Restaurants & Bars

Bologna and Bergamo in November -- Trip Report

jnwall | Feb 5, 201912:40 PM     4

My wife and I enjoyed ten days in Bologna and Bergamo in late November. Every time we go to Bologna, we find new restaurants of exceptionally high quality and visit old favorites. As always, we stayed near Piazza Maggiore, in the heart of the city, and found exceptionally well prepared classics like tagliatelle with ragu bolognese and tortolini en brodo at Rodrigo, Trattoria Tony, and at Trattoria Buca Manzoni. We found delicious coffee and breakfast at Caffè Terzi and Cafè Gamberini.

We found updated versions of Bolognese classics at Vicolo Colombina, where the food was tasty and part of the fun was figuring out the classic version of the dish which had been reconstructed before us. We discovered the delights of aperitivo at Gran Bar and the diversity of local wines at Supervino. We especially appreciated the chance to learn about sangiovese wines from the Emilia-Romagna region, which we found to be every bit as flavorful as their Tuscan counterparts, though perhaps a bit softer and more drinkable.

We enjoyed dining at Drogheria della Rosa, as we always do when in Bologna. In addition to the food (which is always superb), Emanuele Addone, the owner, makes this restaurant truly special. When we first went there, years ago, he greeted us at the door. When we were seated, he knelt beside our table and said to us, "This is who I am for you tonight," a level of commitment which got our evening off to a great start.

This year, we were seated next to a large party of locals. Addone came over and sat at their table, right next to us, and engaged in a lively conversation with them, into which he sometimes included us. At one point he noticed that my glass of wine was empty, so he reached across the table where he was sitting, picked up one of their bottles of wine, and poured me a glass. Gestures like that make one feel at home.

We of course wandered the shops and stalls of the Old Market in the Quadrilatero, catching up with the offerings at Tamburini's and the new outpost of Eataly across the street. Do not miss, in the Quadrilatero, Osteria del Sole , which is, today, a wine bar, not an osteria, but it has been there since 1465, in itself a good reason for a visit.

Another day, we had delicious piadina for lunch at Sfarinà, in the Mercato Delle Erbe, Bologna's enclosed market. This was our introduction to piadina, and we will look for it again! The merchants in the stalls at Mercato Delle Erbe were happy to provide samples of their products and discuss with us their wares, especially items we did not recognize among their displays of vegetables and other products grown locally.

We also delighted in a taste of Sicilian seafood at Da Maro, in the heart of the university neighborhood. The University of Bologna was holding commencement ceremonies while we were in Bologna; the streets and bars were filled with graduates in their academic robes and wearing wreaths of laurel leaves on their heads.

We did not go to Fico Eataly World, outside of Bologna, which has opened since the last time we were in Bologna. Access is apparently pretty easy -- there is a shuttle bus to Fico that leaves frequently from the city center train station -- but we chose not to go, in part because of some things discussed here:


but mainly because the real culinary Italy -- as opposed to the commercial one -- was all around us at the center of Bologna. Who could ask for anything more?

The special discoveries of this trip were Ristorantino Il Tinello, near Bologna's Twin Towers, and Camera con Vista, in the Piazza Santo Stephano. The food at Il Tinello was superb (so good, we ate there twice). The food at Camera con Vista was also superb, and the setting, in an old villa, preserves the elegance of the original building.

If you would like a quick but deep immersion into Bologna's food scene, we recommend a walking tour run by Mattia Tozzoli of Delicious Bologna Tours (https://www.deliciousbologna.com/). Generally, I do not like tours, but Mattia took us all over culinary Bologna in 4 hours and included on the tour breakfast and lunch, a balsamic vinegar and prosciutto tasting at Salumeria Bruno e Franco, a visit to a pasta factory to watch tortellini made by hand, a pizza tasting at PizzArtist, a gelato tasting at Cremeria Mascarella, and lots of guidance about other restaurants and shops to visit.

We also spent three days in Bergamo, mostly in Citta Alta, where we explored local cuisine at Da Mimmo and its wine bar Mimi, across the street. Da Mimmo has both national and regional menus, so if you absolutely must have pasta carbonara in Bergamo, they've got it. But we appreciated their expressions of locally sourced dishes, including risotto with fresh herbs and goat cheese and veal tartare with anchovy cream, capers, and lemon zest.

We also found delicious regional cuisine in Bergamo at Al Donizetti, Trattoria La Colombina, and especially at Vineria Cozzi . We explored the wines of the region at La Bottega del Gusto and discovered new dimensions of Italian cooking at La Fiaschetteria, both in Bergamo's lower city. La Fiaschetteria was truly the most unique restaurant we found on our travels – a restaurant in Italy with no pasta on the menu. Instead, we had what our host termed the cuisine of the Alpine region, featuring lamb, sheep, and goat, served with fresh greens and boiled potatoes. Wines by the glass were served straight from the barrel.

One final note – if you happen to have a lay-over – as we did -- in the Madrid Airport, look for the Enrique Tomas food stall, a good place to explore Spanish jamon and wines while you wait for your flight.

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