Known as the Fat, Red, and the Learn'd City due to its rich cuisine, Bologna is one of the most culinary famous and rich places in Italy. Its heavy Spanish influences can be felt in architecture, atmosphere, and cooking. It's also the place with the oldest university in the world, the city is a monument to human accomplishment and a hub of past, present, and future colliding to create something truly beautiful. Bologna is also one of the wealthiest cities in Italy, which means that spending and buying traditions are as strong as can be there.
Sangiovese means "the blood of Jupiter" in Latin. It's an Italian red wine that has been well known since the 16th century. Young wine has slightly spiced, strawberry flavours but Sangiovese acquires oaky flavours while aged in barrels.
One says you can't start a day with champagne. Luckily, Italians know better and can always spruce up the mundane hours with Sangiovese. This grape wine is named the blood of Jupiter for a reason. It's energetic, light, and its suitability for different occasions, including both a light snake and a substantial meal of your choice, makes it a staple drink in the region. Some say that the recipe for making Sangiovese dates back to the times of Roman wine-making, and this isn't hard to believe.
Sangiovese is very common. We can recommend a place like Al Sangiovese for reasons more than just the indicative name.
It's one of the most popular Italian dishes made of thinly sliced, floured and deep-fried eggplants. Parmigiana is layered with eggplants, cheese and tomato sauce and then baked in the oven. Try it with zucchini or artichokes instead of eggplants.
When your blood gets pumping, it's time to move on to the food. One of the most popular dishes in Bologna, parmigiana is made with fried, sliced eggplant layered with cheese and tomato sauce. Baking takes a while, but when the results are finally served with vegetables or bread, it's an exquisite combination of grittiness and tenderness characteristic of Italian cuisine in general. Naturally, parmigiana goes well with wine and makes you feel like a real Italian yourself.
For good parmigiana, try Hostaria.
They are ring-shaped pasta stuffed with a mix of meat, parmigiano, nutmegs and eggs. Tortellini are the symbol of Bologna's cuisine, they are the specialty of the Christmas dinner. The beautiful legend says, one innkeeper saw the navel of the goddess Venus and it inspired him to cook pasta in this shape.
Here's something really local. Tortellini allegedly originated as a dish in Bologna. They are a kind of pasta rolls comprised of pork, raw prosciutto, mortadella, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, eggs, and nutmeg and served in capon broth. The very classic feel of the food is accompanied by the way it looks like a bunch of cute little dumpling-like shapes. The aesthetic part of the dish is only complimented by the legend of its creation involving no other than the goddess Venus whose navel is said to have inspired the shape of tortellini.
Go to Da Sandro al Navile to try some good tortellini and dishes like that.
Biscotti, or cantucci, are popular Italian almond biscuits that are twice-baked and crunchy. They trace back to Ancient Rome when they were so popular among soldiers and travelers. Biscotti are made without eggs and fat and they can be stored for a long time.
The word for the next dish on our list originated from the Latin expression meaning "twice-cooked". It later came to indicate non-perishable food consumed during long travels or times of war. These days, biscotti is a type of oblong-shaped, dry, crunchy biscuits prepared specifically for eating during the summer along with the intention to go somewhere and have a good time. This is only aided by the fact that biscotti can be dipped in a drink and eaten with even more pleasure.
Great biscotti with wine can be found at MissBake.
It's a well-known Italian starter consisting of small slices of lightly fried or toasted garlic bread and a variety of toppings. Crostini can be slathered with olive oil and topped with tomatoes, fresh basil, tangy cheese or meat. This appetizer is usually served with soups.
With all the talk of wine and pasta, we should provide an alternative to biscotti. There's a pretty little Italian appetizer consisting of small slices of grilled or toasted bread with a brush of olive oil and herbs or a sauce. More complex variations of the dish come with a variety of different cheeses, meats, vegetables, and condiments. As with many Italian foods, crostini originated from the Middle Ages and has become a restaurant staple everywhere outside of its country of origin.
Check out Osteria dell'Orsa for a good dime with crostini and wine.
It's a type of street food from Italy, a rustic flatbread sandwich cooked with a variety of meat, cheese and vegetables. Piadina appeared in the Romagna region in 500 AD and the word means a long dish or pan in Greek. Originally, it was regarded as poor's bread.
Let's go down to the street level this time. Moving away from wines and served tables, we can always find something like flatbreads filled with a variety of cheeses, cold cuts, and vegetables but also with sweet fillings including jam or Nutella. Sold in kiosks and cafes, piadinas are very common in Bologna. Amusingly enough, this street food has a pedigree longer than some of the more serious dishes. The origins of piadinas are disputed between Romans and Byzanthians, believe it or not.
You can always find good piadinas at places like Tana dell'Orso.
This dish comes from Northern Italian whose climate is ideal for growing rice (riso means 'rice'). The key ingredient is semi-rounded short-grain rice cooked with meat, fish or vegetable broth. Try risotto with parmesan cheese and white wine. Add saffron for flavour and yellow colour.
Every good dish has a legend. There is an interesting one for risotto, the famous rice dish cooked with broth. It tells us that a young glassblower's apprentice added saffron, which had been used before as a pigmentation agent, to a rice dish at a wedding feast, thus giving birth to something unexpected. Whether it's true or not, risotto has become a common way to use rice in Italy since the 19th century. However, the rice varieties now associated with risotto were developed a hundred years later and now give it its trademark creaminess after proper cooking.
Ristorante San Pietro is a good choice for risotto.
It's an Italian appetizer made from thinly sliced raw meat or fish, drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil and served with onions and capers. Carpaccio was introduced in Venice in 1950. A restaurant owner cooked it for a countess who couldn't eat boiled meat for medical reasons.
With all the dishes whose history dates back to ancient times, it's nice to encounter one that hadn't been around before someone made it in 1950. We're talking about carpaccio, of course, the dish of meat or fish thinly sliced or pounded thin and served raw with wine or simpler drinks for bringing out your appetite for something more substantial. It's a very modernist kind of dish. Sometimes it's served with lemon or vinegar, olive oil, salt, and ground pepper.
A good choice for carpaccio would be Broccaindosso.
It's traditional Italian flat oven-baked bread that is cooked in flat sheet pans, flavoured with olive oil and rosemary and topped with herbs and vegetables. Focaccia is regarded as a pizza's precursor. It derives from the Latin word 'focacia' which means 'hearth' or 'fireside'.
Well, now there's another dish with lots of history. Focaccia is said to have been first invented during Roman times, and the basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans, but today it is widely associated with Ligurian cuisine. There are so many variations of focaccia today that there's no doubt you can find something for yourself if you look hard enough. Focaccia can be served as a side dish or as sandwich bread. It's even called "white pizza" by some.
Try some focaccia at Forno Brisa.
This traditional Italian dish comes from Bologna and it seems the oldest type of pasta. Lasagna is stacked layers of wide and flat pasta and a variety of other ingredients, including sauce, vegetables, cheese, meat, etc. The word 'lasagna' refers to a pot where this dish was cooked.
Let's finish with something coming straight from the list of globally popular Italian foods. Lasagna is a local dish made of stacked layers of lasagne alternating with fillings such as ground meats and tomato sauce, vegetables, ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan, as well as seasonings and spices. Several versions of how lasagna was invented exist, and none of them are as important as the popular image of the dish built up in the Garfield comic strip which really made it a household name in any household.
Sfoglia Rina is a place to get some lasagna in Bologna.
As you can see, Bologna is a place where Italian culture and cuisine are so vivid and distinct that it's almost impossible not to marvel at the diversity and uniqueness of both. Have fun getting to know the city.