This thread is an addition to my already way-long Bologna from September 2011. I've included a link to that thread at the bottom of this one.
This is a much-recommended restaurant whose specialty is cured meats, either in-house or from the region's top artisan producers. I had long looked forward to eating here (it's almost always booked, but I slipped in for lunch on a Monday without a reservation.) For me, the restaurant turned out to be the kind of experience where I find myself appreciating why the restaurant enjoys such a fine reputation even though I don't much care for these tastes myself.
I had a tagliatelle with culatello and a stufato of beef cheeks in a rich sauce. Where others would thrill to the earthy, not-far-from-the-barnyard strong personality of the culatello, I didn't care for it, and the tagliatelle itself was ordinary by Bologna standards. The stufato was equally full of strong personality, with its long-cooked sauce herby and complex, but it just didn't suit my tastebuds. (I preferred the version of this dish served at Cocchi in Parma.) That said, paired with the Sangiovese the house poured by the glass, the dish was instantly transformed into a harmony of flavors that was memorable and applause-worthy. These people know what they are doing. My cup of coffee to finish was one of the better in Bologna.
I'd confidently recommend this place to people who are more interested in sampling some one-of-a-kind meats from the region than they are in eating the best Bolognese pasta. The room is homey, warm, with a touch of refinement, and the service is sincerely welcoming and caring. Prices tick upwards, and reach sky-high with culatello and aged cheeses. Let the house choose your wine.
ANTICA TRATTORIA DELLA GIGINA
I must be the last person on Chowhound to finally make the 15-minute trip beyond the city walls to eat at this lovely restaurant. I enjoyed outstanding food, in particular antipasti of carpaccio di filetto con grana e valerianella and roast-beef della “Gigina” con la sua salsa di cottura. A pasta of gramignone con salsiccia was a great, rich treat, instantly addictive, and a secondo of calves liver grilled between laurel leaves positively sang. I have sometimes read on Chowhound that calves liver is so easy to make at home that Italian restaurants can be forgiven for serving a prosaic version. This calves liver was a revelation and proof of the restaurant's commitment to top-quality and exquisite execution.
I also tasted passatelli in brodo and a boiled beef with "friggione". The first was light and refined, and would have been more satisfying as a lunch dish. The latter was squarely in the tradition of the region's classic boiled meat dishes with an onion-y sauce, and I hereby declare myself through with ever eating them again. Boiled meat just bores me. A dessert of chocolate gnocchi in a pool of pistachio sauce was disturbing to look at and was rather ordinary. Wine was a high-quality Sangiovese, and was fine.
I'd go back again and again, despite my dislike of taking taxis after dinner. (The restaurant will call one for you.)
Persuing the pan-Italia influenced menu at Scacco Matto and trying to choose among so many appealing dishes is fun. The restaurant specializes in inventive dishes that are usually quite restrained in how far out they go. Basically, they are well-thought-out rearrangements of classic elements from various regions, executed with tight discipline. Squid stuffed with the mortadella filling more commonly used to stuff zucchini in Bologna was a nice twist, served in a simple pool of pureed beans. A ravioli of "carbonara" -- where the liquid parmagiano and egg were inside the pasta -- was deeply satisfying, served in a pool of roasted garlic puree that was sweet and mild. A tomato-ey pacchieri pasta was beautifully arranged and had an extremely strong kick of 'nduja for those desperate for something spicy in Bologna. I tasted a house-made pumpkin gelato that was fine, but Il Gelatauro's just steps away is much better. Drank a pinot nero from Alta Adige. Service is cheerful and prompt. This is not wildly sensational food, but if you want something a bit more imaginative than Teresina with the same kind of reliability when it comes to quality and preparation, it's the place to go. The kitchen doesn't overreach.
RISTORANTE DA NELLO AL MONTEGRAPPA
This place has gotten mixed reviews on Chowhound, with some people delighted and others shrugging their shoulders. I slipped in for lunch for a simple plate of sliced meat and an artichoke pasta, and I join the shoulder-shruggers. I did see a plate of grilled porcini mushrooms head to another table that me wonder if I had stuck to an all-mushroom and tartufo menu, if I might have been delighted. The old-fashioned decor and very friendly smiling service made it an extremely nice place to linger. (There is shady outdoor seating as well on a pedestrianized alley.) For some reason, the restaurant is a favorite of internationally-renowned rockers, and the walls are filled with amusing photos of the owners posing with Clapton, Santana, Elvis Costello, etc.
In a previous thread I had mentioned that Tamburini had stopped selling pinza by the slice, but it is now available again. This is a strudel-like pastry filled with a rich, dark Bolognese mostarda, and Tamburini's remains the very best version I have ever tasted. On a the downside, I also purchased some pasta from Tamburini, a pumpkin-stuffed tortelloni, and it really was nowhere near as tasty as similar products from Atti & Figli down the street.
I FAMOSI TORTELLINI DELLA NONNA
This very small shop is just a stone's throw from the train station, and its window is often filled with beautiful displays of dried mushrooms, pastas and other treats that I finally couldn't resist stopping in. They sell dried tortellini stuffed with mushroom that I think is just marvelous (it lasts forever). What they claim is their own house salume also hits the spot. The owner is gregarious, so you may have to wait while he gabs with anybody ahead of you. (Closed Thursday afternoons.)
During an afternoon visit to the food market district of the centro, I wandered around doing intense window shopping while waiting for the stores to re-open after the long lunch pause. Rather abruptly, I felt I was at some risk of being pickpocketed. I have never felt that way before in old market district, but perhaps the recent increase in tourists to the market area or it being near Christmastime translates to added risk. It was only a feeling based on one odd character getting too close, but I will add the advice here to not only be careful during the crowded market hours but also when most shops are shuttered during lunch and the alleyways are fairly deserted. I felt no danger, just that, since my attention was so much elsewhere, I was a tempting target.
But I definitely still recommend shopping in the district, where quality can be outstanding, and Bologna is an exceptionally safe city. Just keep minding your purse and wallet.
Another bit of advice for food shoppers: There is a restroom in the basement of the building shared by EATALY and the Librerie Co-op. I still don't "get" EATALY and can't imagine why anyone bothers to eat or shop there, but the bookstore has a fine collection of cookbooks and some guidebooks (in English) for both Bologna and other destinations in Italy.