Bologna By The Mouthful

It was an article in the Travel section of the Guardian that set us planning a trip to Bologna. Up until then, I was only familiar with the city was the eponymous sauce that it was associated with but reading the article, I realised that there was a whole world of culinary delights to be sampled. So my family and I packed our bags and our brought our appetites along for a 3-night, four day trip to Bologna

The Stay

We stayed at the Metropolitan Hotel which sits slap bang in the middle of this bustling city but somehow manages to pull off a calm and cool atmosphere. Our apartment rooms were located at the annexe building which were a short hop away. The apartment was spacious with a well-appointed kitchen and plenty of storage. The Metropolitan includes a lovely terraced garden area with a bar that is open in the evenings. The terrace is a verdant surprise that throw its urban surroundings into sharp contrast and offers some beautiful views of the city.

The Food

Breakfast at the Metropolitan

Why bottle honey when you can offer your customers a whole honeycomb?  The breakfast spread at
the Metropolitan includes a fabulous variety of petit fours and fresh fruit kebabs that had us going back for more. There's also the conventional cereal, bread, butter. jam, eggs, cheese and ham slices options. But it was the sight of a whole honeycomb (alright, some of it had already been consumed) that made my jaw drop. Naturally, I had to have some of it and have to say, the bottled stuff doesn't come close. Shame that they only served breakfast in the mornings. I could eat there all day.

Ristorante Pizzeria Nino

We couldn't have chosen a better place to begin the trip with. Nino is tucked behind the ubiquitous porticos of Bologna and on that Sunday night, we were lucky enough to find a table without reservation. The staff were polite staff and were very helpful with selecting our food and drink. The restaurant has a great selection of vegetarian food. Huge portions meant some of it ended up being carried back to the hotel, not that any of the pizza slices survived the strenuous 80 metre walk back to the apartment.

Trattoria Osteria Buca Manzoni

Perhaps it was the red and white chequered table cloths which reminded me a lot of the Formula 1 finishing line (my children were going to go on a surprise trip to the Lamborghini and Ferrari museums later - and I was not allowed to tell them yet) that I had a good feeling about eating at Trattoria Osteria. We had no reservations but managed to get a spot for lunch. Pew-like benches run along the length of this warm and cosy restaurant. Vegetarian choices are some what limited but the staff were very accommodating suggesting changes that could be made to a dish to make it suitable for us.

La Torinese

What are the chances that you will stumble into an ice cream parlour nearly 130 years old while out for a stroll? If you are in Bologna, your chances are very high. La Torinese is a charming little gelateria tucked under the arches not far from the main square. It was tea time, so I decided to have one or three of its petit fours. And since it would be rude not to savour a bit of Bolognese history, I may have had some ice cream as well.

Va Mo La

Simple book-lined shelves cover the walls of this deceptively large restaurant, hidden well away in one of the quieter side streets of Bologna. The super-friendly staff had plenty of ideas for what we can have for dinner and we tucked into course after course of delicious and freshly-cooked food. The portions were just the right size and the service was impeccable.

Ristorante Montana, Maranello

The walls of this restaurant are laden with Ferrari memorabilia and several handwritten notes to the
chef thanking her for the fabulous food. No menu card is given but instead you are offered vegetarian options when asked for it. My son's question about some of what was on the walls was greeted with a short answer and a curt 'now, let's talk about food'. The saffron pasta that I had was quite excellent but I acutely felt the absence of any greenery on my plate. Noticeable by its absence was also warmth in this restaurant, which seems to cater to the Formula1 fans, but for others not much else. I suspect most people would be stopping here after their visit to the Enzo Ferrari Museum (much like the Ferrari F1 drivers who must have come here after their training), so it was playing to a captive audience. Guess people don't go to Hard Rock Cafe for great food and service.

Adesso Pasta Car Ristorante

There is some sort of a Alfa Romeo related history associated with this restaurant. Something about a famous racing driver (but, of course! here, it's the racing drivers who are stars) whose car broke down and who ended up spending the night at the town in a torn suit. The locals fed him and a pair of tailor brothers mended his suit ready for him to take off in his Alfa the following morning. He went on to win the race and where the tailors used to be, stands the restaurant today which has large b&w images of Alfa Romeos plastered on its walls. I could be making all of the aforementioned story up as I wasn't wearing my glasses when I was presented with the menu which contains the history.

Anyway, the food which took its time to arrive was absolutely delicious. And despite its appearance of being part of a chain of restaurants (the horror!), Adesso's food was simply cooked and heartily presented. The portion of pasta arrabiata was the largest I'd ever seen and caused something I never thought would happen. It succeeded in making my teenaged son struggle to finish it.

The Rest

Bologna has plenty of art and culture to offer too. Our trip was too brief to take full advantage of it. But we did a couple of guided tours of the city, visits to the Lamborghini factory and museum and Ferrari museum and managed to get tickets to a hugely popular exhibition of works by Dali, Duchamp and Magritte.

But I couldn't just let all the food that I had eaten sit, could I? I found an interesting way of burning off all the dolce while working up an appetite for the next meal. Find out how in the next instalment.

The views expressed are my own and this is not a paid review...though I sometimes wish it was.