Ah, Bologna. Our stopover in Italy’s culinary gem was far too brief. With a mere 24-hours to explore it was critical that we focus our priorities. So we passed on the culture and shopping and focused on one very important activity: eating as much as we possibly could.
Bologna is known among tourists and Italians alike for it’s delicious food. From homemade bolognase sauce (called here by it’s proper name: ragu), to local charcuterie delicacies and refreshing pignoletto wines, it’s pure foodie heaven. On top of that, Bologna is a pretty cool city in it’s own right. Somewhere inbetween Venice’s fancy facades and Naples rough grittiness resides Bologna. It’s an average city, in as much as any Italian city steeped in culture and history can pretend to be average. With a major university in town there’s a younger, more vibrant air. It’s the perfect place to wander the streets taking in the culture, between bites of food and sips of wine, of course.
We arrived mid-afternoon, hungry and excited. Our first step after the 2-hour train ride from Venice: caffeine. We grabbed a quick espresso at the counter of a local coffee shop for a pick-me-up before making our way into the city center in search of our first meal.
I’d like to say our first restaurant was a well-researched decision, but that would be a lie. The truth is it was the first place we could find that served food during the ubiquitous siesta. And we were starving. Luckily, it in addition to being open, Tamburini also had some of the best chacuterie and stracciatella di buffala we’ve had yet. The meats and cheese all come from a shop next door by the same name. If you happen to have a few days here I highly recommend checking this place out. As it was we had a very serious debate over whether BP (our fond nickname for Kyle’s backpack, Big Pack) could hold one of the whole ham legs.
What do you follow charcuterie with? More charcuterie, of course! At Borgo 979 we were introduced to one of the specialties of the region cinta senese. Fun fact: in Tuscany, animals can have DOP status, just like wine. It shows you just how seriously Italians take their meat! Served with it’s English muffin doppelgänger companion, tigelle, we were deep in food-heaven.
With a few more stops before the day’s end we grabbed abother quick espresso before moving on to a different kind of beverage: wine! Now, I’m sure you’re thinking wait — you all made it through two meals without drinks? In Italy? Of course not! We had been making our way through a continuous supply of fresh fruit and aperol spritz to counter the afternoon heat. With the sun finally dipping below the horizon we were ready for something a little more nuanced.
We discovered Enoteca Olinda Faccioli by chance. This cute little wine bar is tucked into a small side street and filled to the brim with unique local wines. We could have easily passed the evening tasting our way through the extensive collection. Bologna is situated in the Emilia Romagna DOC. This region is home to some of Italy’s more unique and often under-appreciated varietals. My personal favorites: Pignoletto, a well-balanced, light and refreshing white, and Bonarda, a dark, dry, fruity red.
Sufficiently tipsy we headed over to Osteria Dell’Orsa for the main event: dinner! This place is one of the more famous restaurants in Bologna, and for good reason. The atmosphere is by no means fancy: we waited outside until a space opened up, at which time we were led downstairs to an opening at one of the communal dining tables. The menu is simple, the decor sparse, and the food absolutely delicious. They serve simple Italian comfort food and we all agreed that the hearty, meat-filled tagliatelli ragu had forever altered our perception of a bolognese sauce.
We closed out the night with cocktails at nearby Marsalino. The Moscow Mules were expertly made, and dangerously good. Other highlights from our final half-day in Bologna: the gelato from Venchi and the lasagna and octopus at NU Lounge Bar.
In the end, I’m pretty sure we each gained five pounds from this brief stop-over. And it was absolutely worth it. Buon appetito!
Current location: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia