Top of the list of things to do in Bologna is to have a ragu – known more widely outside Italy as ‘Bolognese’. Top of the list of things not to do in Bologna is ask for ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’.

Spaghetti is traditionally from the south of Italy and is made with durum wheat, a much harder type of flour. The Bolognese make their pasta with white flour and egg and a very common combination here is ragu with tagliatelle.

Looking for that rare treat in Italy, a light dinner, we headed just off the Piazza Maggiore to Da Nello Montegrappa, another long-standing restaurant in Bologna. Having not succumbed to the lure of ragu the previous evening at Al Sangiovese, we decided it was time. Sadly, not having been invited home to someone’s Nonna, for some cucina casalinga, we took another recommendation from our concierge.

On approaching Da Nello, Greedy Girl had some misgivings – a sign out the front indicated menus were available in Russian. Was this a tourist trap? She needn’t have worried.

Shown to a table in the (thankfully) air-conditioned basement (apart from the smoker’s paradise outside, there are very few tables at ground level inside), we chose two courses each. The traditional way to eat in Italy is appetiser, first, second and dessert – and maybe some salad and cheese on top. Given our bellies have taken a beating on this trip, when we don’t have tasting menus, we usually opt for a small number of courses. Our quest for light eating gets derailed by generous serving sizes and there was no exception here.

The wait staff speak excellent English and are very helpful. We said we’d have a glass each of the house red and our waiter told us we could have a half bottle of a good Sangiovese for less than the cost of two glasses. Sold!

First up for Greedy Girl were fried zucchini flowers. She made a rookie error. She should have chosen the ‘contorni’ size – which make great starters or side dishes. The serving was enormous but they were spectacularly good. The batter was very light and there wasn’t the slightest hint of grease.

Where to eat Bologna Da Nello Montegrappa

Fried zucchini flowers

Gluttonous husband started with the ‘condito’ – an Italian version of roast beef but, as you can see in the picture below, it’s barely cooked. Just seared on the edges, it’s sliced very thinly and dressed with a good olive oil. For someone who loves meat cooked very, very rare, he was a happy chappy.

Where to eat Bologna Da Nello Montegrappa


It was time for the main event – the ragu, pictured at the top of this post. The pasta was perfect, the ragu just beautifully meaty. Fresh grated parmesan on the top was excellent. There’s absolutely no need to tinker with the classics. Apparently, Italian culinary authorities settled on a ‘registered’ recipe for ragu in the early 1980s, but what should (or shouldn’t) be included remains a hot debate. Certainly, what we make in Australia probably wouldn’t pass muster.

Gluttonous husband had a direct view of the kitchen and was transfixed by a chef working up a silky-looking mashed potato. He was more than delighted when a dish bearing a mound of it was placed in front of him. This was an escalope of veal with a light cream sauce, the mash, and cooked spinach. Greedy Girl was sure he’d find it too rich to finish. Hah. Not even a skerrick of sauce remained.

Where to eat Bologna Da Nello Montegrappa

Escalope of veal

Done. We weren’t tempted to order a dessert because we’d already been alerted that a little further down the same street was one of the city’s best places for gelato – Gelateria Gianni. Off we went.

Da Nello Montegrappa has been around since 1948; it prides itself on being a hangout for the rich and famous and photos of various celebrities (although Greedy Girl didn’t recognise any faces) cover the walls. The menu is very, very extensive; no matter what your food preferences are, you’re bound to find something to your taste – just make sure you bring a large appetite with you.

Da Nello

Via Monte Grappa, 2, Bologna

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