Breaking news: Bologna is a great place for food.
Shortly after arrival in Bologna we had lunch at Giampi e Ciccio. Plotkin called this his favorite spot for lunch in this article last year: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/des...
The place is totally charming and the food was quite good. First day in Bologna so of course we started with tagliatelle ragu and lasagna verde. Our first tastes of Bologna….both were quite good. The extra thin sheets of lasagna were light and layered with just the right amount of cheese. And the ragu was tasty. We then shared a secondi of roasted pollostrino with potatoes and grilled veggies. The chicken was succulent and the accompanying zucchini, eggplant and artichokes were all very tasty.
We had dinner at Da Gianni (Gianni A La Vecia Bulagna ) and were very pleased. First, passatelli and tortellini in brodo (BTW, my wife and I almost always order different dishes and we switch halfway through so we can both get to try everything). The passatelli was very tasty and quite interesting. I had heard it described as “spaetzle-like” and I think that is a good description, but I have never been to Germany so maybe I don’t know what real spaetzle is like. The tortellini was light and wonderful and the broth was super. Tortellini in brodo is my new favorite comfort food and I think I could eat it every day (almost did in E/R). First day we felt like we wanted to try everything, so we then ordered a plate of gramigna alla salsiccia to share. The waiter said “dopia pasta?” We replied “Si, Si!” and quietly said to ourselves “Is there a problem with that ;-)” The gramigna was a bit chewy as expected and very tasty in the rich sausage sauce. They were kind enough to split the portion and serve it to us in 2 small bowls knowing that we were sharing. For secondi was couldn’t resist trying the grilled mortadella with balsamico, a very interesting dish. Imagine grilled ham steak meets fried boloney in a very Emilian way. Tasted good, glad we tried it, but probably would never need to eat that again. And from the daily special board we tried a dish of chicken bocconcini with artichoke and potatoes. We were pleased with every artichoke we ate in any form during our first week in Italy so we were drawn to this dish and thought it might be “lighter” than some of the other meat dishes on the menu. It was quite good with a rich smooth sauce thickened a bit by the potatoes, very filling indeed, and we couldn’t finish our secondi (dopia pasta eventually catches up to you ) Finished with an excellent café macchiato. Da Gianni deserves its great reputation and we were glad we had reservations to come back for lunch on our last day in town.
We were planning to have a “picnic” lunch at Osteria del Sole from food we would purchase at the market. We first made sure we could find the place with its obscure entrance and we are glad we walked in to look about. (It is a very interesting place, but quite warm inside during the warmest September ever). But when we set out to then buy our picnic we decided on a change of plan: We were both still craving more Tortellini in brodo! So we set out for Trattoria Anna Maria. Knowing how touristy and famous this place had become, we were expecting a crowd. We were surprised that at 1:00 PM on a Friday we were one of only 2 tables seated in the place! A few other tables arrived later, but not many. I can see why people would think it touristy with the menu translated in to 4 languages, but the reputation for great pasta is well deserved. We both had Tortellini in brodo and it was excellent. Super light pasta and wonderful broth and what else do you really need. The house wine was decent and we were pleased. I remembered reading quite a few mixed reviews of Anna Maria, but every one seemed to praise the pasta. So we bypassed secondi and ordered a dish of tortelloni with gorgonzola to share. “Dopia pasta?” “Si, Si!” . The pasta was again fabulous and the sauce rich, creamy and very blue-cheesy, maybe more blue-cheesy than I needed, but hey, if you order the gorgonzola what do you expect. We wanted to also try it with burro e salvia but we know our limits.
Dinner at Serghei was also fantastic. I had heard that there was no written menu, but there was one posted outside and we checked it out before entering in preparation. But when we sat down we were handed a written menu (strangely, later in the evening, we noticed that new arrivals were not being given a menu, only a quick recital by the proprietor, go figure). We hardly needed a menu because we knew what we wanted: More of Bologna’s classics. Tortellini in brodo, (can’t get enough of it) was good, although maybe a bit more “al dente” than it should have been, but really too good to find anything to complain about. Tagliatelle ragu was super, just super. Secondi were also excellent. Roast rabbit was tender, juicy… OK, I’ll just say it, succulent! And the Stinco di Maiale was great, literally fall off the bone tender and most flavorful. The small dining room is cozy and comfortable and we left Serghei very satisfied.
