In the spirit of giving as well as receiving, and bec. there is so much great Italy advice on this board, following are the culinary highlights of 3 days in Bologna and 10 in Piemonte, first time to the former, second for the latter. We made copious use of the Slow Food Osterie d'Italia guide for the major meals and found it to be absolutely on target every time. (I don't speak Italian, but could decipher enough to get by). Especially in Piemonte, it helped us to find little gems we never would have otherwise (other than the ones recommended here, of course).
Pane Vino e San Daniele on Via Altabella for Friulian antipasto and wines (whites especially, I can't get excited about Friulian reds). Apparently part of a chain with branches elsewhere in Italy, though it doesn't feel "chain-like". Very casual, you may need to share a table. The plates are huge and large enough to share eg. some lovely San Daniele or speck sharing a plate with grilled raddichio and Friulian cheese heated in its rind, then split open to scoop up with bread. Or the same cheese on a plate with sauteed porcini and roasted potatoes -- what a combo! Most expensive Friulian white abt 7 euro a glass, plates mostly under 10 euro.
Terra del Sol on Via San Pietro near the university. A tiny, primarily take-out place with a few counter seats. Very very busy from noon on. Sicilian, especially Salentine, specialties. Wonderful, homey farro e fagioli soup; light, lemony fried rice balls; pitta -- something like a "cake" of ricotta, semolina, anchovies, red pepper etc., served in squares. Moist texture, haunting fishy-cheesy flavor, yum! Very inexpensive (less than 1 euro for a huge hunk of pitta). Oh to have had take-out like this available when I was at university (at these prices too)!
Gianni, a trattoria mentioned on this board. Wonderful homey food and a comfortable room. Gianni was very friendly after we exhbited a willingness to forego English and make do with our mangled guidebook Italian. Tortellini in broth, so delicate and light and an osso bucco that tasted like someone's gramma made it. Panna cotta the way I prefer it ... rich, milky and gelatine-y, not too heavy and pot de creme-ish.
Turin -- Spacca Napoli. True Italian pizza. Always packed with families and couple enjoying individual pizzas or sharing meter-longs.
Cuneo -- This lovely town seems to get no foreign tourist traffic, I suppose because it's well south of the wine country. But what pasticcerie and gourmet and wine stores! Osteria della Chiocciola has an amazing wine list. We had lunch and dinner here, as with our first visit about 18 months ago, and I think we prefer lunch for the selection of dishes. Pasta e fagioli, a simple classic brought to new heights, pasta al'amatriciana, perfectly al dente rigatoni barely touched with sauce yet infused with porky deliciousness. And the best truffle dish I've ever had, uovo e tartufi -- an extremely hot ramekin containing a raw egg, then filled 3/4 with scalded full cream, slices (not gratings) of truffle on top. The idea is to stir vigorously so that the egg barely sets as it mixes with the cream and truffle. Wow --- though I'll never be as obsessed with truffles as some, I have to admit that the memory of this dish will linger for a very long time. Dinner here was our most expensive meal out, around 145 euro incl a very nice bottle of barbaresco.
Cessole -- Madonna della Neve. Just perfect in every way. Beautiful setting, friendly service, lovingly prepared food, great wine list. Agnolotti del plin e barolo -- small stuffed pasted served bare in a bowl and then drowned (by the customer) in the trattoria's own rough barolo, and they insist my husband fill the bowl right to the rim. Strong, wonderful stuff. I had my agnolotti with lemon and sage and it's the first pasta I've had dressed with no olive oil or butter or really sauce of any kind. The pasta were moist and infused with lemon flavor, a deliciously light foil to the meaty filling. Superb roast veal with a contorno of roasted carrot (almost too sweet with caramelization), potato, and spinach. Next time we'll book a room so we can have dinner here.
Calosso -- Crota 'd Calos, a small cozy room with vaulted brick ceiling. Trattoria-vineria. Fine selection of unbelievably cheap (say, 6 euro) and delicious wines from area vintners. Gnocci with castelmagno, fluffy pillows of (very) rich cheesy goodness. Excellent version of acchiughe al verde (anchovies with green sauce), served with little dabs of super fresh butter. Our longest and best lunch. Everything was wonderful.
On the main road betw. Asti and Alba (closer to Alba) -- Cascina de Cornale (??) which I believe was mentioned on this board. An old farmhouse selling organic foods and with a restaurant. This may be the best food bargain in Piemonte. Upon entering the restaurant one is greeted by a table groaning under the weight of beautiful local cheeses and meats. 29 euro per person provided us with a parade of antipasti (carne cruda, roasted cipollini onions, salumi platter that we came nowhere close to finishing), primi (tagliatelle with tomato and olive sauce, zucca e fagioli soup), secondi (cheese platter with honey and pear compote, roasted capon with carmelized turnips and potatoes, and polenta), dolci (bunet, pears in red wine) and coffee. Everything was impeccably prepared and presented and there is info on all the suppliers on the back of the menu (and most of these items are available in the store). Many choices of wine by the glass.
Biggest disappointment was arriving at Aurora Ristorante in Roccaverano to find it closed for the season! The setting is absolutely breathtaking, overlooking a valley and there is a large porch which suggests long leisurely meals in good weather. They have rooms as well. Ah well, next trip.
The big food markets are a must! Even if you're in hotels rather than a rental.
We consumed alot of great wine. A few standouts:
Oddero Barolo 1997 (traditional style which I think beats the modern barolos hands down) -- 39 euro, the most expensive bottle of the trip by at least 20 euro
La Pinota Barbera d'Asti 1999 ( a local wine purchased in the cantina in Castiglione d'Asti)
Prunotto Ochetti 2000, a nebbiolo d'Alba
Bruno Porro Ribote 2000, a dolcetto di Dogliani