quick night in Amsterdam. A little background - I work for a wine importing company based in NY and was over in Ravenna for a colleague's wedding. Got a lot of info from some of our suppliers as well as a friend who had lived in Bologna for a MA in Int'l Affairs through SAIS, plus these boards -- wanted to try to share some of my findings in true CH fashion...
A note about Bologna accomodations that I learned the hard way: if there is a fair or exposition taking place (Bologna's economy relies on its convention center and attracting 30-40 events/year), hotel rooms become VERY scarce and those that can be had double in price to exorbitant levels months in advance. After the fact I found a fabulous hotel called Hotel Porta San Mamolo (www.hotel-portasanmamolo.it) run by a charming guy named Roberto Condello. The rooms are all set inside a gorgeous courtyard/garden area and it all just works really well. IMHO, five star charm and service for three star prices.
Bologna - two gelato spots that were far superior to anything sampled on this trip or in other cities in Italy included:
Sorbetteria Castiglione (Via Castiglione N° 44) Tel 051.233257 http://www.lasorbetteria.it/
Spectacular ciocolatto with really dense, deep chocolate flavor. They also have some specialty flavors one of which blew me away: Dolce Ema which was a combination of carmelized figs and vanilla. Wow.
Il Gelatauro, Via San Vitale 98/b. http://www.gelatauro.com/ is another great that I discovered while digging on these boards. It's on the smallish side with a few tables, wines and other foodstuffs for sale (particular emphasis on Sicilian as the owners originally hail from there). The nocciola was seriously good (think sticking your face into the most intense, fragrant burlap bag of freshly picked hazelnuts and you get the drift). There is a far better post about Il Gelatauro along with other recs from Katepixie (thank you Kate!!!) here...http://www.chowhound.com/topics/26470...
Suffice to say that these are two must stops for any gelato fans in Bologna.
The other notable meal I had was at a very traditional Bolognese restaurant called Osteria dei Poeti Via de' Poeti, 1/b 40124 Bologna Tel 051 236166 http://www.osteriadepoeti.com/
I was by myself and a salad, tagliatelle bolognese and 1/2 bottle of Maculan Brentino set me back E27. Bolognese was excellent, service was very attentive and it seemed like a very traditional, worthwhile experience to have (note - the restaurant has a few rooms and can accomodate large groups if you're with a larger party).
Venice - we were set up with hotel and restaurant recommendations by the owner of a well known Veronese winery. His wife also makes very cool hand blown Murano glassware under the name of Laguna B (google it under the website www.vivre.com -- worth checking out...very cool stuff). Point being, this is a very in the know Venetian couple and their dinner recommendation was really phenomenal: Antica Locanda Montin, S. Raovaso, Fondamenta Eremite 1147 Tel 041.5227151 www.locandamontin.com
When you first walk in, there are photos of the restaurant and famous celebrities (sometimes a good thing, case in point the White House sub shop in Atlantic City) and sometimes not. The giveaway, however, was the other side of the restaurant interior which was decorated with fishing pictures showing enormous tuna, bass, marlin and the like that the owners had caught. These guys are serious about seafood. The other noteworthy mention is from the street, you would have absolutely NO idea that the most charming, romantic garden/patio area awaits you if you walk through the restaurant interior toward the back. When our group was dining this past Sunday, it felt very un-touristy and local -- a big plus in my book.
Specific food items that were really outstanding included Tartar di tonno (tuna tartare so fresh you could taste ocean), polenta with small pink adriatic shrimp (I believe called Schie con polenta) and an excellent frito misto platter. Main courses were also outstanding among our group of six - highlights were the tagliatelle con scampi e porcini, filetti di branzino alla medierranea con pomodorini e olive (branzino with fresh tomatoes and olive oil that was to die for) and scampi al ferri (grilled shrimp that were at least the length of your hand in size). Service and wine list were both very above average and prices for antipasti were in the E10-13 range while entree were in the E12-22 range. Highly recommended.
The last leg of the trip took me through Amsterdam en route back to NY for all of about 12 hours, and I tried to make the most of it! Stayed at a very cool, relatively new hotel called "The College Hotel" (part of the Stein Group of hotels). http://www.steinhotels.com/college/ph... - it's described as affordable chic (although singles are in the E180-200 range, not THAT affordable)...seriously hip even for Amsterdam with a very cool bar and destination restaurant. Worth a drink at the bar at the very least.
One of the things I love about Amsterdam is that you can walk through neighborhoods like the Jardaan or behind Heineken Square, away from all of the red light/touristy nonesense near the Central Station, and find very innovative, coolly designed restaurants with some serious food going on. The night I was there happened to be a holiday so a lot of restaurants were closed, but while meandering the neighborhood around Heineken Square, came upon a rustic pub called "Quinto" that had a bunch of people eating really good looking food in the windows and three chefs doing some serious plating in the open air kitchen -- this was definitely a place worth checking out.
For NY'ers think along the lines of Spotted Pig with slightly larger quarters...rough wood tables and chairs, a well worn bar. Food was very good and although slightly more expensive than others in the area (terrific goat cheese salad with serrano ham and breast of veal entree with indian spiced local organic vegetables, plus an Amstel set me back about E30), Lucy, the very attractive blond bartender told me that the place was known for its particularly fresh ingredients and "serious" cooking. Great find -- Quinto is at F. Halsstraat 42 and phone is 020 6796848. A short walk from the #24 tram.
I'm now going to deflate from all of the eating and drinking of the past week! Hope this comes in handy to anyone planning trips to these spots...