Last day in town, we went back to Trattoria Gianni, for lunch this time. Tagliatelle ragu was as good as can be, and tortelloni con burro e salvia was very nice. The simplicity of butter and sage is a great way to fully appreciate the light and very tasty pasta. The stinco was completely delicious and is now my new favorite Italian meat dish. (And I will admit that for some childish reason I love saying “stieeeenco” putting the emphasis “eeee”). It was served with what may be the best roasted potatoes ever (I think possibly roasted with the pork shin for flavor; they were amazing). Mrs. AWG is less a fan of stinco than I am and had carapacio of beef with rucola and grana that was also very, very good. It is easy to run out of superlatives but simply put: Da Gianni is a great Trattoria.
Last dinner in Bologna was at Teresina. The outside patio is on its own secluded alley so unlike other sidewalk eateries it is quiet, traffic free and very charming. We usually avoid outdoor seating to avoid having our meal ruined by smokers, but this terrazzo was too pleasant to pass by on this perfect warm evening. We got lucky; the first detectable puff of smoke did not arrive until I was finishing my macchiato. Teresina has a 2 page menu: “terra” featuring Bolognese classics and “mare” featuring seafood that they are well known for. Having tried the classics and nearly 2 weeks of meat in Tuscany and E/R, we were ready for a change of pace. The Mrs. had pappardelle with porcini mushrooms, very good fresh pasta. I had linguini with clams. Incredibly tasty with just the right amount of garlic and parsley. The clams were the smallest I have ever seen and the dish contained a gazillion (I exaggerate, but by much) tiny Italian clams and it took me a very long time to shuck and eat all gazillion clams. I was exhausted, but very satisfied. It was very flavorful. For secondi with both went with bronzino fillet with a “crosta” of potatoes. Thin sliced potatoes were layered on top of a perfect fish fillet and browned forming the “crust”. Fantastic! A big fan of bronzino, this was a great preparation. Enjoyed a cool vermentino from Sardigna that went great with our meal (after 5 days of drinking sangiovese Romagna and even few bottles of pleasant Lambrusco it was a nice change of pace). Boy, fish is so much lighter than stinco, so for the first time of our trip I had dessert- A Sicilian canolo with excellent ricotta cream and a crispy crust.
Note: we had one less than great meal in Bologna at Drogheria della Rosa. I posted a detailed review here:
Also of note: we paid 2 visits to Divinis for aperitivo. The wine list is extensive and reasonable priced. Both times we sat outside and casually enjoyed a bottle of Prosecco. It is located on a very quiet little street making the sidewalk seating a most peaceful and pleasant spot. The inside is also very atmospheric.
Almost made it to Camera a Sud for aperitivo, but it was swelteringly hot inside. There was no outside seating although there were a few dozen 20-somethings sitting on the curb of the sidewalk outside drinking glasses of wine. Not quite what we had in mind so we passed and moved on.
On Friday night en route to Serghei, we enjoyed a very boisterous aperitivo hour at Gesseto on piazza San Martino. The complete antithesis of quiet Divinis, a Latin band was setting up on the closed off street, while the PA system played loud Motown music. We returned later after dinner for a few drinks and to enjoy the music and the spontaneous salsa dancing that was breaking out all around us on the street. It was a very fun place for drinks on this warm autumn night.
Had gelato only once at Gelateria Moline. The cioccolate fondente mixed with nocciola, my favorite combo, was excellent. Perfect texture and bold powerful flavors.
All of the 6 meals described above were wonderful and it would be hard for me to rank one’s tagliatelle or tortellini over another. The pasta at Giampi e Ciccio was maybe a notch below that of the others, but a very small notch. Anna Maria’s tortellini in brodo was possibly a smidge better than the others we tried, but a very tiny smidge if that. Maybe I am not enough of a connoisseur to note the subtle differences, or maybe these great restaurants are just, well, all great at what they do. We found it very easy to eat very well in Bologna!
Via Piella, 12, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna 40126, IT
Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 4, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna 40126, IT
Trattoria Anna Maria
Via delle Belle Arti, 17, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna 40126, IT
Giampi e Ciccio
Via Luigi Carlo Farini, 31, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna , IT