Bologna, while sometimes forgotten by the troves of travelers to Italy, is beautiful, charming, and delicious. As the capital of Emilia-Romagna and the reigning culinary queen of Italy, Bologna has earned the nicknamed La Grassa or "The Fat". And it has plenty of recognizable foods to relish.
Enjoying typical Bolognese cuisine isn't just for tourist. The locals enjoy the classics too.
This list embodies the best of the best when it comes to pasta, cheese, meats, wine and a little gelato too.
Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
Genuine ragu alla bolognese is very different than the Bolognese (or meat) sauce we know of in the states. This traditional ragu alla bolognese sauce is a slow-cooked and involves onion, celery and carrot, different types of minced or finely chopped meat, white wine, milk, and very small amount of tomato concentrate. Traditionally ragu alla bolognese is paired with tagliatelle, a flat, ribbon-like egg pasta. My favorite tagliatelle alla bolognese in the city is from Trattoria Mariposa.
Tortellini en Brodo
The ring-shaped (or belly button-shaped depending on who you ask) stuffed pasta known as tortellini was born in Bologna and traditionally Bolognese people eat it in a bowl of broth and topped with a lot of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The best tortellini en brodo in the city is from Trattoria Anna Maria. They have been making their prized tortellini by hand for over thirty years.
Lasagne Verde alla Bolognese
A layered pasta dish made with sheets of spinach pasta, cheese, and ragu alla bolognese, when done well, lasagna verde it isn’t too cheesy or too saucy - just simple, layered, and satiating. You can find this classic pasta dish anywhere in town, so it is always a good bet.
Tortelloni Burro e Salvia
Larger than the better-known tortellini pasta, tortelloni are classically served with butter and sage. Does it get more comforting than this? Snag the traditional dish of tortelloni burro e salvia at pretty much any trattoria in town or at my favorite contemporary eatery, Bottega Portici.
The “King of Cheeses” in Italy, Parmigiano-Reggiano was born in the Emilia-Romagna region. Do yourself a favor and eat lots of this in Bologna (even head to out visit a creamery!), because it doesn’t get better or fresher than straight from the source. My favorite place to get a sample of Parmigiano-Reggiano or buy it by the pound is Tamburini in the ancient market area, Quadrilatero.
Made from pork, spices and pistachios, mortadella is a distinctly Bolognese charcuterie product. If you are looking for the best salumi in town, with mortadella at the forefront, go to Salumeria Simoni.
In the states we’re used Lambrusco being a a sweet, dessert-like wine. But in Emilia-Romagna you can find it in its true form: as a dry, frothy, slightly sparkling deep red wine. Good Lambrusco wine can be found almost anywhere in Bologna. Most restaurants even serve a house carafe of Lambrusco which I highly recommend getting.
While not specifically from Bologna, gelato is still done very well here. My favorite gelato in the city is from Gelateria Gianni. There are two locations in the city center and both do it right.
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