It has been 1 year of pure bliss living in Bologna – which is aptly named “La Grassa” (or “the Chubby City”). To some of Europe, and those who travel there, Bologna has become a foodie destination due to the large assortment of delicacies coming from Emilia-Romagna – most notably the parmigiano-reggiano, aceto balsimico, mortadella, tagliatelle al ragu, and tortellini; all paired perfectly with lambrusco and pignoletto, 2 styles of wine you will find no shortage of while travelling through the walls of the city!
Bologna is truly a wonderful city to explore by foot, and some of the most exciting places are found in the small market streets around the main piazza, Piazza Maggiore. Below are some of the favorite spots that I have discovered around the city on my journey. And if you are looking for an interactive map to download you can click here.
Casual Dining with Groups in Bologna
Osteria Dell’Orsa. I enjoyed dining here because you can have a hearty, authentic meal with friends for less than 20 euro a person. Dishes typically run 6-15 euro each, and are perfect for sharing. Dell’Orsa also offers some of the best ragu alla Bolognese and veal cutlet fiorentina in town. You can choose to sit in the high-ceilinged, medieval main floor, or downstairs in the cantina-like room that provides communal wooden tables. Both are great options that provide friendly service that is paired with a warm atmosphere.
Osteria Broccaindosso. Two words: Go Hungry. There is no shortage on food at Osteria Broccaindosso, which became the highlight of my grad class experience. We all took friends and family here, and became family to the staff by the end of the year. You literally just have to sit down, tell the waiters what you ‘think you want’, and then enjoy the service, which is “family style”… they put on what seems like a 5-Act show for you! Antipasti includes: typical meats, cheeses and other appetizers from the region paired with crescentine. Primi course is usually two styles of pastas: tagliatelle and tortellini. Have both! I usually ordered the bistecca fiorentina for the table, which was always cooked to perfection. Save room for dessert because on your table you will find unlimited amounts of pastries with homemade mascarpone and chocolate sauces. Wash it all down with a glass of amaro and you are set!
Drinks/Aperitivo in Bologna
Nu Lounge. A perfect place in the dead center of town next to Piazza Maggiore. The best part of having drinks here is the people watching, as you can almost guarantee an eclectic crowd every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. It has become a Bologna hot-spot because of the crafty drinks that come in interesting glassware – try the “Armin” which comes in a tiki-cup! The bartenders will become your favorite as well, for more than obvious reasons!
Osteria del Sole. You might find Osteria del Sole to be a bit more on the casual side, in comparison to what’s around the city center and near Piazza Maggiore, but this historical hot spot is a must-see on a Friday night… for several reasons. The concept of Osteria del Sole is a bit different in that guests can bring their own food; and enjoy drinks from the bar amongst friends in a picnic table style setting. The old tradition of the location brings together people of different ages, education, cultures, and symbolizes very well what the city stands for. It’s a little step back in time, but certainly worth a trip or two while in town.
Enoteca Italiana. A mandatory, traditional aperitivo at the corner of Via Marsala and Via Malcontenti. Nice crowd, and worth a visit during the week.
Agua. A trendy bistro with a Barcelona-inspired theme, just inside the city walls of Via Saragozza. In my opinion, this is an example of a successful link between tradition and modernity for a restaurant in Bologna. The crafted cocktails are on-point and the staff are particularly friendly and attentive.
Pizza in Bologna? Why not!
BereBere by Alce Nero. Pizza is not the traditional Bolognese Fare, but I highly recommend BereBere for their commitment to using seasonal ingredients and making unique pizza recipes that are light and tasty. The wine list has some great organic offerings as well. You can learn about the Italian organic food brand, Alce Nero, while you are there – and also purchase products if you would like!
Best Gelato in Bologna
… because no trip is complete without at least one, or three!
Belfiore Gelato & Cioccolato. I passed by the Belfiore a lot while travelling to the hills of San Luca (a monastery with a 5km hike), and always admired the quaint look of the store-front on the corner of Via Urbana and Via Belfiore. As the warm weather approached in Bologna, a cold treat after a long hike was needed, and Belfiore soon became my favorite indulgence. Alessandra, the owner, is as sweet as her gelati – the main reason I chose Belfiore as my top pick – in addition to her use of all natural ingredients. Be sure to try the ‘Sorpresa di Arachide’ – the closest thing to peanut-butter-flavored-something you will find in Italy; ‘Delizia di Fichi’ – which is ricotta and caramelized figs; any of the Sorbetti – melone or mandorino are two of my favorites!
Sorbetteria Castiglione. One of the most intriguing parts of Bologna, and the gelato offered there, is that family traditions are still a major part of the business. Sorbetteria in Via Castiglione is a prime example of just that. They offer classic flavors that are smooth, and creamy and not overly sweet. I also loved that they include sourcing information on the menu offerings, as wells as noting which items include wheat, dairy, eggs, etc. Be sure to try some of the classics there: stracciatella, pistachio, bacio (hazelnut) as well as the café & fragola sorbetti.
Cremeria Funivia. The location, in Piazza Cavour, plays a big part of why Funivia is one of my favorites. Piazza Cavour is a great place to ‘be seen’ or sit and enjoy a delicious gelato on a Sunday afternoon. This was one of the first places I visited when I first arrived, and throughout the year I managed to try every flavor – R&D, right? You walk into Funivia (there is usually a line of people out the door, FYI) and are greeted by the beautiful staff, some of whom are making gelato in the back, and some who are making gelato-cone assembly look like an art. Be sure to try: “New York New York”; “Tortino Funivia”; and “Contessa”.
Other Places to Visit for the Inner-Foodie
Salumeria Bruno e Franco in Via Oberdan, 16 is a great place to purchase ‘comfort food’ that is homemade using fresh, local ingredients. Here they also prepare fresh pasta daily, and butcher meats. The shop is owned and operated by a family that also owns a “pasta lab” across the street where you can take pasta-making classes.
Mercato del Herbe in Via Ugo Bassi, is located next to the temple of globalization, H&M. But I recommend at least one visit to the Mercato to everyone visiting Bologna – it’s a playground of colorful fruits and veggies, meats & cheeses; and an opportunity to speak with locals about recipes and new items to try. There are typically mercatos everywhere in Italy, but this one is special to the Bolognese. The joy of discovering something new each time you enter the mercato is addicting, and my favorite Saturday morning activity was visiting my usual vendors to hear about the freshest products featured. Another beautiful feature: you can fill a bag of fresh items for a lot less than you would spend at the grocery stores!
Have Fun in Bologna, the Chubby City!