The highlight of our trip to Europe was probably our short weekend getaway to Bologna. I love Italy. Everything about it. The food, the people, the culture, THE FOOD. David loves France, but Italy has a special place in my heart/stomach. So not surprisingly, I loved Bologna. The only bad part was that we were there for only a weekend, and on Monday a few places I wanted to go to were closed, but we made do. In Bologna, it’s not too difficult.
We had a few problems however the first night in Bologna. When transferring in Milan for the train to Bologna, in our excitement, David lost his cell phone (it was later mailed back to his cousin in Zurich), and then we got on the local train to Bologna instead of the express making us lose an hour and a half in the process. Once in Bologna, we then got on the wrong bus and had to get off near the outskirts of town in order to take a cab. [FYI, on Sundays, Via Ugo Bassi, the main street near our hotel, Albergo Centrale (great location but sandpaper-like sheets), is closed off for pedestrians. We initially had gotten on the right bus, but when the bus driver told us it wasn't going to Ugo Bassi, we took it to mean it was going the wrong direction and got on the bus going the opposite way.] In New York if all of this had happened, I would have been seriously POed, but in Bologna, it was only a minor inconvenience. We were still in Italy on vacation after all, who the eff cares?!
After checking into our hotel, we headed off to dinner nearby at Diana, an old-school Italian restaurant specializing in local cuisine where there were some hits and misses. First the misses…
Everywhere you go in Bologna, they give you this tasteless bread. At Diana, it was tasteless AND stale. I stuck to the packaged breadsticks on the table like everyone else.
The waiter insisted the roast meats (€16/$21.24) were one of the specialties of the restaurant. On a rolling cart, the various meats (turkey, veal, pork, and lamb) are carved table-side and then served with a thick mushroom gravy.
The meats tasted like what meats on a roving meat trolley would taste like. A bit bland and a bit crumbly in texture.
A side salad (€6/$7.97) was just that, a generic side salad. It was boring, but we hadn’t expected much.
And then the hits. The pastas were where things got interesting. Of course in Bologna I had to have pasta with Bolognese sauce, which in Bologna is simply called ragu, so I ordered the tagliatelle al ragu. The housemade eggy noodles were long, chewy and covered in just the right amount of veal sauce that was tossed table-side. According to the waiter, the veal was cooked for 11 hours with wine and aromatics, during which all the fat was skimmed off. 11 seemed like an arbitrary number, but the message was understood, and it tasted like it had been cooked for a long time. It was tender and rich but not too heavy.
Even better was David’s lasagna verde. The noodles, in this case green with spinach, were again chewy, and the cheese and meat sauce was plentiful enough but not too excessively layered and stuffed. As lasagnas go, it was delicate. It was the Natalie Portman of lasagnas as opposed to Roseanne Bar. The cost of both pastas combined was €22 ($29.21).
We made a lot of mistakes that day, but the most important lesson learned was to skip the roast meats and to eat more pasta at Diana. Nothing good has ever come from a food trolley. Two plates of pasta, on the other hand, is another story. A very tasty one.
Via Indipendenza 24 (corner of Via Indipendenza & Marsala; map)
40121 Bologna, Italy
00 39 051 231302