Where to eat Bologna: Al Sangiovese
While no doubt virtually every Italian in every city here would argue their town is the nation’s food capital, Bologna does have a very high reputation. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband based themselves in this ancient northern Italian city for a few days to be close to the famed Osteria Francescana and enjoy some of the other products for which the area is noted, most especially ragu, or what Australians (and possibly everyone outside Italy) would refer to as ‘Bolognese’ sauce.
There’s a huge list of incredibly delicious items that have their origins in Bologna and its surrounds – as well as ragu, there’s parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, parma ham, mortadella, tortellini and lasagna. The local wines include Sangiovese, Lambrusco and the region’s own sparkling variety, Pignoletto – an ancient style apparently first recorded in BC times. Bologna itself is a medieval city, with remnants of many of the gates that allowed access through the wall that once surrounded it, still visible today.
History aside, we were there to eat. Staying on the fringes of the historical centre, we asked our hotel concierge to recommend a place for dinner. Initially a little sceptical when she endorsed the restaurant a few doors down the street, we decided to give it a go after a TripAdvisor check nominated it the #30 restaurant in Bologna. Not a bad ranking.
And while some such rankings don’t necessarily lead to the sort of food experience Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband are looking for, happily, this one did.
With a very warm welcome (both hosts speak excellent English but, on learning Greedy Girl had a rudimentary grasp of Italian) their excitability about the food took over and a torrent of exuberant Italian accompanied each dish, and the wine.
We ordered two courses each, a bottle of 2010 Conde Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore and settled in. Initially, Greedy Girl was determined to live the cliche and order a ragu but it was an extremely hot night, the air-conditioner was struggling to keep pace and there was just too much else yummy on the menu.
First up, for Greedy Girl was an incredible carpaccio, topped with rocket and parmesan shavings. Dressed with a drizzle of olive oil, it was soft perfection.
Gluttonous husband’s first course was a tad heavier, but a complete wow. Risotto with summer black truffles, pictured at the top of this post. OMG. The perfume from this dish was to die for and the taste … we were transported. Greedy Girl kept begging for forkfuls. The rice still had resistance and it was cooked simply with just stock and finished with a little butter, to allow the truffles to shine through. Gluttonous husband didn’t leave so much as a grain on the plate. When it was cleared from the table, he told the host he would be happy to kiss the chef. That comment was relayed through the pass, accompanied by peals of laughter.
Next up, Greedy Girl chose a pasta dish which we were told is molto tipico of Bologna – passatelli in brodo. One of her favourite dishes is tortellini in brodo, but she chose this version just to try something a bit different. The pasta here is made from breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, lemon, nutmeg and eggs. It’s made into a dough and then forced through a contraption to make the shortish noodle shape. It’s then cooked in chicken broth. One of the lightest pasta dishes Greedy Girl has ever tasted, it was fantastic.
Gluttonous husband chose a pork cutlet, or cotoletta, served in Bolognese style, with parma ham and cheese. The pork had been pounded flat, which also tenderised the meat. Soft, delicious, perfect. The quality of the ingredients absolutely shone through.
Unable to even think about dessert, gluttonous husband was of a mind that he’d like to try something else to drink. He was persuaded to have a digestivo – and so began his love affair with Amaro, served here with a couple of ice cubes. Enjoying it enormously, it also did its job. Done.
The restaurant is closest to the Porta San Momolo gate and it’s only about a 10 minute walk from the main square, the Piazza Maggiore. Seek it out if you can. It’s a typical neighbourhood eatery with great food, wine and hospitality.
Vicolo del Falcone, 2, Bologna