My husband and I traveled to Italy in April/May 2013, and used this forum quite a bit when choosing restaurants. So I thought I would report back on our experiences in the hopes of helping others. I posted a full trip report on Fodors, so I am just copying the restaurant reviews here.
We visited the region because we love food. I did a lot of research and decided that I wanted to do a one-day cooking class and visit some of the factories that produce the famous local products. Once I found the class and tour I wanted to do, I decided it was best to base in Bologna for logistical reasons, even though I had heard that the restaurants in the city were past their heyday. Many say that you need to venture out of the city for the region’s best. I spent hours researching on Chowhound, Fodors, etc to choose restaurants, always knowing in the back of my mind that we shouldn’t necessarily expect mind-blowing meals.
Unfortunately, I was right.
Our first night was a Sunday, so it was difficult to find a restaurant open. But of the limited options, we settled on Ristorante da Nello al Montegrappa.
In my broken Italian, I told the host that we had an 8PM reservation (prenotazione was one of the 20 words I learned during the trip!). He offered us either outdoor or indoor seating, but since the weather was a little iffy, we sat inside. He led us downstairs into a brightly lit, but cozy room. We had a really fun waiter and with his help, ordered a bottle of red wine. It was delicious so our meal was off to a good start. Since we like to share everything, my husband ordered for both of us – polenta with mushrooms, lasagna verde, and veal Bolognese. My husband really confused the waiter and the waiter got the impression that we wanted everything at once, but really we would have preferred at least the polenta to come first. We learned that for future meals, we would just each order something and worry about sharing once it came to the table.
We received the food, and I would say that it was good. Totally fine. Just not “I specifically chose this destination to eat well” good. Again, I was glad that I had lowered my expectations a bit as far as the restaurants went because that allowed me to enjoy the meal without feeling disappointed. The mushrooms didn’t have as much flavor with the polenta as I would have liked, and the lasagna was a little too heavy without being heavenly. If I love something, I will find room in my stomach, and in this case, I was happy to take very reasonably-sized portions and leave it at that. We opted for the cheese plate for dessert which was quite good. With one espresso for my husband, a bottle of water, and the coperto, the cost was 75E.
Several nights later, we had a 9PM reservation at Da Gianni. I went around and around on this reservation, almost choosing Cesari or Serghei, but ending up here. I liked the dining room – smallish and rustic. The waiter helped us pick out a bottle of red wine (we always just ask for a recommendation whenever we eat out). We ordered tortellini in brodo and gnocchi with pomodoro sauce, and I enjoyed both. The pomodoro sauce was particularly good, showing off the fresh tomatoes. Craving something green, we got an insalata mista, which was standard. For the main course, we had braised (or roasted?) lamb, and it was excellent, falling off the bone and well-seasoned. The broccoli and potatoes that came with it were adequate. For dessert, we ate some type of chocolate mousse cake that was delicious. Overall, a very enjoyable meal. Not necessarily one for the record books, but quite good (and certainly much better than da Nello a few nights before). With a bottle of water and the coperto, our bill came to 80E.